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Midlands' most

Andrew Bates reports on Cosford's Airshow 2008, held on 1 June. Pictures by the author and Kieran Lear

The first day of 'flaming' June saw the annual Cosford airshow treated to some fairly typical UK summer weather with a complete blanket of low grey cloud that remained stubbornly anchored over the airfield all day. With a cloud base stuck at two thousand feet and a disappointingly chilly temperature more suited to late autumn, it would have been no surprise if some people had stayed at home. However, this did not deter Cosford's loyal and ever eager regulars with an estimated fifty thousand plus piling through the gates, consequently ensuring the customary sight of cars parked as far as the eye could see. As a regular on the UK airshow calendar, Cosford has always proved to be an extremely popular event, to the extent of attaining the status of largest single-day attraction in the Midlands. So, no surprise then that this year was no exception.

Airshow antics
On the ground

The task of opening the afternoon's schedule of entertainment fell to (no pun intended) the RAF Falcons Parachute Display team who, for a change, were utilising the services of a Chinook HC2 rather than their customary Hercules as the C-130 fleet was heavily tasked with other commitments that particular weekend. Thanks to the low cloudbase, the team was almost thwarted from displaying at all but after two or three passes overhead their perseverance was rewarded with a brief window of opportunity and a gap in the cloud sufficient enough to allow them to proceed - well done team!

The first fixed-wing display of the day was provided by the Great War Display Team with their mixture of 'old' British and German First World War replica aircraft. In this ninetieth anniversary year for the RAF it was quite fitting to see these types cavorting around the skies and giving the audience a brief glimpse of typical RAF operations way back in 1918. As always, the final outcome of the display was fairly predictable and after a number of mock dogfights the 'dreaded Hun' was given a damned good thrashing as he limped off trailing smoke.

New to the Typhoon display this year is Flt Lt Charlie Matthews, like last year's pilot Jim Walls of 'Antipodean' origin: "I started out in the Royal New Zealand Air Force on fast jet training - when it cancelled the F-16 order I transferred to the RAF, joining the Tornado F3 force, where I was for four years. I was forty-eighth pilot trained on Typhoon, where I qualified as instructor. I put my name in the hat when I knew Jim Walls was moving on, and was lucky to get picked out! I've put a couple of new moves in - the low-speed Cuban-eight, for example, which I really enjoy flying and I've had some good feedback from other display pilots about it. You're pretty much just hanging on with 40,000 lbs of thrust in the low-speed scenario. The other one is the vertical s, which is pretty tight, just five thousand feet at the top." Interview by Gary Parsons

Continuing the anniversary theme, but a bit further along the timeline, perennial Cosford favourites the BBMF Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane were once again a popular choice for many of those present. These were nicely complemented by a trio of privately owned warbirds from the same era, consisting of Peter Teichman's P-51D Mustang, Peter Vacher's Hurricane I and the recently refurbished Spitfire Ia AR213/G-AIST, flown by Jonathon Whaley. This early example of Spitfire, normally based at Booker, has been a bit reclusive in recent years, so it was great to see it flying again, especially in the company of a Hurricane.

The post-war history of the RAF was represented by a display of the immaculate Vampire T11 from the Vampire Preservation Group, whilst a short time later saw the duo of Gnat T1 and Hunter T7 from the Delta Jets stable. Whilst not representative of the RAF, from the same era came the beautiful Sea Hawk FGA6 from the Royal Navy Historic Flight.

Bringing the anniversary theme right up to date, there was of course excellent support from the modern day Royal Air Force, with successive displays from the Tutor, Tucano T1, Hawk T1, Chinook HC2, Typhoon F2 and Super King Air. Naturally the most dynamic and awe-inspiring demonstration came courtesy of Flt Lt Charlie Matthews in the 29(R) Squadron Typhoon, as despite the low cloud base, the ensuing flat display seemed as impressive as ever, with copious amounts of afterburner to keep eyes permanently sky bound. Perhaps the surprise of the day was an unusual and quite enjoyable display from the 45(R) Squadron Super King Air, making its airshow debut at Cosford that afternoon. It's not often you see one of these Cranwell-based trainers conducting steep wing-overs and 'Khe-San' style approaches, but that's exactly what the audience was treated to, which proved just as entertaining as the amazing antics of the Chinook.

Of course, one debut originally planned for Cosford had been the first official public display by the Vulcan, but as is now known, the all important paperwork had not been finalised at the time of the show. However, there was to be another debut in the shape of the AH-64D Apache, displaying in public for the very first time - planned to fly with an AAC Lynx AH7, this would have presented a totally different look for the Blue Eagles Display Team. Unfortunately, this debut was also destined not to materialise as the Apache went tech almost immediately after taking off, leaving the Lynx to perform a solo display. The Royal Navy also suffered the indignity of serviceability problems with one of their 'Black Cats' Lynx helicopters, so necessitating another solo Lynx display from them as well.

Thankfully for the audience, there were no such problems to beset the Red Arrows, who arrived show centre, smack on time as usual, but obviously it was to be the flat show only, thanks to the weather. Traditionally, no Cosford show would be complete without a visit from the Reds, so the organisers were most fortunate that they were not due to start their 2008 North American month-long tour until a mere two days later - good timing chaps!

There were a couple of other civilian display teams to keep the audience entertained; namely the Blades and the Yakovlevs Display Team. However, the most dramatic and enthralling display had to be the RAF Role Demonstration - although there was no E-3D Sentry taking part, there was still the two Tornado GR4s, two Tornado F3s and two Hawk T1s as well as the Chinook HC2 once again taking part - the guys from Odiham certainly had a busy show. Watching the two F3s turning and burning with two Hawks over a small airfield like Cosford was quite simply spectacular! Added to that, with the Tornado GR4s and Chinook in amongst all the smoke and flame of the incredible pyrotechnic display, it was arguably the most exciting element of the whole afternoon - superb!

With Cosford being as popular as ever, it's always a good idea to spend some time looking around the ground displays once the flying is over as there is usually quite a queue to depart the airfield. As far as the static aircraft display is concerned, there is never a particularly large or varied array as the relatively short runway prevents a number of operational types from landing. So, apart from a Royal Navy Jetstream and RAF Merlin, plus a few privately-owned Jet Provosts, it was once again mainly dominated by Jaguars and more JPs from the resident DCAE fleet of ground instructional aircraft. It was good to see that the centrepiece of the static park had been reserved for the two specially-marked Jaguars that flew into Cosford last summer, so heralding the final retirement of the type from RAF service. It's quite likely not everyone had the opportunity to see them during the short time they were flying in these schemes last year, so this proved a popular move with the photographers. Admittedly they were not parked in the most advantageous position for photography, but it's the thought that counts, so well done to the organising team.

So that was another Cosford airshow over for another year. Whilst not always favoured by the mainstream enthusiast, there's no doubting the everlasting appeal of this show to the local populace; offering a great day out for the family, its continued status as the Midlands' most popular outdoor one-day event remains assured.


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