A salty atmosphere
Roger Cook reports from RNAS Yeovilton on the 2005 Air Day, 17 September. All pictures by the author
Attendance for this year's Air Day was up on previous years with the public possibly drawn by a favourable weather forecast or perhaps by the last public outing of the Sea Harrier. There were plenty of SHARs about with examples in the static park (although many of these have now been withdrawn from service) and more in the flying schedule.
A four-ship flying demonstration was all too brief, but others flew in the Commando Assault Finale. Last year's blue display Sea Harrier was found lurking in the Maintenance Hangar and it was a pity this couldn't have been towed across for a place in the static park.
Yeovilton always seems to manage to find a salty naval flavour to its airshows and this year was no exception, with ex-Royal Navy types flying such as the Sea Fury, Skyraider, Sea Hawk, Sea Vixen and Hunter FGA9 blending in well with more modern types such as the Lynx, Sea King, Merlin and Sea Harrier, although it was the latter's last appearance before retirement next March.
There was little by way of foreign participation in the flying schedule, apart from a stunning display by the South African Airways Boeing 747 - most of the display was taken up with well known favourites of the Red Arrows, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the Army's Blue Eagles, Merlin, Chinook, Tornado GR4, and the penultimate display by a Jaguar GR3. The two Falcons from FRA and four FRADU Hawks provided their usual polished display.
Yeovilton customarily concludes its flying display with a helicopter assault demonstration and this year proved to be no exception. Although numbers of participants may be down compared with previous years, the spectacular pyrotechnics well supported the helicopters and Sea Harriers on their strafing and bombing runs, and with plenty of noise and smoke, it was quite an interesting finale to the show. The strapline to this years Air Day marketing was 'Versatile Maritime Force' and this was ably demonstrated by this assault demo with Merlin HM1 sonar dunking, the Sea King ASaC7 providing radar cover, and torpedo carrying Lynx working with RAF Chinook and Merlin HC3, and Navy Sea King HC4s to bring in men, armament and supplies. Sea Harriers provided the hard punch.
The static park showed the current types associated with the Navy in general and Yeovilton in particular, and with one of the Lynx maintenance hangars open, the visitors could see what goes on at 'HMS Heron' Naval Base. There were a few foreign participants sprinkled around the static park with a Lynx Mk88 from MFG 3 (German Navy), a Lynx HAS4 from 34 Flottille (French Navy), an SH-14D from 860 Squadron (Dutch Navy), an Irish Air Corps Alouette III and a M-28 Bryza of the Polish Navy. Apart from the navy helicopters, the Army attended with two of its Apache AH1s from 664 Squadron, Dishforth. The static gained an extra item when Tornado GR4 of 31 Squadron diverted into Yeovilton the previous day following a bird strike. One other item all too seldom seen at air shows was Army Air Corps Islander AL1 from 1 Flight, Aldergrove.
A well organised and mixed variety airshow that proved to be an interesting enjoyable event. Next year the Air Day is moving back to its more traditional summer date of 8 July.