As is the trend for the end of each year, it’s time for us at AeroResource to reflect on our 2015 – and unfortunately unlike 2014 the lows immediately spring to mind ahead of the highs. 2015 has been a difficult year for airshows, with the loss of Kevin Whyman flying a Folland Gnat at Carfest, and the horrific accident at Shoreham, which was the deadliest airshow incident in the UK for over half a century. The ripples from the latter are still yet to be seen, but will likely be far-reaching and see a substantial change to the operation of classic jets in Great Britain.
As always though, the aviation community bands together, reflects, and moves forward – concentrating on the enjoyment which all of us, no matter our capacity, gain from this great hobby, occupation and passion.
There can be no doubting that a single aircraft seemed to occupy the minds, and hearts, of many during the year as Avro Vulcan XH558 finished its second career amongst a plethora of displays, cross country tours and publicity all designed to give as many people as possible that one final viewing. As we wait to see what the future has in store for the Vulcan (and indeed VTST) the last few years have shown what can be achieved in restoring an old aircraft to flight – something that will no doubt inspire and inform many groups all striving to achieve the same.
2015 also saw a significant anniversary for historical aviation – the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. A tremendous number of events were held up and down the country from small single aircraft flypasts to massed gatherings. Events at Goodwood, RIAT and Duxford all gathered large numbers of representative aircraft but it was maybe a more modern display approach that deserves some well earned recognition. With the most impressive special scheme seen on a Royal Air Force Typhoon so far, the combination of Typhoon and Spitfire for the RAF 75th BoB anniversary display was a sight to behold with impressive timing and positioning between the aircraft balancing the massive performance differential.
The year also saw the AeroResource site itself undertake a massive overhaul as the team migrated all the content over to a new hosting platform. With over 250 articles and 6,000 images manually copied across, captioned and reformatted, this was no small feat and occupied many months’ worth of effort. Nevertheless, it was a necessary step in order for AeroResource to move ahead with some of its plans for 2016 – more on those soon! In a similar vein, expect to see both FighterControl and CivilianAviation undergo a similar overhaul and refresh during the coming year.
All that is left is to wish all our readers a happy and prosperous 2016. Be your interest military or civilian, photography or serials, we hope that there are plenty of movements and highlights ahead.
On behalf of the AeroResource team
After last year’s travels to Japan, Switzerland and the USA, 2015 was always going to be a bit quieter for me! I did however finally learn to drive and get a car, allowing me to get to a lot more shows across the UK than in the past. I also spent 5 months over the summer living on Anglesey in the shadow of RAF Valley – a superb experience resulting in far too many photos of Hawks and multiple trips to the low flying areas of Wales.
Of course, the real highlight of any day out is meeting friendly faces in random fields throughout the country, so if I bumped into you over the course of 2015, thank you. Moving on to my aviation highlights, the choice was tough, and I must give a special mention to Llandudno which has to be my hidden gem discovery of the season. I can see the Ormes being a lot busier next year!
Whilst the Vulcan’s farewell season is covered above, I felt I had to include my final Vulcan display in this list. Dawlish is my favourite airshow in the UK, and once again battled the weather gods in 2015 to put on another superb show (albeit with a number of cancellations). The highlight was always going to be the Vulcan, but her ear splitting low-level entry into the display was possibly the best thing ever to come head on the infamous Dawlish hill!
All other shows take note: This is how to do a final hour of a flying display! Two Rafales, two Super Etendards, the camo Typhoon and of course the ubiquitous amphibious assault with pyrotechnics and flares in abundance. Airshow heaven!
Swiss AF Valley Det
I have a soft spot for the PC-21, so imagine my surprise when six of them turned up down the road at RAF Valley for the week. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts (including at a very wet A5 pass) I managed to catch them low-level in the Mach Loop, even if I did start the day on the wrong hill! By the end of the day, we had seen multiple passes at all kinds of angles. Hopefully, this will be the first of many Swiss detachments to these shores. F18s next please!
Anatolian Eagle 2015
The annual international Anatolian Eagle exercise held at Turkey’s Konya air base always guarantees some interesting participants and it certainly didn’t disappoint. F-16s from Pakistan and Jordanian were among the highlights but the real star items were the Turkish Air Force F4-E Phantoms. Along with some great access and wonderful hospitality from the Turkish hosts, I’m already looking forward to going back to Konya.
