Raydon Wings 2001, 1 September
Gary Stedman reports from deepest Suffolk
1 September 2001 will surely be remembered as the date the national football team (okay, Liverpool & Manchester Utd) finally overcame its greatest jinx in a spectacular, if rather unexpected result in Germany. It was also the day that several thousand spectators saw what will quite probably be the final Raydon Wings show, held at the former USAAF station in Suffolk, a few miles South of Ipswich. The rising expenses, not to mention risks involved in staging such an event (the show has yet to break even) have sadly forced the organisers to conclude that the show is no longer a viable risk, and that the 2001 event would be the last. If this was to be the end, Raydon Wings was determined to bow out in style...
It seemed appropriate that a newly restored P-51D Mustang was present wearing the colours of the 353rd Fighter Group, the unit that flew from Raydon during the war years. The immaculate looking Mustang had only recently emerged from a lengthly rebuild back in July, and is based in Norfolk. Thoughtfully parked nose-on and close to the crowd line, 'Janie' remained on static throughout the day as fellow P-51D 'Big Beautiful Doll' was also on hand for the flying display. Early visitors were rewarded with the sight of one of the two Chino Grumman F3s (the two seat G-32) already on the flightline, glinting in the very welcome early morning sunshine. The G32A was soon joined by the Aircraft Restoration Company's Blenheim, two Spits (the Grace two-seater and a standard MkIX) and Sukhoi & Pitts aerobatic aircraft.
'B' Flight from 22 Squadron demonstrated Royal Air Force initative at its best on a quiet weekend, its Sea King HAR3A disgorging a visiting crew of six after making the short hop over from Wattisham Airfield. RAF participation was not limited to the locals however, as the BBMF, Tucano and Hawk display aircraft were all welcome display items. The lack of any Army Air Corps presence seemed odd, considering the large number of helicopters stationed at Wattisham and their past excellent record of supporting local community events. Maybe the ever increasing tempo of overseas deployments is taking its toll.
The arrival of two bright yellow bi-planes could mean only one thing (er no, Norwich City FC were not promoting Delia's latest recipe) - the Utterly Butterly flying circus was in town! And as a added bonus, unlike at Lowestoft, a opportunity for a close look at the Stearmans (and not only the Stearmans!). Watching yet another performance convinced me once and for all that if ever an opportunity came our way - somebody else would be first inline for that one!
Something I was not aware of before this, my first trip to Raydon, was that the crowdline is a 'L' shape - forcing many of the display aircraft to bank sharply around the top corner. By late afternoon the sun had moved behind the crowdline, presenting some superb photo opportunties as the Fighter Collection's P-47D thundered around the corner in a series of fast passes. For the finale 'No Guts - No Glory' was joined by the Grace Spitfire, 'Big Beautiful Doll' and the G-32 for several fly-bys.
With the four-ship of warbirds returning home, and the various static aircraft also departing, it looks as if the full time whistle has finally been blown at Raydon, a crying shame as although I cannot speak for previous years, this was a superb example of how a small, friendly show can operate. Falling inbetween a long trek to Portsmouth the previous weekend, and the September Duxford show the next, Raydon Wings was a welcome change of pace. I was even able to keep the appointment I had made with the telly for that evening...