Like many airfields in East Anglia, Seething was once home to allied forces during the war. Still in use as a general aviation airfield, each year it hosts the Seething Charity Air Day to raise funds for a number of worthy causes in the local area. Adam Duffield was there for AeroResource.
It’s fair to say that Norfolk isn’t exactly well known for its airshows within the wider enthusiast community and, in general, the two main shows that do take place in the county (Seething & Old Buckenham) attract mostly local visitors. But, this doesn’t mean that these shows aren’t deserving of a visit and, in the case of the 2015 Seething Charity Air Day, some top drawer display items were included on the lineup.
The airfield at Seething was built at the start of the Second World War and became home to the B-24 Liberators of the United States Air Force 448th Bomb Group and was handed back to Britain at the end of hostilities. Today the control tower is one of very few visible markers left to serve as a reminder of the base’s past and, fittingly is also home to a museum charting the history of the bomb group that was once a major part of the local community.
Like many smaller shows, the focus of the day may be the 3 hour air display but there is much more going on besides that. A large collection of military vehicles of all eras set up camp around the control tower creating their very own vintage area, whilst along the length of the main grounds were many classic cars and motorbikes. A varied display of static aircraft based at the airfield was on show to give a chance to get up close and personal with some of the types that are used for instruction at the flying club – a brilliant way to get many interested in taking up flying lessons.
A small remaining section of cross runway plays host to both the display aircraft and a smaller number of static display aircraft that fly in during the morning. The use of the area also means that visitors can walk along one side to get a closer look at some of the machines that provide the entertainment later in the day, and is also a perfect chance to chat to some of the pilots. Of note on the day were a Miles Hawk Trainer (R1914/G-AHUJ), Auster 5 (TJ652/G-AMVD) and a beautiful USAF schemed Beech 18 (G-BKGL) . As one of the main recipients of the charity donations, a short visit from the East Anglian Air Ambulance’s Eurocopter EC-135 (G-HEMN) also gave a chance to look around this vital piece of lifesaving kit and help educate the public on the importance of such a service.
Earlier in the year, Seething Charity Air Day had announced two star display items in their lineup which, when looking at the size of the show, was an incredible feat. However, the sad events of Carfest and Shoreham involved both these participants and, with interim changes in flying displays for classic jets, the organising team elected not to replace them with similar types. In honour of the tragic losses, a minutes silence was held prior to the main display itself which was perfectly observed by all visitors to the show.
At many smaller airshows it is quite common to see a glider display, however its highly unusual to see three separate glider displays at a single show – especially when each shows off a very different approach. Many will remember the RedHawks duo display of recent years, flying with a pair of Fournier RF4D motor gliders – however they have been off the display circuit for the last couple of years. Now, after a rebuild, Bob Grimstead has returned with his RF-4D G-AWGN , still in its red and white scheme, and Seething Charity Air Day represented his debut. Displaying to The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, Bob’s display showed just how capable the Fournier was with graceful aerobatics complementing the soundtrack perfectly and enhanced with red wingtip smoke generators.
Guy Westgate is well known for his incredible glider displays and Seething Charity Air Day was treated to two separate routines with his involvement. Displaying with Tim Dews in a pair of Grob 109E motor gliders (G-OFIX & G-OSPX), the Aerosparx display team is new to the UK display scene for 2015. Starting with formation figure of eights including high angle wing overs, the pair then split into two separate solo routines showing the full aerobatic capability of the Grob. Not only fitted with an exhaust based smoke system, the aircraft also have wing mounted systems similar to the Fournier. An unusual twist though is the use of a black smoke which really stands out against the typically grey cloud that appeared for the display, although looking back through photo’s does make it look somewhat toxic (even though entirely safe). Guy’s second display was one that has been seen up and down the country many times featuring him flying a Marganski MDM-1 Fox (G-IIFX) glider. Starting behind a Piper Pawnee tug, Guy performed a number of rolls and inverted passes whilst still on tow before climbing to height to start the ‘solo’ aspect of the display. Whilst the two other glider displays still retained some form of propulsion, it is incredible to watch the height and energy management skills as Guy loops, stalls and rolls his way back to the ground – an inverted negative-G loop being a standout highlight of the routine.