2007 was the last time the Indian Air Force was over with their SU-30MKIs and it seemed that every year after the rumours were that they would be back. Finally, in 2015 they did make the return visit with four aircraft to RAF Coningsby along with a C-17, C-130 and an IL-76. As nice as it was to have them over they seem to not like the sunshine and trying to get all of them in decent light proved tricky but it was achieved with several trips to Coningsby and a lot of miles racked up during the exercise chasing them!
Fairford Bomber Deployment 2015 – SABER STRIKE / BALTOPS
The 2014 bomber deployment was about as good as it could get with B-52s and B-2s flying almost daily with multiple missions. The 2015 deployment was a little bit less high tempo compared to last year and the missions being flown were of far longer duration with this down to the B-52s actually taking part in the SABER STRIKE / BALTOPS exercises. The B-2s also demonstrated their global power by flying from Whiteman the Fairford, hot pitting and then flying home, again. The early morning and late evening movements were frustrating but it was still and enjoyable exercise – where else are you going to see B-2s and B-52s together outside of Guam?
Well that was 2015 and I have to say it has been one of the best! Types not seen in UK skies for numerous years have been aplenty – including the one and only Blenheim, the stunning Seafire III, Aéronavale Super Etendards and the mighty Flankers of the Indian Air Force. With trips up and down the country to fencelines, shows, museums, fly-ins (pretty much anything to do with aviation!) it has again been a highlight to meet so many people out and about. Let’s hope it continues and 2016 beats 2015 – happy spotting one and all!
Antonov Design Bureau Antonov AN225 Myria UR-82060 – Doncaster Sheffield Airport, November 11
Having first set eyes on the world’s sole Antonov AN225 Myria back in June 2013, I hoped it would not be too long until I saw this behemoth again and 2014 brought two sightings of the Ukrainian giant. Hoping the success would continue into 2015, the year saw numerous rumours that UR-82060 was due back in the UK come and go until Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) made an official announcement in late October – the ‘Dream’ was coming! Arriving from its home of Kiev Gostomel Airport in the Ukraine, the aircraft was due to night stop before heading off to Leipzig’s Halle Airport and then on to Baku’s Heydär Äliyev Airport in Azerbaijan. Heading towards the South Yorkshire airport, the captain of the 1988-built jet unbelievably requested a flypast to allow the current crew a chance to see the runway due to their unfamiliarity with the airport – an incredible sight and sound!
Exercise Indradanush (Rainbow) IV – Bharatiya Vāyu Senā at RAF Coningsby – July 2015
The skies of Lincolnshire were filled with the scream of the Lyulka AL-31FP turbofans accompanied by their hypnotic blue ‘burner as four Sukhoi/HAL Su-30MKI-3 Flanker-Hs of the Indian Air Force worked alongside the Eurofighter Typhoons of 3(F) Squadron. Operated by No.2 Squadron ‘Winged Arrows’, the four jets deployed to RAF Coningsby for Exercise Indradanush (Rainbow) IV from their home base of Tezpur Air Force Station – close to the Chinese border – for the ten day bi-lateral exercise, the first of which took place in 2007. Flying two sorties a day, the fences around the base saw huge numbers of like-minded people and a chance to meet fellow enthusiasts from all over the world – but even more so to see the mighty Flanker back in UK skies again!
