KEMBLE Delta Jets Open Day & Fly-In 13 May 2001
Andrew Bates brings us this report.
The month of May once again saw Kemble play host to a Delta Jets organised Open Day and Fly-In, with the emphasis naturally being on classic jets. As a consequence of Delta Jets' expertise in Hunter operations, it was thus no surprise to find a good selection of Sir Sydney Camms most beautiful creation on view to visitors, whilst a proliferation of Jet Provosts, and derivatives, demonstrated the continued popularity of this trainer within the growing community of civilian operated, ex-military jets. In many ways, the event was virtually a re-run of the Open Day and Fly-In held last May, the only real difference being the less than co-operative weather later in the afternoon, culminating in some very heavy, thundery showers. This came as something of a shock after a morning of bright sunshine, blue skies, and high temperatures, although, to be fair, it was forecast.
As before, the majority of Kembles resident aircraft were already on display in some form or other when the gates opened at 9:30, with Hunters being the dominant theme, as expected. There were four operational examples out on the flightline, three trainers and a single seater. Displaying a variety of colour schemes, these comprised of the all black T7B WV318/G-FFOX, camouflaged T7 WV372/G-BXFI, another T7, XL600/G-VETA in overall midnight blue, and multi-coloured F58A J-4104/G-PSST.
Contrasting starkly with Sierra-Tango, Tango-Alpha had migrated to Kemble during the winter period, following a number of years operating out of Bournemouth. However, this is by no means the latest Hunter to benefit from the care and attention of Delta Jets personnel. Recently arrived from Cranwell, after a spell of ground instructional duties with the AMIF (Aircraft Maintenance Instruction Flight), was a pair of RAF T8 trainers. On static display outside the hangar was T8B XF995/G-BZSF, whilst T8C WV322/G-BZSE was to be found undergoing maintenance inside the hangar, as well as performing regular undercarriage retraction demonstrations throughout the day. Also to be found within the hangar was T7 XL577/G-BXKF, which is still stripped down on long term re-build.
As the morning progressed, there was a slow but steady influx of visiting aircraft to help swell the number of airframes parked on the flightline. As previously mentioned, this saw the dominance of the Hunter at the event seriously challenged by the ever-popular Jet Provost/Strikemaster family, with a total of five examples in attendance. These included another variety of colour schemes; all-black T5A XW333/G-BVTC, all red T3A XN459/G-BWOT, silver T4 XR673/G-BXLO, the now very familiar T4 XR679/G-BWGT, complete with its flame effect paintwork, (unless its my imagination, this seems to turn up at almost every event these days!), and ex-Botswana Strikemaster OJ4/G-UNNY. The majority of these were effectively making a return visit to Kemble.
Other classics jets on display comprised of resident Gnat T1 XR538/G-RORI out on the flightline, along with Duxford based CT-33A Silver Star 21261/G-TBRD. After years of operating in USAF markings, complete with a fictitious serial number, it was nice to see the T-33 back in its original RCAF colour scheme. Meanwhile on static display were both of the resident Buccaneers; Delta Jets owned XW986, along with XX894 from the Buccaneer Preservation Society. In fact the prospect of Kemble boasting three examples of the mighty Bucc moved one step closer recently, following the decision by the BPS to acquire XW544. This has been in storage at a haulage yard just outside Shawbury for the last few years, following retirement from ground instructional duties at Cosford. Unfortunately the spectacle of a Buccaneer trio at Kemble is likely to be short lived as Deltas XW986 is reportedly up for sale. As this example has been ground run on a number of occasions in recent times, it would be no surprise to see this particular Bucc migrating down to South Africa, if any sale was indeed forthcoming.
Although the event was primarily geared towards classic jets, visiting props were also just as welcome. These included Chipmunk T10 WZ847/G-CPMK, as well as a pair of Duxford warbirds from the Aircraft Restoration Company; T-28S 51-7545/N14113 and ex-RCAF Beech D18S 5193/G-BKGL, which still masquerades as US C-45 1164. In a similar vein, DC-3 N1944A looked extremely convincing in an authentic USAAF scheme, wearing the identity 315211.
The flying display itself was scheduled to begin at 2:00, which unfortunately coincided with a rapid deterioration in the weather. This was a great shame, as it effectively denied any of the pilots an opportunity to perform under the clear blues skies which had been so prevalent throughout the morning. However, despite the best attentions of Mother Nature, which resulted in a fiercely dramatic sky, along with heavy showers, thunder, and lightning, the planned displays were flown pretty much according to plan. This was a real testament, if ever it was needed, to the skill and professionalism of all the pilots who performed over Kemble that afternoon.
The first two items, both individual Hunter displays, managed to beat the worst of the weather, although they performed against an ever-blackening sky. First up was Jonathon Whaley flying his own Hunter F58A G-PSST, in which he conducted a stunning demonstration of the Hunters speed and agility. It was interesting to note from the commentary that the civil registration stands for Personal Super-Sonic Transport, and has nothing to do with the condition of the pilot. Thank goodness for that!
Immediately afterwards, the all black T7B WV318/G-FFOX was put through its paces by Andy Cubin, which enabled the audience to savour another flawless display of skill and precision. As far as the Hunter is concerned, the combination of classic design and pilot proficiency is simply irresistible, but then I am biased.
Shortly after the Hunters, the next display item to take to the air was Gnat T1 XR538/G-RORI. Unfortunately, this coincided with a heavy downpour, so the majority of the audience were forced to watch from the shelter of the Delta Jets hangar, which became fairly crowded for obvious reasons. In-between the showers and thunderstorms, the JP T4 XR679/G-BWGT and the Strikemaster also managed to perform for the crowds, both managing to find a window of opportunity within the weather. For those brave enough to venture outside the hangar, it has to be said that some of the lightning was fairly spectacular, though personally, the English Electric variety would have been preferable. I wish!
If it were possible to award a prize for perseverance, then it would have surely gone to pilot Cliff Spink. His was the final solo display in the CT-33A Silver Star. After taking off, it quickly became apparent that another storm front was fast approaching the airfield. Consequently, he was soon back in the circuit, and then safely back down on the runway. However, rather than terminate his display, he waited patiently on the taxiway, engine still running, until it was safe to take off again. Then he was able to continue his display as normal, much to the delight of the audience.
A short while later, the flying program was rounded off in fine style with the home team providing a four ship Hunter display. A fitting end to the days activities, and a taste of even better things to come, as Kemble will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Hunter over the weekend of 21-22 July, with many Hunter operators invited to attend.
Despite the worst attentions of the weather, which may have affected the numbers of visiting aircraft, all the staff at Delta Jets should be congratulated for providing enthusiasts with another opportunity to indulge their passion for classic jets. This type of event is such a pleasant change of pace from the normal hustle and bustle of a major airshow, and is surely worthy of continued support to hopefully ensure it remains a regular feature in the airshow calendar.