Celebrating 40 years of the Lynx helicopter and featuring star acts such as a Polish Air Force MiG-29 and the French Navy role demo team, RNAS Yeovilton Air Day proved to be one of the highlights so far from the 2011 airshow season. Mark Graham was there for AeroResource…
Well the weather wasn’t looking all that promising and the journey down was one of dark cloud and thunderstorms! Fortunately for everyone attending, that kind of rain was not to grace the skies over Yeovilton, leaving just some grey cloud which seemed to loom overhead most of the day. When there were breaks in the cloud, the sun was more or less in front of the audience making photography quite tricky.
On entering the station, the first aircraft seen were those in the static display, amongst which were the welcome return of an F-4F Phantom from the German Air Force- the Phantom of course being no stranger to RNAS Yeovilton. Another nice visitor to the static line-up was the French Navy Falcon 10MER.
Fleet Air Arm Lynx and Seaking’s were also on display along with the old Westland Wasp and Scout helicopters. Apart from the static aircraft, there were exhibitions in the main hangar, along with various rides and trade stands providing a day out not just for the enthusiast but for the family alike.
The flying programme started at 11.00 with a mass flypast of no less than nine Royal Navy Lynx helicopters which was followed by a spirited display by the latest version of the Lynx, the Wildcat. Up next was the Belgian Air Force F-16, which provided a dynamic display, and also used flares – somewhat of a rarity in the UK.
After a brief visit from the BBMF Lancaster and Spitfire, it was over to the Royal Navy Historic Flight with their Sea Fury and Swordfish. The Swordfish has made a much welcomed return after undergoing long and extensive restoration work which has lasted for over a decade, and is now in its 40th season with the RNHF. Sadly the Seafire was unable to attend as it had suffered a wheels up emergency landing in France earlier in the month. Another aircraft that was sadly missing from the flying display was the Hawker Sea Hawk. At the moment, the aircraft is having its Rolls-Royce Nene engine dismantled for inspection. It is also undergoing a Safety Case review and its hoped that the Sea Hawk will be back on the airshow circuit later on in the season.
The Royal Navy Black Cat display team were as sharp as ever and provided the audience with a thrilling display showing just how maneuverable the Lynx can be. Having carried out its check flight at 8o’clock that morning, up next was one of the highlights of the day. From the Polish Air Force, the mighty MiG-29UB. Two MiG-29’s were present at Yeovilton, the display being flown by the two seat MiG-29UB whilst the single seat ‘A’ model sat parked up in the ‘live’ static area.
The crowd were soon in for a treat as the roar of four Rolls-Royce Olympus engines filled the air. Prior to the Vulcan’s take off, the Sea Vixen in its former 899 NAS scheme was already airborne and ready to make a couple of flypasts with Vulcan, a sight possibly never to be seen again. Upon landing, the Vulcan taxied to a parking position in amongst the audience, allowing people to get up close and have a good look.
Also using flares was the superb display flown by the Dutch Apache. The French Navy’s contribution to the Flying Display was a naval role demo involving a Dassault Rafale and a Dassault Super Etendard. Not so much of a Navy role demonstration, but more of a few flypasts with arrester hook down etc. Still it was a good display with the Rafale looking like it was nearly supersonic at times!
Two Tornado GR4’s from XV Squadron Lossiemouth provided the audience with a ground attack demonstration.
No Yeovilton Air Day would be complete without the grand finale, the Commando Assault. Using several Lynx and Seaking helicopters , two Hawks and plenty of pyrotechnics, the Royal Marines finished off what had been a most enjoyable day.
Many thanks are due to the organisers and to all involved in making this, yet another Air Day to remember. Thanks also to guest photographer Shaun Shofield for providing some of the images in this report.