XR220 in the open – RAF Cosford Airshow 2015
The chance to see a TSR.2 in the flesh is one we in the UK are lucky to have with two examples housed in the extensive collections of both Duxford and Cosford. However, the chance to see one in the light of day is something many (especially of the younger generation!) could have only dreamed off. That said the chance was given to those attending this year’s RAF Cosford airshow with BAC TSR.2 XR220 making a rare appearance out in the open as part of the static display. Normally found within the confines of the RAF Museum’s Test Flight exhibition, the aircraft was brought outside to mark the 50th anniversary of the project’s cancellation in April 1965. XR220 was the second development aircraft and was ready to fly for the first time on April 6, 1965, the very same day that the TSR.2 was cancelled! Oh, to have had a chance to shoot this stunning, and still futuristic looking, machine in operational service…
2015, was a year of mixed emotions as I attended some amazing airshows with incredible aircraft line ups and displays throughout the UK and abroad. However the sad reminder that, for our enjoyment, aircrew put themselves and their aircraft through incredible stresses and manoeuvres came to the fore with the sad loss of David Jenkins of the Wildcats and Kev Whyman of the Gnat display team. The devastating Hunter crash at Shoreham with the loss of so many innocent lives certainly brought home just how dangerous airshows can be. I have never thought twice about going to the live ‘naughty’ side for airshows, but after Shoreham I doubt I will ever venture to a naughty field again. The 2016 season can’t come soon enough for me, and hopefully banish the demons that haunted the 2015 UK Airshow season.
A non-Farnborough year usually sees less exciting aircraft to whet your appetite at the Royal International Air Tattoo, but not in 2015. The static line up was superb with rarities all the way along Fairford’s huge taxiway and the placement was the best it has been for years. The flying display was just as exhilarating with Ramex Delta, Greek F-16 Zues, Polish MiG-29, Japanese P-1 and the amazing A400M to name but a few. The sight and sound of so many Spitfires and Hurricanes flying will last long in the memory as part of the Battle of Britain 75th anniversary celebrations. But who could ever forget THAT Avro Vulcan take-off and display as Kev Rumens brought back memories of XH558 in her RAF days with a display that will be talked about for years to come! It was the most enjoyable Air Tattoo I have been to for a long while. Well done Team DBH!
Typhoon Display at Dawlish Airshow
Dawlish Airshow is one of those special venues with many vantage points, of which Smugglers Hill is a very popular one with photographers. Kev Wills and his magnificent team had put together an amazing line up of aircraft, including a final week crowd funded addition of the Avro Vulcan XH558 in her final year. However, it was Flt Lt Jonny Dowen in the BoB 75th anniversary schemed Typhoon FGR4 ‘Hurriphoon’ that stole the show. Having seen the Typhoon display a number of times it was the most dynamic and awe-inspiring display by a Typhoon that I have ever witnessed. I’m not sure if it was the location but it certainly left a smile on the faces of many gathered on the hill that day.
Low-level – Mach Loop
The Mach loop is a legendary place in Wales, named after the nearby town of Machynlleth, with tales (and the occasional photographic proof!) of aircraft passing through swept, in full burner and inverted over the years!
For eight years the sight of an F-15 Eagle of any variant down in the weeds in the ’roundabout’ as the Americans refer to it had eluded me. This year finally my duck was broken with two visits yielding a glimpse of the awesome F-15E with the first giving the fortune to see a loaded out pair of Eagles heading to Aberporth range. To see these huge machines so delicately manoeuvred at speed through the twists and turns of the valleys has to be seen and heard to be believed. It was a long time coming but my god it was certainly worth the wait.
2015. Where to start?! A season that was mostly dedicated to “The Few” with several Battle of Britain events spread through the calendar, such as the gathering at Goodwood which was a superb spectacle as was the IWM’s September airshow with a 17 strong Spitfire finale – what a way to round off the season. Picking three of my favourite moments from a season that covered 15 airshows, several nightshoots & countless hours lurking at airfields is not an easy task, but I think I’ve managed it!
Radom was my first overseas show, and a damned good one at that! The combination of good weather, excellent company and a fantastic flying line-up that included fast jet after fast jet and no less than 10 display teams. On the whole it has been unbeaten for me in 2015, and the particular standout in the display had to be the late evening demonstration by the Slovakian Air Force MiG-29 at twilight on the Saturday, the afterburner even more evident than usual in the inky blue sky.
Ballerina air to air
After nearly a year of working with Pete Kynsey to organise an air-to-air with his Cosmic Wind ‘Ballerina’, we finally we nailed a sortie on his return to Duxford from Old Warden in early August. The day saw a brief with ‘PK’ at Old Warden in the morning before leaving mid display to meet the camera ship at Duxford. We had a whole 9 minutes in formation with some lovely early evening light, before breaking to land. It’s a difficult aircraft to photograph normally due to it’s small size, but Pete’s flying was just superb, and we achieved fantastic results. I’m delighted that Aeroplane Magazine ran a feature on the aircraft, featuring one of my photos as a double page spread.
