|A tragic weekend
Damien Burke reflects on a black weekend for the UK airshow scene.
The 2001 Biggin Hill Airshow
was, it seemed, jinxed from the start. The week's sunny weather had disappeared, replaced
by low cloud and intermittent rain. One of the star attractions, the Su-27, hadn't been
able to make up because of a bureaucratic mix-up in Russia. Then De Havilland Aviation's
Venom made a wheels-up landing, fortunately without injury or major damage to the
The Sea Vixen immediately cancelled the rest of its display, and dumped fuel before landing on runway 03. Taxiing at a snails pace back to its parking spot, it was clear the pilot was as shocked as the rest of us, and my heart goes out to the De Havilland team and the family and friends of the deceased. The odds against two incidents on the same day - to the same operator - must be astronomical.
But fate had even more in store for Biggin. On the second day of the show, the TFC's Kingcobra crashed on the airfield during its display, fireballing and killing the pilot (Guy Bancroft-Wilson, a captain with British Airways and ex-Red Arrows team member) in a horrifying repeat of Saturday's Vampire crash. There cannot have been a darker weekend in UK airshow history for many, many years. Biggin's 2001 show certainly did not deserve to be remembered for these reasons because despite the organisational problems of dealing with only half a runway for much of Saturday, the show was a good one, and slickly organised.
We often complain about airshow prices - sadly sometimes the actual price is far, far too high.
Later we heard of the loss of Martin Sargeant and his Spitfire PRXI PL983 at an airshow in Rouen, France. Never has there been such a weekend of disaster for the airshow circuit in the UK. We pay tribute to all four pilots lost - may they rest in peace. - Ed
Click here for a report of the rest of Biggin's weekend. There are not any pictures of the fatal crashes out of respect.