Sun, Sea and Sand…eventually!
Chris Gurney finally reports from the annual Southport Airshow, after a mammoth six-and-a-half hour coach journey...
In the Northwest of England airshows are a very rare occurrence, and at one point in the week preceding Southport's annual airshow it looked like the whole weekend would sadly be a washout. It proved to be the case on Saturday, but overnight the rains fortunately disappeared and the winds abated, so the gathered Sunday crowd eventually got to see some of the best action the UK airshow circuit has to offer.
The British Armed Forces always support the show with plenty of attractions, both on the ground and in the air. On the ground there was the military village with representatives from all four armed forces, replica aircraft, helicopters, tanks, guns and just about anything else you could imagine.
Of course the main attraction is the flying, and while Saturday's programme was greatly disrupted (apart from the Royal Marines Sea King) Sunday came off a lot better. The show opened at 11:45 with the Red Arrows performing a flat show in extremely gusty conditions. There was then a break until 14:00 when the main airshow kicked off with the 2Excel Aviation display team 'The Blades' - yet again, despite difficult conditions, the team put on a fantastic show. Next on was the RAF Harrier GR7A, followed by the 'Road Angel' Pitts Special. At this point in proceedings I finally managed to get off the coach and was able to enjoy what was left of the display. Team Reva was up next and this was the first time I have seen their display with their unusual Rutan designed aircraft. The pair flew a nice sequence complete with crossovers, formation aerobatics and even a heart for the ladies! A pair of classic jets then appeared - Hawker Hunter 'Miss Demeanour' and the Red Bull-sponsored DH110 Sea Vixen. Miss Demeanour was, as always, flown with verve and gusto but the Sea Vixen was just awesome, a great display of elegance and sheer power. On their last run both jets had a pyrotechnic blast to signal the end of their respective display.
Aerobatic items are always popular with the Southport crowd and this year the organisers had plenty in store. As well as the already mentioned Team Reva and Pitts Special, Team 'Road Angel' also displayed the more familiar Sukhoi SU-26, Will Curtis at the controls as usual. The Utterly Butterlies were also present with all four of their Stearmans (Stearmen?) and the Yakovlevs team also displayed with four Yaks. Other military displays on the day included the Royal Navy 'Black Cats' in a pair of Westland Lynx, the Royal Marines Sea King HC4, 208(R) Squadron's Hawk and finally, providing a powerful finale, the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Apart from the traffic chaos that occurs on the day, Southport is always a good show and once again, despite some horrific weather on the Saturday, the show delivered the goods. Next year's Southport Airshow is provisionally due to take place on 1/2 September.