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50,000 people pay a minute's tribute to the fallen and bereaved in the USAScottish lament

RAF Leuchars International Airshow, 15 September

Gary Parsons reports on a sombre event.

At 14:00 a lone piper's lament hung over the Scottish lowlands as Leuchars paid its respect to those that perished in America. It was a quite moving experience as 50,000 people turned their thoughts to events far away, events that could affect thousands of miles distant.

Held just four days after the terrible events in New York on 11 September, a melancholy mood hung over this year's Leuchars International Airshow. Aviation was in the news for all the wrong reasons, so it was natural that proceeding with an airshow was called in question. But, as the adage says, 'the show must go on'.

Airshow action (in order of appearance)
RAF Tucano
RAF Hawk
RAF Tornado GR1
French 'Voltage Victor' Mirage F1 duo
Dutch F-16A
Classic Jets' Hunter 'WB188'
Delta Jets' Hunter WV318
RAF Nimrod
RAF Red Arrows
Air Atlantique's Anson
AAC Historic Flight
AAC Blue Eagles
French Patrioulle de France
French Mirage 2000B
Kennet Aviation's Hunter XF515
RNHF Swordfish
Swedish Team 60
RAF Battle of Britain Flight
RAF Jaguar
RAF Harrier
RAF Tornado F3

At the press briefing, the Station Commander, Group Captain Martin Routledge, outlined the reasons for continuing to hold the show in such dark times. "We join millions worldwide who have condemned the appalling barbarism of those who perpetrated such horrific acts of terrorism. However, as our Prime Minister has indicated, terrorists much not be allowed to stop our normal way of life. We have the deepest sympathy for the victims and their families and for the emergency services dealing with the aftermath. I One of few international visitors was Captain Richard Buijs and his F-16Aunderstand some people might call into question the appropriateness of commemorating the Battle of Britain in this country four days after such an outrage. However, this Show represents a beacon of hope in the fight against terrorism, and a clear demonstration that our Services stand together to preserve freedom and democracy. The Battle of Britain Airshow provides a very public opportunity for us here to stand in solidarity with our American allies in the face of such a terrible atrocity. As a mark of our respect, flags have been flying at RAF Leuchars at half-mast since Wednesday and will continue do so throughout the Show."

Naturally the American participants cancelled, this having a huge impact on the static park as many USAF 'heavies' had been booked. Space previously allowed for the B-52, B-1, KC-135 et al was now empty and radical re-planning was quickly done to try to plug some of the holes. A C-17 was arranged at very short notice from Brize Norton, ZZ174 (the newest of the RAF's fleet of four) arriving early on the show morning and departing for a tasked mission as soon as the show had finished. The unusual sight of the aircraft being marshalled through the arriving spectators kept many RAF policemen on their toes, especially given the heightened state of security on military establishments across the country.

Full reheatUnfortunately for the airshow organisers the star attraction had been lost the day before the events of Tuesday 11th, when confirmation that the Spanish Navy AV-8B would not make it to the show. Due to take part in the flying display, it would have been a coup not far short of Waddington's Israeli F-15I and was the reason many enthusiasts made the trip
The Blue Eagles were their usual excellent selvesto eastern Scotland. With its cancellation, and that of the B-1, the flying programme suddenly had a ordinary look, full of the usual RAF items and ubiquitous French Mirage 2000 and Dutch F-16 solos. But, all things considered, everyone considered that we were lucky to have an airshow at all.

Frustrating was the placement of the recently refurbished Lightning F6 and Phantom FG1 in a hangar display celebrating 90 years of aviation at Leuchars - they would have looked so much better in the brilliant early morning sunshine! Equally frustrating Who is this?was the relative absence of based F3s - the fast jet static line would have benefited immensely with half a dozen Tornados escaped from their HASs. True, 111 Squadron were away on detachment, but may would have welcomed the opportunity to see 43's complement, especially with a variety of weapons fit. It seems churlish to comment in light of the world situation, but just a little more would have gone a long way to restoring the show's content and ultimately spectator satisfaction.

But there was much that was good. Despite the cancellations a seven-hour flying programme was achieved without too many yawning gaps, and the flying was first-class, if a little distant on occasion. 'Voltage Victor', the French Mirage F-1 duo performed one of their remarkably close balletic routines, and Swedish Team 60 provided the variety with their vastly underpowered Saab 105 (aka Sk60) trainers. Just how they managed to keep up with other, no-one knows...

Craig Penrice with Classic Jets' Hunter 'WB188' was the biggest culprit in the 'far-off' display category with a lovely display, unfortunately only noticeable from a dinghy in St Andrews Bay. Dave Roome flew Delta Jets' WV318 with usual flair, but this time somewhere near the display line, and a lot closer to the runway than some!

Static stars
Belgian Alpha Jet
RAF C-17
Dutch F-16
RAF Hawk
RAF Jaguar 41 Squadron anniversary scheme
French Mirage F1, 'Voltage Victor'
French Alpha Jet, Patrioulle de France
RAF Sentry AEW1
Hunter tails
Finale!
Whoa!

Little & large?A remarkable display of agility in the stiff north-westerly breeze was given by the Austers of the AAC's Historic Flight, manoeuvres that can only be described as 'handbrake turns' were much in evidence. Similarly afflicted was the FAA's Swordfish that had a remarkable turn of speed downwind and was almost stationary in the opposite direction!

Closing the show was 56(R) Squadron's F3, climbing skywards as the base band played a sunset ceremony. The show finished only half an hour early after seven hours of constant movements, save the minute's silence (which was disrespectfully broken by the fairground refusing to join in).

So the show, and life, goes on. Leuchars proved that despite the worst that humanity can inflict upon itself normality must prevail; however trivial such events as airshows may seem, they represent the enduring human spirit of entertainment and adventure that terrorism cannot be allowed to stop.

Gallery

Blue Eagles

Lynx Gazelle

Patrouille de France

Those... ...crazy...
...French... ...oh, they've stopped.

Fast jets

Tornado F3 Tornado GR1
Mirage 2000B Mirage F1

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