Flying Legends – Red Bull Lightning
One of my favourite aircraft – it must be said… It just looks ‘right’ and, in it’s own way, unique. It comes as no surprise then that I look forward to seeing it at Legends when it is booked and this year was no exception – Raimund Riedmann always puts on a sensational display. His display on the Sunday followed a massive downpour, in clearing and stunning blue skies, and with the air still damp, it was even producing vapour. Awesome.
2015 has been a strange year for me. It was the second year in a row where my passion for military aviation, and military radio communication monitoring, has taken a backseat due to other personal commitments including work and other activities I am involved in. That being said I still managed to get out on a few occasions and I’m glad to say several of these were of huge significance not only to me personally, but also to the aviation community and had great historical context.
Joint Warrior 15-1
The bi-annual Joint Warrior Exercises always proves popular as I am fortunate enough to live relatively close to the key starting point of the exercise. Over recent years, my local airfield at Prestwick has dramatically increased its contribution to the exercise acting as a temporary operating base for many participants including the FRADU Hawks and FRA Falcons. Throughout the Exercise the airport also has a huge variety of visitors involved in the exercise. The unexpected arrival of a P-8 Poseidon aircraft in the early Spring sun summed up perfectly why I love both Joint Warrior and Prestwick Airport.
My only airshow venture for 2015 was the Scottish Airshow which was entering it’s second year with a flying display at Ayr Low Green on the Saturday and a static display at Prestwick Airport on the Sunday. I was working nightshift that weekend and unable to get it off but the Vulcan making her final ever appearance in Scotland before bowing out from the flying circuit, I was determined to make both days – and I was glad I made the extra effort.
I am too young to remember the glory days of the V-Force but having watched endless documentaries and read numerous books about the Cold War, the aircraft has always had a huge impact on me and I am happy I was able to watch her flying for the final time in Scotland but at the same time sad that she will now be confined the ground.
UK SAR Helicopter Service
The highlight of my aviation year without a doubt happened in mid-December as the UK Search and Rescue Helicopter Service base was officially opened at Prestwick Airport. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the ceremony but my main highlight would come several days later.
I found myself back on the apron at the new facility having been asked to capture a historic moment in aviation search and rescue history – a venerable Royal Navy Sea King SAR helicopter from HMS Gannet sitting beside it’s new state-of-the-art replacement, the Sikorsky S-92. The Sea King has been a part of my daily routine for my entire life with rarely a day going by when I haven’t seen it flying over my house. The S-92 has also suddenly became a common feature in both a personal and professional capacity and I am truly honoured to have been part of these two exceptional aircraft coming together in a truly historic moment as the Royal Navy prepared to hand over the mantle of helicopter SAR to the new service.
The year 2015 was a relatively quiet one for me with my only trips out being to the Royal International Air Tattoo, Duxford Flying Legends and the Duxford September Air Show. Luckily for me though, RAF Coningsby is open all year round and living relatively local to the Lincolnshire station provides numerous opportunities for me to witness the day-to-day operations of a frontline fast jet base. In no particular order my personal aviation highlights of 2015 are –
Exervise Indradhanush 2015
As I’ve already said I’m a fairly regular visitor to RAF Coningsby but that statement certainly isn’t shared by the Indian Air Force who graced the skies of Lincolnshire for the first time since 2007 during July 2015. The personnel of No. 2 ‘Winged Arrows’ Squadron and their four Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft sent the UK aviation enthusiast community into a frenzy and temporarily reduced the village of Coningsby to a standstill not seen since, well, er, just under a year ago when the Canadian Lancaster visited! For me the chance to catch a glimpse of these rarely seen and formidable aircraft means they can’t fail to register amongst my top three highlights of the year.
Duxford ‘Big Wing’
The spectacle of a large congregation of vintage warbirds has certainly not been a rare sight at Duxford over the years but, with the significance and poignancy of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain looming large in 2015, the Cambridgeshire station’s September Air Show did not disappoint. We saw a large amount of fighters take to the air at RIAT and also at Biggin Hill over the summer but at neither of those venues did 17 Spitfires come together into a large ‘Big Wing’ formation of 15 Merlin and 3 Griffon engined aircraft that produced a sight and sound that etched itself permanently into the memory of me and anyone else who witnessed it.