Seen very rarely throughout the year, the Red Sparrows Chipmunk display team put on a show with a trio of red and white schemed aircraft. Whilst an obvious play on the name of the RAF’s much loved display team, the Red Sparrows are the complete opposite in terms of performance. Starting with a formation segment of passes, two of the aircraft leave the remaining pilot to perform a solo aerobatics display.
A local display pilot, Matt Summers, performed a double shift at the show flying displays in a Vans RV-8 (G-RVPL) and Bücker Jungmann (G-WJCM). The two displays are very different in style and approach with the Vans having much more power available to complete the aerobatic manoeuvres that were asked of it, as opposed to more graceful aerobatics of the World War Two era Jungmann.
Lauren Richardson was another returning display following her debut at the show the year before. Displaying in a Pitts S-1S (G-BKDR), the display put the diminutive single seat biplane through its paces with a mixture of rolls, loops and tumbles. Upon completing the display an issue occurred with the fuel tank resulting in Lauren needing to make a safe recovery to the airfield, rather than continuing on to her other display commitments of the day.
Displaying in the slightly larger two seat Pitts S-2B variants (G-DIII & G-ZIII), Wildcat Aerobatics performed their close formation pairs display which was well received by all watching. The team are well known in the area due to their home base being just a few miles down the road and, prior to the Seething display had been drawing a smokey ‘smiley face’ in the skies above the Sundown festival in Norwich.
For fans of World War Two fighters, an absolute treat was in store for what is, essentially, a small local show. Whilst a Spitfire or Hurricane may have pulled more ‘general public’ interest if they were to be on the lineup, there can be no doubt that Peter Teichman’s P-40M Kittyhawk (G-KITT) was a real favourite for attending enthusiasts and a pleasure to see at such a small airfield, which suited the display perfectly. A second fighter in the lineup was that of P-51D Mustang ‘Janie’ (G-MSTG) from the Hardwick Warbirds collection. Owner and pilot Maurice Hammond has been a stalwart supporter of Seething Charity Air Day over the years and his displays always well received. His familiarity of the location led to some beautiful curving topside passes in amongst numerous loops and half cubans all of which accompanied by the distinctive Mustang whistle.
The heavier end of the Warbird scale was also well represented and the show itself was opened with a short but pleasing display from the BBMF Dakota ZA947. Following the engine fire with the Lancaster earlier this year, the Dakota has picked up a number of its stable mate’s planned appearances and Seething was one of twelve for the crew that day. Also making a welcome return to the show was Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress ‘Sally B’. Whilst Seething was home to Liberators during the war, the story of the badly damaged B-17 ‘Ye Olde Pub’ brings a link between the type and the base. After taking severe damage to both aircraft and crew during a bombing raid to Bremen, the bomber was attempting to return to its home base at RAF Kimbolton when a Luftwaffe Bf109 intercepted it with orders to shoot down. However, upon witnessing the severity of the damage, German pilot Franz Stigler instead elected to help the stricken crew and escorted it back over occupied countries and to the channel. After limping back across the water, the crew of the B-17 spotted Seething as the closest airfield and landed safely at the base. A true story of humility during the war and one that makes the appearance of a B-17 at the show even more memorable. ‘Sally B’ last displayed at the show in 2013 where, upon arrival to its display slot, was greeted with a torrential downpour, and so it was with much happiness for many that its return two years later was in more hospitable conditions. To round off the day, a surprise flythrough from the Dutch B-25 was much appreciated as the crew routed home following a display at Cosby Victory Show. As the star of the 2014 show, the crew obviously had fond memories of their previous visit.
Once more, the Seething Charity Air Day 2015 demonstrated that you don’t always need the largest budget and you don’t always need the fastest and loudest display items – what you need is a well thought out and varied display lineup and that is exactly what the display delivered. There is no getting away from the fact that this is, primarily, a small local show but in terms of display acts the individuals behind the booking certainly know how to please both enthusiast and general public.