Get the Abi habit...
Andrew Bates reviews Abingdon's Fayre Air & Country Show, 30 April 2006. Pictures by Damien Burke and Nick Blacow
Occupying its now traditional slot during the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, the 7th Abingdon Fayre Air & Country Show once again had the honour of kick-starting the UK airshow season in fine style. Held on the last day of April, the weather was not as kind as previous years, with low cloud a permanent feature for the entire event. However, it thankfully remained dry throughout the day, and the gloomy conditions did not appear to deter visitors, with a queue of cars rapidly materialising at the entrance gate. It's likely that the 'iffy' weather elsewhere around the country may have been responsible for preventing some pilots and their aircraft from attending, but by mid-afternoon the flightlines were still full of all manner of interesting types, so it was really difficult to determine if participation was any lower than normal.
As with previous shows, it was again good to see RAF aircraft gracing the turf and taxiways of the former RAF Abingdon, so full marks for their continued support. There were already a pair of 100 Squadron Hawk T1s parked on the flightline when visitors started to arrive in the morning - these were accompanied by a pair of UAS Grob Tutors, whilst the resident 612 VGS had placed a pair of Vigilant T1s on display. Shortly afterwards, a 28 Squadron Merlin HC3 from nearby RAF Benson arrived for static display, closely followed during the morning by an 18 Squadron Chinook HC2 and a 207(R) Squadron Tucano T1.
For the second year running, the organisers could again boast of international participation. Last year, this was courtesy of the Polish Navy. This year, it was the turn of the United States Army, with the very welcome appearance of a SHAPE UH-60A Blackhawk visiting from Chievres in Belgium.
As always, once the fly-in started, there was seemingly a constant stream of aircraft arrivals right into early afternoon, just before the flying display. Some would actually be destined to take part in the flying later on, but all helped to swell the ranks of fly-in participants, making for a pretty impressive line up. At one end of the spectrum, Delta Jets' beautiful blue Hunter T7, whilst at the other end, a Slingsby Venture, with a wide miscellany of types inbetween. The full list of attendees would probably be too long to list here, but just to give a flavour, how's this for starters; Jet Provosts, Chipmunks, Messerschmitt 108, P-40M Kittyhawk, T-67M Firefly, Piaggio P.149D, L-4 Grasshopper, Tiger Moths, Fox Moth, Auster, Cub, Tipsy Belfair, Tripacer, Pietenpol Air Camper and more.
After all the aircraft movements, there was a relatively short period of inactivity before the flying display then began around 14:00. Quite appropriate therefore that the flying programme commenced with a contribution from the RAF with one of the attendant 100 Squadron Hawks, a display routine that was as energetic as ever. The crowd were destined to get a double dose of the Hawk, as later on in the afternoon they were treated to a pairs take-off from the Leeming based jets, both of which were to return later in the afternoon.
Next up was something not seen displaying on a regular basis and that was the Messerschmitt 108 Taifun. OK, in reality it's actually a Nord-built 1002 variant, but it certainly looks the part in Luftwaffe desert style camouflage and was an unusual addition to the programme. This was followed by the unmistakable sound of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, with another contribution from the RAF, one of the BBMF Hurricanes, LF363. This aircraft had previously worn the colours of a 56 Squadron Hurricane, coded 'US-C', but after a major service during the winter it has now been painted in the colours of 17 Squadron and is coded 'YB-W' to represent the machine flown by Flying Officer Harold Bird-Wilson during the Battle of Britain.
Not only was the next display item a complete contrast to the Hurricane, it was also something of a rarity as far as the airshow circuit is concerned. This was the Piper Arrow flown by owner Martin West. The Arrow is an aircraft not normally associated with airshow displays and is more likely to be seen bashing the circuit at any number of general aviation airfields, both here and abroad. However, Martin went on to prove that his aircraft was just as capable of performing a display routine as some of the more familiar types, which was probably quite an eye-opener for some of the more seasoned airshow regulars. This was successively followed by two more aerobatic routines - firstly, one of the RAF UAS Tutors was put through its paces, followed shortly afterwards by the ever impressive Denny Dobson in his Extra 300. Never one to disappoint, Denny once again enthralled his audience with his incredible aerobatic skills, complete with his now almost legendary ribbon cutting routine.
Back to some warbird action next, this time courtesy of the P-40M Kittyhawk from Peter Teichman's Hangar 11 collection at North Weald. This is the ex-Fighter Collection machine that has been a familiar sight on the airshow circuit for many years, still looking good with that fearsome nose art. Then it was time for the RAF's last contribution to the flying in the form of the ever-awesome Chinook demonstration. From a personal point of view, this was probably the highlight of the flying programme, as the crew once again pulled out all the stops in displaying the full capabilities of this impressive beast. Better still, this year they finished the display with all four undercarriage units still attached!
The final display item was Delta Jets' superb 92 Squadron 'Blue Diamonds' schemed Hunter T7, flown in the ever capable hands of Andy Cubin, which rounded off the flying display in fine style. Then, for those who chose to stay on, they could then watch further aircraft movements as the fly-in participants took their turn to depart back to their respective home airfields.
It might sound like an old cliché, but there's no other way to describe it; this show goes from strength to strength. It really is a great way to lead you into a new airshow season, so well done again to Neil Porter and his team for another well organised and entertaining event. If you haven't managed to attend this event yet, it's time you did! With the highest admission this year set at £7 for an adult, it represented great value for money and ultimately helps support the Helen & Douglas House Respite Centres in Oxford. So here's looking forward to the 2007 event, but fingers crossed the sun returns next year.