Peter Mitrovich reports on the RNAS Culdrose Air Day, 12 July.
The middle of July was a busy period for aircraft enthusiasts, with large events at Yeovilton and Fairford just a week apart. Sandwiched in between, and occupying its usual midweek spot, was the annual Air Day at RNAS Culdrose. The Senior Service always put on a friendly show and Culdrose is a relaxed affair, with much of interest to keep the enthusiast happy. In past years the event has been marred by poor weather - fortunately 2006 was blessed with fine conditions with cloud clearing during the morning to give blue skies, just in time for the flying display.
The modest static display included foreign support in the form of a Super Etendard from 11F, French Navy; a brand-new EC-135 from the Irish Air Corps; a CN-235M-100 from Ala 35, Spanish Air Force; very colourful Sea King Mk 48 and SF-260 from the Belgian Armed Forces and an Alouette III from the Belgian Navy. Dominating the static display was an immaculate German Navy Atlantic (61+12) from MFG 3, probably the last appearance at Culdrose by this veteran.
There were, of course, many Fleet Air Arm (FAA) types on display, including HMS Endurance's Lynx HAS3, various marks of Sea Kings as well as home-based Merlin HM1s, Jetstream T2s and Hawk T1s. RAF Types were thin on the ground with just a Dominie, Tornado GR4 and Puma HC1 - unfortunately neither of the last two wore squadron markings.
Similarly RAF participation in the flying display was less than that of previous years, but appearances by the Red Arrows, BBMF, Harrier GR7 and the Hercules C5 tactical display proved impressive, as always. The afternoon segment of the display commenced with two approaches and low flypasts by the 40th anniversary-marked VC10C1K XV104, followed by the traditional Culdrose 'Balbo', a flypast of Culdrose-based aircraft including four Merlins, four Sea Kings, four Jetstreams and two Falcon 20s with four Hawks.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force and Belgian Air Force provided the only other fast jet participation with both F-16s operating from the HAS site at RAF St Mawgan. The official reason given was the inadequate runway length at Culdrose, although the type has flown from the airfield on previous Air Days. The Army Air Corps Historic Flight and Blue Eagles were welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd; in fact this may have been the first display by an AAC Beaver at Culdrose since the awful crash during an early 1980s display when XP811 struck the ground during a turn.
It is always a pleasure to visit this unique airfield with its magnificent views over the Comish countryside - look over your shoulder and the blue waters of Mounts Bay are visible and, whichever way you turn, there is the sweet smell of camomile. The crowd line is south of the main east - west runway making photography a pleasure providing the weather co-operates, which it has for the last two shows.