Now in its 7th year, the 2015 Throckmorton Air Show took place on Saturday 6th June. With the headline displays including Vulcan XH558 making its debut display of its final season, and the appearance of the newly restored Bristol Blenheim, a sell out crowd of 20,000 people descended on the former RAF Pershore site at Throckmorton. Duncan Monk reports for AeroResource.
Run by QinetiQ, the sprawling Throckmorton Trials and Business Park lies just to the north of Pershore and 7 miles South East of Worcester. With history dating back to the Second World War, Throckmorton was built using the traditional ‘A’ layout of runways, most of which still remains, as does the Air Traffic Control Tower. In 1941, 23 Operational Training Unit (OTU) was formed at RAF Pershore as part of No.6 Group Bomber Command in order that crews could train for night operations on the Vickers Wellington Bomber. 23 OTU carried out operational sorties during 1942, but were disbanded in 1944. Other units which operated from the airfield were No.1 Ferry Unit, No.10 Advanced Flying Training School flying Airspeed AS.10 Oxford aircraft and the Royal Radar Establishment Flying Unit. The airfield was later used as a dispersal site for the RAF nuclear deterrent Avro Vulcans, although they were only ever dispersed on training missions and, in 1978, RAF operations finally ceased at the airfield.
In line with most larger airshows, the Throckmorton organisers Police Constable Angus Nairn and Paramedic Samantha Jones decided to opt for advanced ticket sales, and it was announced in the media on show day that the show was a 20,000 sell out, no doubt on the back of the appearance of the Vulcan in her final display year and the return to the skies of the Blenheim.
The introduction of an international participant in the guise of a Belgian Air Force A109 in the static line up was a welcome addition to the show, which as one of a number of charity shows around the UK provides a significant donation to the chosen charities of the event. The charities for 2015 included Cancer Research UK, Combat Stress, the Royal Air Force Association, Fly2Help and the Midlands Air Ambulance.
The show day itself was blessed with dry weather, but a gusty 20+ knot cross wind made for some interesting landings on the short grass runway. Operating from the small site were Team Raven, Gyro Displays, the Twister Duo, Lauren Richardson & Rich Goodwin in their Pitts Specials and John Beattie in his Chipmunk.
Backed by a knowledgeable and fluent commentary from George Bacon, the display opened with Lauren Richardson performing in her Pitts Special. Lauren’s display routine was as flawless as ever starting off with high manoeuvres before coming down low with a series of passes to an appreciative crowd.
Team Raven is probably less well known than most civilian teams on the UK airshow circuit, but were a welcome addition to the line up and put on a very polished, well thought out and dynamic routine given the strength of the wind. Consisting of five Vans RV aircraft, they stand out well in a very photogenic white and black colour scheme. The lead aircraft G-MAXV is a RV4 twin stick flown by serving RAF Officer Simon Shirley, who has flown the Tornado F3, Hawk and Grob Tutor aircraft in his career. The other four aircraft are RV8’s flown by Steve Lloyd, Barry Gwynnett, Gerald Williams and airline pilot Mark Southern.
Peter Davis served up another exemplary display in his small lightweight 2 seat enclosed RotorSport Calidus Gyro Copter. Fitted with a Rotax 914 (115hp) engine the aircraft has a top speed of 120mph and is highly manoeuvrable. With the addition of a smoke generator it really makes the display stand out and also shows the agility of the aircraft as it turns on a sixpence.
Another former RAF Tornado F3 pilot brought BAC Jet Provost T5 XW324 / G-BWSG in for its display with a lovely bending top side. Squadron Leader Dan Arlett made the most of the gaps in the cloud, putting the former RAF training aircraft through its paces with a lovely flowing display.
Flying up from RNAS Yeovilton, Lt Cdr Chris Gotke AFC brought the unique rasping sound of the Harvard to display at Throckmorton. Thankfully he had no dramas in his single engined aircraft, unlike those that he encountered at RNAS Culdrose last year in the Sea Fury T20. His heroic actions in saving that valuable aircraft after suffering an engine failure at last year’s Culdrose Air Day saw him awarded with the Air Force Cross.
A sight missing from the aviation scene for eleven years has been the Bristol Blenheim. After being lovingly restored since its accident at Duxford, the aircraft made its airshow debut at Duxford in May in formation with two Spitfire Mk.1s. Throckmorton was its first solo performance and it was beautifully flown by John Romain. With a series of flowing manoeuvres along with a curving topside from each direction, the aircraft looked and sounded incredible. To see this unique aircraft back in the skies really brought a lump to the throat in this, the 75th year since the Battle of Britain.
