Abingdon Air and Country Show 2017: Preview
14th May 2017
The Westland Wasp is due to be back in 2017, subject to completion of repairs
There are several local shows, fly-ins and club meets earlier in the year but for many years the Abingdon Air and Country Show has been regarded as the airshow season-opener. However, in 2017 it moves from its traditional Bank Holiday slot to a slightly later date and will now be pipped to the 'season-opener' title by the Season Premiere at Old Warden on 7th May.
When it started the Abingdon Fayre was a country fayre with a little bit of flying, raising funds for local charities, but over its 17 year lifetime it has risen to become an essential part of the calendar for airshow enthusiasts.
Because it is so early in the year, it is often the season debut for many display pilots and their craft; the first public display of new teams, the first appearance of new personnel, new paint schemes etc. For the same reason visitors have to be prepared to be flexible in case not all the certifications, such as Public Display Authorities, are in place. (... continued below the information box)
On the site of the former RAF Abingdon and part of Dalton Barracks.
Opened as an RAF airfield in 1932, initially as a training station. Continued after the war as part of Transport Command and in the 1980s as a training base. Although RAF Abingdon officially closed in 1992, some military flying continues in connection with nearby RAF Benson and air cadet training.
The first flying displays for 2017 were lined up as early as September 2016 when Wing Commander (Retired) Terry Martin's 1960s gas turbine powered Westland Wasp XT787, one of the favourite displays of 2016, was booked again, along with Remko Sibjen's replica of a Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) Boomerang, which would have been seen at a show on mainland UK for the first time. The Wasp was damaged in a hard landing following a technical fault in September 2016, so its appearance is subject to a full repair to display condition. Unfortunately, work is not complete and the owner has said that its return to displays may be delayed, putting in doubt an appearance at Abingdon. It also seems that the CAC Boomerang will not make it because the pilot does not have a UK Display Authorisation. However, resilient as always, the organiser has a replacement in Rick van der Graaf's Yakovlev YAK3. (... continued below the information box)
Visitor Fly-in full
The visitor Fly-in list is now full, so no more applications will be agreed. There is a reserve list in case there are any cancellations
Added in October was Bob Grimstead's Fournier RF-4, a cancellation in 2016, and the Popham-based AN-2 Club's Antonov AN-2, which was also due to display in 2016 but had been damaged by strong winds and was unable to attend. A second Antonov AN2 will arrive during the afternoon to pick up the Jump4Heroes Parachute Display team for an end of afternoon drop.
Late 2016 additions to the flying programme were the Great War display team, flying up to ten WW1 types with pyrotechnics, and the spectacular Richard Goodwin. Rich will fly his phenomenal aerobatic routine and also plans to perform a knife-edge ribbon cut in his Muscle Biplane, a highly modified Pitts Special, deserving its registration G-EWIZ. (... continued below the table)
|Due to fly (tap / hover over icon for more detail)
||BBMF Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane|
|Westland Wasp (Terry Martin)|
||Boomerang (CAC CA-13) Boomerang (Replica) (Remko Sibjen, Antwerp) CANCELLED|
||Antonov AN-2 (AN-2 Club)|
||Fournier RF4 Motorglider (Bob Grimstead)|
||Great War Display Team: up to ten WW1 types|
|Richard Goodwin, Muscle Biplane. Ribbon cut and aerobatic display|
|P51D Mustang 'Tuskegee' 'Tall in the Saddle'|
||RotorSport Calidus autogyro|
||Twisters (SWIP Team)|
|Sioux and Scout (Historic Army Flight) pairs display|
||T-28 Fennec in USAF colours|
|Bell UH-1H 'Huey'|
|Jump4Heroes Parachute display team, jumping from a second Antonov AN-2|
||Yak 3 (Rick van der Graaf)|
|Flypasts by aircraft based at or visiting nearby Brize Norton have been requested but none are confirmed|
|Static aircraft due to be on display|
The anticipated Chinook will not now be appearing.
|The Sea Vixen will arrive, display and depart, but most aircraft in the flying displays are due to be in the static display area beforehand, including:|
Twisters x2 (Swip Team)
Rotorsport Calidus Autogyro
Westland Wasp (Royal Navy colours)
Rich Goodwin's Pitts
Antonov AN2 (two)
P51 Mustang (US Army Air colours 'Red Tails'
Great War Display Team
Boeing Stearman (Breitling Wingwalker Team)
CAC Boomerang (replica) (Australian colours)
North American T28 Fennec (US Air Force colours)
Sioux & Scout helicopters (Historic Army Flight)
Beaver & Auster (Historic Army Flight)
Additionally the following are due to be on static display, but are not flying during the show
RAF 32Sqn Agusta 109
Yakovlev Yak 52s
Cessna 150 / 172
Gazelle helicopter (Sharks colours - Navy Wings)
|All appearances are subject to technical, weather and other constraints|
Rich said to the show organiser (the quote comes from the show's Facebook page):
'It's great to be invited to the Abingdon Air and Country Show. It’s a charity show, which is always growing and has a nice selection of acts, both from the UK and internationally. Neil and his team do an amazing job to secure these displays and I hope my display, supported by Anana will deliver a unique customer experience to the crowds. I’m planning the added attraction of a knife edge ribbon cut, as an opener, which I hope will get the ticket sales rolling in before Christmas. I’m passionate about airshows and how it encourages and inspires our younger generation into aviation and STEM. All the money goes to a great cause and I’ll be spending time at the show telling the crowds about our next big innovation. The Jet Pitts!! See you there”
The Sea Vixen will be the only fast jet to display at the show and a request has been made for some fly-bys by heavies from nearby Brize Norton.