The year 2015 was special in a coincidental fashion as well as anything else. With many of today’s frontline squadrons formed as Royal Flying Corps units during the early years of the First World War, 2015 saw a number of centenaries marked. 8 Squadron, IX(B) Squadron, XI Squadron, 12(B) Squadron, XV Squadron, 18 Squadron, 27 Squadron, 29(R) Squadron, 31 Squadron and 41(R) Squadron (albeit slightly early!) all revealed specially marked aircraft to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their formation. I was lucky enough to see several of these but, sadly, not all.
For me, 2015 epitomized quality over quantity – I think my count for aviation ‘events’ attended was well down compared to previous years. Airshows were still up there as usual with two days at RIAT, visits to Cosford and Culdrose (the latter being an unplanned addition to a holiday in Cornwall – although I’ve yet to find anyone who will believe that…) and significant time spent at IWM Duxford.
Days on the fence were almost zero, although I managed a good amount of time in and around my local airport at Cambridge, with a variety of both civil and military movements passing my lens. Probably the reason for such a drop in visits and trips was funding being channeled elsewhere. My trusty Canon 7D and Sigma 120-300mm pair were both starting to show their age and I ended up complementing them with a 5D3 and 70-200 – the added flexibility cannot be understated, and suit more of the photography I find myself doing outside of aviation.
Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey at RAF Mildenhall
This was the undoubted highlight for me, and the result of a lot of preparation work and approvals. AeroResource have covered the 352nd Special Operations Wing and the changes to the unit in the UK over a series of articles during the last few years, and it was a huge privilege to be one of the first organisations invited to fly with the 7th Special Operations Squadron. Whilst planned air-to-air photo opportunities were curtailed by aircraft taskings, it was the most incredible experience to watch UK forces conduct a HALO jump mission over SPTA – all in total darkness. Sitting on the open ramp travelling back to Mildenhall with night vision goggles was the most “pinch me, is this happening” moment of my 2015. My chosen photo is from an impromptu nightshoot on return to Mildenhall at around 11pm.
Cambridge Flying Group Tiger Moths
I started learning to fly with the Cambridge Flying Group in late 2015, although work commitments have delayed an effective start of training until next year. CFG fly a pair of de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moths and are one of the few places that offer “ab initio” (from scratch) training on the Tiger Moth – which is a significantly different experience to flying a modern aircraft like a Cessna 172. The Tiger Moths feature on my top three highlights as I was asked to take part in an air-to-air photo sortie to support an article in the Cambridge News. Although the requirements from Air Traffic prevented us from working with the sun for the majority of the sortie, I was happy with the results as it was my first light aircraft air-to-air. The highlight image for me was actually from the end of the day on the ground, after a small air display on a wonderfully warm September evening.
UK MoD Helicopter Upgrades
AeroResource were invited by the Ministry of Defence to RAF Benson back in March to attend a showcase event demonstrating the upgraded helicopter fleet now fielded by the UK Armed Forces as part of the progress towards Future Force 2020. This ranks in my highlights for the year as it was the first chance I’d had to fly in a helicopter since leaving the Air Cadets in 2009. A selected group of the journalists invited were given the opportunity to fly in a 78 Squadron Merlin HC.3 to photograph one of the newly upgraded Puma HC.2s air-to-air. The photo opportunities, coupled with the availability of MoD, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps personnel for interview, made this one of the most satisfying articles I’ve written for AeroResource to date.
The aim this year for me was to catch the Marham Tornado Centenary special tailed aircraft. With a number of RAF Squadrons celebrating this significant milestone in 2015, the Tornado force had plenty to try and catch. However, with the lack of any Tornado role demo or display, the only real chance of catching them was at their operational bases and, for my highlights, this was done over a couple of trips as we all know how quiet Marham is these days! However, it was still worth the trips just to catch these wonderful machines in their Twilight Years, I sure am going to miss them when they are gone.
