Great Yorkshire Airshow, Elvington, 26/27 August
Forget Ibiza, Yorkshire was the place to be this Bank Holiday as temperatures soared along with the aircraft.
Chris Chambers from Warplane went live-side to bring a report of the display from the apron serving runway 26.
Fortuitous bank holiday weather and an action-packed five-hour programme proved a winning combination for this year's Great Yorkshire Air Show. As the north of the country slowly baked, a record number of visitors swelled the gates to the show, with Sunday proving busier than the combined total of both days last year.
As the gates opened Monday morning at 08:30, the sun was already high in a clear blue sky, a good indication of the weather ahead. Entry to the show also includes entry to the Yorkshire Air Museum, so with a ready-made static park boasting the likes of a Lightning, Buccaneer, Canberra, two Hunters and even a Halifax it was no surprise that many of the visitors made their way straight to them.
An opportunity missed by the museum management to impress so many newcomers on what must be its busiest weekend of the year was the layout of the collection - the large expanse of tarmac could have easily housed five or six of the resident jets with ease, but instead they were crammed into the exhibition hangar with a Mirage III parked outside between tents, cars and dogs! Disappointing were the museum's two Hunters, both almost hidden out of view and like the newly acquired Harrier GR3 had their cockpit covers on all day long! Shame more of an effort couldn't have been made, especially in the type's 50th anniversary year.
But that was the only thing to criticise all weekend - the display programme started at 12:25, with a demonstration of two jet cars, the appropriately named 'Split Second' (because that's all you saw it for as it powered down the runway!) achieving a top speed of 274 mph as it raced down the two-mile runway in a matter of seconds. The next item was a little larger and a tad slower - resident Victor 'Lusty Lindy' performed a fast taxi run, before deploying her braking chute to come to a halt and turning around for a second run. The Museum's second Buccaneer also performed a fast run, along with several pauses to flex its wings in a demonstration of the type's carrier-borne origins.
First flying display proper was Jonathon Whaley in his amazingly painted Hunter 'Miss Demeanour'. Jonathon certainly put the ex-Swiss machine through its paces, much to the delight of the crowd, with a number of fast passes, rolls and climb-outs plus an airfield attack complete with pyrotechnics that even managed to shower the crowd with dirt and grass!
The Red Arrows were flying both Sunday and Monday, closing and opening the shows respectively. On Monday they were able to perform their full display in almost perfect visibility and bright blue skies. Getting the 'Reds' on both days was a major coup for the event organiser, Ken Cothliff, and hopefully a sign of Elvington's standing on the airshow circuit in coming years.
One of the highest speed displays of the day was that by the 15(R) Squadron Tornado GR1, the crew having to use a spare machine after the display ship went 'tech' and aborted take-off the previous day. The display was a slight variation on the normal routine, as I was hastily warned by the ground crew sitting atop the broken 'Tonka. Sure enough, screaming down the runway towards us at no more than 100 ft was the Tornado, the pilot pitching up at the last minute and rolling over the top.
With its Sea Fury out of action for the foreseeable future, the Royal Navy were left with just a Swordfish to demonstrate, the venerable old biplane performing a number of passes complete with the usual flag waving crew. Sadly the Sea Vixen had cancelled again and so with a vacant slot, the silver Gnat of Kennet Aviation took to the skies for the first of two displays of the day. BAE test pilot Keith Hartley, at the controls of something a little different to his usual mount of the Eurofighter, performed an incredible display of the type's manoeuvrability, right up to landing. Bringing the Gnat down on finals, he sped along the length of he apron at what seemed no more than twenty feet! Thankfully the ground crews and myself were stood clear! Officially, I'm sure he was within display limits...
Another prodigious feat for the show was having the BBMF in residence for the whole weekend - Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane and Dakota all performing flying displays. Another Spit in residence was BM597, the MkV making a welcome return to Yorkshire after being resurrected from gate guard duties at RAFs Church Fenton and Linton-on-Ouse.
Team Apache made a welcome return to the show, the two French civilian PC7s performing their flying 'as one' routine. Indeed, so close were they that afterwards when the pilots sat and had a coffee, they positioned their chairs with a ten feet spacing, further apart (noted one observer) than they had been for the entire display in separate aircraft!
Making the short hop from Linton-on-Ouse for the weekend was the next item in the programme, a Tucano of 1 FTS, this example in the high visibility black colour scheme, contrasting sharply with the now rare red and white schemed example in the static park. More RAF heavy metal in the shape of the Harrier GR7 took centre stage for a demonstration of its unique VSTOL capabilities, although the appreciative crowd had already had a demo of Harrier power earlier when two had arrived direct from an airshow in Romania, the RAF deciding to send them to Elvington rather than open RAF Wittering on a Bank Holiday! The two aircraft arrived only a couple of minutes late after such a long flight and flew in with the tightest running break I have ever seen, even over an operational airfield. The pair then performed a hover and bow to the left and right of crowd centre before dropping to the runway and parking for a well earned rest.
With the Extra 300 team's display out of the way and a little reshuffling, the RAF Falcons dropped in for a demo of their parachuting skills, the team managing a full height jump from their Hercules. The finale of the show was the Kia Cars demo of landing without a runway, the small Piper Cub setting down on the back of the trailer being towed along the runway. Probably the first time they have closed a show, but in such good weather, there wasn't the usual mass exodus to leave!
Elvington is a family show and as a result has one of the most relaxed atmospheres you could ever wish to experience at an airshow - no step ladders, no jostling for crowd position and no rip-off prices. Long may it continue.