Unlike the Spitfire Mk.1s which the Blenheim flew with at Duxford, the Rolls Royce Spitfire PS853 / G-RRGN based at East Midlands Airport is a MK XIX version, and also very much part of the UK’s aviation heritage. It was first delivered on the 13th January 1945 to the Central Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at RAF Benson. Flown flawlessly by Chris Hadlow, the beautifully clean blue scheme shows off the sleek lines of this historic aircraft as it was put through its paces over the Worcestershire countryside.
The two lightweight Silence DA1100 Twister aircraft fitted with integral smoke system and wing smokes belonging to the Twister Duo made light work of the crosswind and got airborne to perform a great aerial ballet, utilising their very effective smoke. The two aircraft seemed perilously close when in formation, but were beautifully controlled by the experienced pairing of Peter Wells and Chris Burkett.
With the Royal Air Force Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight grounded due to the winds there was a small break in proceedings, prior to the Vulcan, allowing a series of model aircraft to fly and to entertain the ever growing expectant crowd.
At 3pm the mighty Vulcan B2 XH558 trundled quietly onto the display line before display pilot Kevin Rumens stepped on the loud pedal and the unique ‘Vulcan howl’ echoed across the airfield. It did appear that the howl was louder and longer than in previous seasons and possibly down to the fact this is the last ever season. The crowd applauded as she flew her routine low around the local area before departing with a very overzealous wing over! The sight of the Delta winged Lady gracing our skies will be sorely missed after this year and a part of our flying heritage will be gone forever. But with displays like the one performed by Kev Rumens, the memories will last long in the mind.
Following the sheer size and power of the Vulcan was the somewhat quiet and demure DHC-1 Chipmunk G-BARS belonging to John Beattie. His aircraft is painted in colourful Portuguese Air Force markings, which again makes it a very photogenic and highly visible aircraft. John has a huge experience of flying warbirds from his time with the Royal Navy Historic Flight and knows how to show his aircraft off with a tight and well rehearsed routine.
Another unfortunate loss due to the gusting wind was the cancellation of the Great War Display Team who sadly could not get airborne in the conditions, which meant the display had three acts remaining; the RAF Grob Tutor, Bulldog XX543 and the Breitling WingWalkers.
The RAF Tutor display this year is again flown by Flt Lt Andy Preece. Andy is no stranger to the airshow circuit having previously displayed the Tutor in 2007, 2008 and more recently in 2014. The aircraft appears small but is highly aerobatic and Andy’s routine brings out the best in the aircraft in an entertaining and crowd pleasing display.
Rod Dean certainly knows how to display aircraft with a wealth of experience flying on multiple types including the Spitfire, Harvard, Seafire, Skyraider and Bulldog. Indeed it was the Scottish Avaition T.1 Bulldog XX543 / G-CBAB that Rod flew and displayed in at Throckmorton giving a similar if slightly more dynamic display to that of the Tutor.
The day’s final offering in the Worcestershire skies was the AeroSuperBatics Breitling WingWalkers. Flying in from their base at Rendcomb Airfield in Gloucestershire the WingWalkers brought two of their four Boeing Super Stearman aircraft. With the updated 450 horsepower engines, the rasping noise they make certainly grabs the attention as they perform daring mirror passes and opposition crosses, each with a gorgeous young lady atop of their aircraft. Certainly a crowd favourite judging by the reaction as they departed.
With plenty to see and do on the ground, including various emergency services and Armed Forces displays along with a number of static aircraft such as the Belgian A109 and RAF Squirrel helicopters, the Throckmorton Airshow provides a great family day out at a very reasonable outlay.
Although everything inside the show ran smoothly, all was not well getting in and out of the car parks as there was traffic chaos with thousands queuing up to 4 hours to get in and 2 hours to get out. With no proactive traffic management plan in place, untrained Marshallers and teenagers were left to get on with it. Traffic cop and organiser PC Angus Nairn stated prior to the show “We try to make the day as enjoyable and fun filled as possible so the crowds will go away happy and guaranteed to come back for next year’s event”. There is no doubting the Airshow was well organised and enjoyable, but sadly a lot will of people will not return due to the traffic issues the organisers brought upon themselves. Hopefully the traffic issues will be addressed for 2016, as aside from this the airshow is a great day out, in support of worthy causes.