IX(B) Squadron Centenary Scheme
On April 27, I was lucky to catch the IX(B) Squadron Tornado ZA456 under the Batman callsign in fantastic light. This scheme was one of the first to be revealed during 2015 and set a high bar for others to follow. However, the jet is to be seen no longer following its one-way trip to RAF Leeming.
31 Sqn Centenary Scheme
On August 9, Marham put up all three special tails and the 40 year special as both IX(B) and the 40 year jet were heading to Leeming for scrapping and storgae respectively. The light was poor when all four departed but later in the day the 31 Sqn Centenary jet – ZA458 – came out of Marham’s Hot Pit in perfect light also.
12 Sqn Centenary Scheme
My last Trip to Marham was on the November 12 as the weather looked pretty good and 12 Sqn flew their Centenary jet – ZA405 – twice. I was again lucky as the jet returned for a straight in approach in cracking Autumn light to complete the trio of special scheme catches during 2015.
For me, 2015 certainly didn’t turn out how I had expected it. Early in the year, the loss of friend and Wildcat 3 pilot DJ in a tragic accident at Old Buckenham was a real shock. Later in the year personal reasons led to the cancellation of a planned US trip to Miramar Airshow and San Francisco Fleet Week however I look forward to making the trip, as planned, in 2016. Despite these down points, there was plenty to celebrate – terrific warbird action at Duxford with TFC’s new P-36C at Legends and the VJ Day anniversary show in May standing out. An excellent trip away with Wildcat Aerobatics to Culdrose Air Day, plus superb local shows at Old Buck and Seething, the annual week long trip to RIAT and a number of fence line trips to bases old and new – 2015 may not have gone as planned but still resulted in some great experiences.
Hardwick Photographers event
The Hardwick Warbird collection open days during the year are are brilliant chance to get up close and personal with their aircraft however, a rare chance for a pure photography event in May couldn’t be passed up. With large numbers of re-enactors and set scenes around the collections aircraft, it was a relaxed and enjoyable days shooting. To top the evening off, a night run by the Harvard and ‘Marinell’ really was an unforgettable experience.
Duxford Spitfire Finale
During 2015, I managed to get to every Duxford airshow and, whilst each had some incredible displays and set piece formations, it was the last show of the year that gave my favourite of all. Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the sight and sound of 15 Spitfires and 2 Seafires beating up Duxford will long remain in my memory. From up on the tank bank the action was fast, low and non-stop leading to a rare moment where I put the camera down, stood back and just took it all in.
This may seem like a strange one for some but, late in September, I was able to make my first ever visit to RAF Lossiemouth. With only a single day available to take photo’s it seems I got lucky and was blessed with some exceptional light and a mixture of active runways giving plenty of shooting variety. The base itself is set in amongst some stunning scenery making it quite possibly the most picturesque base to shoot at in the UK – and I shall most certainly be trying to get back there in 2016.
2015 was another quiet year aviation wise for me with a handful of airshows and spotting trips from which to choose my highlights.
German Army – MBB Bo 105 display at RIAT
RIAT 2015 provided a welcome return to the flying display by the German Armed Forces with the German Air Force providing a Tornado for the anniversary flypast and the German Army with the impressive (in my eyes) Bo 105 display. With the type going out of service soon, it is likely the last chance we will see it in the UK. The display showed of the nimble helicopter including the very impressive manoeuvre where the helicopter rotates around its tail rotor.
JMSDF Kawasaki P-1 at RIAT
Another highlight were the two JMSDF Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft attending the Royal International Air Tattoo. When it was first announced that they were attending the show it already looked like one of the stars of the airshow but it was then announced one would be flying making their attendance even better. The display itself was just a few passes in various configurations but the fact we had one flying is a real highlight.
Great Yorkshire Airshow
With the news some shows are taking breaks or not happening again, it was great news that a new show was going to be held at the former RAF Church Fenton. Despite a few minor points like the parking issues, lack of toilets and no support from the Air Force bar a RAF Tucano on static, the show itself was very good with some fantastic displays from the Mig 15, Huey / Loach display team, one of the final appearances of the public favourite Vulcan and one of the lowest C-47 / DC3 displays I can remember. Hopefully the airshow team can build on the success of 2015 and grow the airshow in future.