Dave Eade/DEltafoto reports from Suffolk's largest airshow
The weekend of 19/20 August saw the 2006 Rougham Air Show held at the ex-USAAF base just east of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. Just as their Second World War predecessors at Rougham, those pilots performing in what may best be described as 'showery conditions' could well be described as heroes. The promised heatwave that was supposed to be August 2006 in the UK failed to appear as showers, sometimes heavy, and blustery on-crowd winds served to give the aircrew something to think about.
As we have reported in previous years, this show becomes that much stronger every year and therefore better in its content. In the last few years the RAF have added input and this show was no exception, with the appearance of the full Battle of Britain Memorial Flight team, Tucano and Sea King.
The opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of the Spitfire's first flight was taken with the appearance of both the TR9 (G-CCCA) marked as Irish Air Corps 161 and the 74 Squadron-marked Mk XVI (G-OXVI) from Duxford. Rougham became 'an airfield somewhere in England' to allow an attack (complete with pyrotechnics) from James Pittock in the Me 108 Taifun and a scramble from the two Spits. Mention of heroes was never more apt as the scramble was accompanied by a downpour that would have sent many less-brave pilots scurrying to the beer tent!
The good-sized crowd was also supplied a performance from the B-17, looking so right over what was, so many years ago, the place that too many young men left - never to return. Rougham was the home of the 94th Bomb Group, equipped with the B-17, from mid-1943. Other warbird slots were filled by Peter Teichman in the P-51D Mustang 'Jumpin Jacques', Mark Rijse's rarely-seen Fiat G46 and the T-28 Fennec from Duxford, superbly posed by Martin Willing.
Well interspersed with the warbird fraternity were aerobatic sequences flown in aircraft as varied as the SAAB Safir (!), Chipmunk, Pitts S2B, RV8 and the inimitable Denny Dobson in the Extra 300S. If any member of the crowd was thinking of applying for a position as wing-walker with the Utterley Butterly Team, the sight of the girls struggling against the high winds of Sunday will probably put an end to their ambition. It is noteworthy that the end of the 2006 season brings to an end the sponsorship of this team by Utterley Butterly - as this is written no replacement has been announced, but it has to be said that the loss of this airshow item will be felt across the UK scene by many. It is to be hoped that a new sponsor will be persuaded to come forward for 2007.
We leapt from beauty to the bizarre with the sampling of Formula 1 air racing, demonstrated by Richard Grace and his colleague in a pair of Cassutt Racers. Unfortunately these aircraft do what it days on the tin - i.e. fly very fast in a straight line. It was with some frustration that Richard climbed out of G-RUNT after Saturday's practice muttering "I need something to do aerobatics!" That day may come sooner than we think as we understand that he is training to fly the well-known Grace Spitfire owned by his mother Carolyn.
Top of the bill went to the current British Aerobatic championship, Mark Jefferies, in the Exxon Extra. An excellent sequence of 'off the wall' manoeuvres must make Mark one of the top performers of 2006, well deserving his Championship.
This show was well up to the Rougham standard and an enthusiastic crowd responded with applause as aircraft were taxied back to dispersals. This is one of the best aspects of the Rougham layout, in that the crowd can get up close and personal to aircraft and their crews - unlike so many larger venues where the guy in the office is totally anonymous to the crowd.
Our thanks go to Peter Eager and the team at Rougham for their hospitality and help in making this article possible.