With the 2014 Air Show season quickly upon us, there is always much interest in the displays that will entertain enthusiasts and families up and down the United Kingdom and across Europe. For 2014 there is a new UK based team ready to strut their stuff – Midair Squadron. Duncan Monk reports from the Press Launch for this exciting new team.
Four miles South of Cirencester, in the depths of Gloucestershire, lays the small picturesque village of Kemble near to where the former RAF base of Kemble is situated. Renamed as Cotswold Airport, the airfield is home to various flying clubs, industrial units, aircraft disposal companies and now Midair Squadron.
Midair Squadron is the brainchild of Canberra XH134’s owner Mike Davis and was launched in 2013. He sees the opportunity to use the Canberra and two Hunter T7’s as a unique PR and marketing tool, by having the ability to fly across the world displaying their aviation prowess to a global audience of aviation aficionado, celebrities and royalty.
Based at the Cotswold airport and under the expert care of C2 Aviation, the Midair stable consists of ex-Royal Air Force 39 (1 PRU) Squadron Canberra PR9 XH134, now registered as G-OMHD, Hawker Hunter T7 XL577 (civil register G-XMHD) and Hawker Hunter T7 XL600 (civil register G-RAXA).
When the Canberra was first brought into RAF service it was in a striking all over silver paint scheme and it is this scheme that Midair have adopted for XH134. The scheme is simple yet affective and the aircraft is finished with four foot high black ‘XH134’ lettering under each wing.
To bring the Hunters in line and provide some uniformity to the ‘squadron’ it was decided to also paint the two T7’s in the same scheme (whilst XL577 also sports a ‘pimped’ chrome gun port). The matching schemes really identify the two dissimilar aircraft as part of the same display team.
The Midair display for 2014 will initially fly with Canberra XH134 and Hunter XL577 T7, as the third aircraft Hunter T7 XL600 is still undergoing work and will not be ready until late 2014.
The Canberra is flown by one of two pilots authorised to display – Dave Piper and Mike Leckey, both of whom flew with 39 Squadron until the type was retired from RAF service. Mike Leckey will be the Chief Pilot on XH134, but it was Dave Piper who flew the routine for the assembled media and distinguished guests during their press launch.
The aircraft will however be flown with just a single crewmember as the navigators seat in the nose has become redundant. It may add a little more workload to the pilot, but with a GPS system installed along with a visual display fitted, it improves the pilot’s situational awareness greatly.
Hunter XL577 was expertly flown at the launch by ex-RAF pilot Chris Heames who has over 6000 jet hours encompassing Phantom, Lightning, Tornado, Hunter and Gnat aircraft and has led many display teams over the years.
Midair’s first public display will be at the traditional season opening event at the Abingdon Air and Country Fayre, Oxfordshire. Other events confirmed so far are:
Llandudno Air Show 24th May (Canberra only)
Cosford Airshow 8th June
Waddington Airshow 5/6 July (Canberra only)
The aircraft complement each other perfectly and look impressive side by side. The Press Launch display consisted of a streamed departure of the Canberra followed by the Hunter down Kemble’s near 2000-meter long runway. The display was opened by a crowd rear arrival into a zoom climb followed by several nice formation passes before the aircraft split and then perform their single routines. A definite highlight is the handover, where the Hunter departs stage left as the Canberra comes in ‘sneak pass style’ from the left. All-in-all a very well thought out and perfectly flown routine by the aircrew.
Midair Squadron has the potential for a long and distinguished career, and with Mike Davis driving them forward; they should be entertaining crowds around the globe for a long time to come. AeroResource wish them well for their inaugural season and look forward to seeing the team grow with the introduction of the second Hunter in the future.
AeroResource would like to thank Midair Squadron, C2 Aviation and Lucy Parsons of Inter Relations for their fantastic hospitality and access during the Media Day.