Rotaries due to fly are Historic Army Flying's Sioux and Scout duo, reprising the pairs display they gave at the 2016 show and the Bell 'Huey', a type invariably associated with the Vietnam war. The Wingwalkers will be back after a few years' absence; the SWIP Team will fly their pair of Twisters, a T-28 Fennec will fly in USAF colours, Peter Teichman, an Abingdon regular, will bring his Mustang 'Tall in the Saddle' this time and Peter Davies will display in his new sporty Calidus Autogyro.
Enthusiasts long-awaiting the return of the Lancaster, and the first sight (for most) of the new paint scheme, will be thrilled with one of the later additions to the flying line-up: the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane trio. However, late-running deep maintenance and repaint may yet mean the necessary post-maintenance aircraft and pilot authorisations are not in place in time, so excitement needs to be tempered with a little caution.
Discussions are ongoing to try to get a flypast by an RAF Tanker or Transport aircraft and some other RAF aircraft in the static display.
There will be a change in the orientation to make it easier to demark the parking and show areas, and to cope with some of the new regulations. The show will be based around the east-west runway and there will be a hard fence segregating the showground from the car parks.
On the ground
A Mastiff Protected Mobility Vehicle is amongst the heavy duty kit due to be brought along by 3 and 4 Regiments Royal Logistic Corps, who have been based at Abingdon's Dalton Barracks for 25 years. All being well, you will also be able to see some of their DROPS (Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System) and EPLS (Enhanced Palletised Load System) vehicles. Weaponry and other equipment will be displayed by Reserve Infantry of 7 rifles based at Edward Brooks Barracks, Abingdon.
The Exotic Animal Company, Farms2Ewe mobile farm, Oxfordshire Search & Rescue Dogs will be at the show, the latter taking part in an arena demonstration.
The huge Kenworth 12.6 litre Detroit diesel engine lorry will be one of the imposing vehicles at the show. There will be a Spitfire Virtual Reality simulator from 322 Squadron Royal Netherlands Air Force. Expect plenty of the County show elements including Cotswold Pheasant & Poultry club and other livestock, local crafts, vintage and classic vehicles, motorbikes and helicopter pleasure flights.
X Factor contestant Ellie Mae, the band 'Radio Days', The Mangledwurzels & the Abingdon Rock Choir will all be part of the musical entertainment; the Abingdon Morris Dancers will bring their unique performance and the Daleks and other characters from Doctor Who will be roaming the grounds.
Ticket prices for 2017 are being held at 2016 levels. Advance tickets will be £12 for adults, £8 for OAPs and £4 for children (5-15). On the gate they will be £17.50, £12 and £6 respectively. An advance family ticket is available on the website for a limited period for £29.50, allowing entry for 2 adults and three children.
A Triumph despite exceptionally difficult circumstances
In 2016 the show certainly suffered its fair share of early-season issues. And some. This was to have been the first public display of the Sea Vixen in its inaugural season as part of the Royal Navy Historic Flight. Unfortunately, due to late-running essential work to the engine and associated repairs, Foxy Lady could not appear after all. Following the cancellation of the Sea Vixen, there was a conscious and deliberate decision not to have any jets at the show. This was because the relationship of the display line to the A34 may have proved problematic under the new regulations, which were beginning to appear as the show was being planned.
Not only was the RNHF Sea Vixen cancelled, but the BBMF were also not able to bring the Lancaster, as once hoped, because of maintenance issues. Other cancellations included The Global Stars, because some team members were committed to a show in India. Just as the cancellations piled up, storm Katie came along. The AN-2 Club, were booked to show their Antonov AN-2 in a flying display and in the static park, where visitors would have been able to see inside this largest biplane in the world that is still flying. Unfortunately the AN-2 was damaged by storm Katie, so the appearance had to be called off. The Harvard was another victim of the same storm and had to cancel. As if that wasn't enough, a mix-up with insurance, which the organisers blamed on Joint Helicopter Command, meant that the Chinook and Puma, destined to be attractions on the static display line, had to cancel. And then it snowed!
All this was against the background of the new charges introduced by the CAA, new CAA / MAA regulations that followed the Shoreham disaster, and that were still in a state of some flux and uncertainty, together with heightened supervision assuring adherence to the newly introduced and more distant flying lines. This would have been enough for many organisers to call the show off. But not Abingdon. Despite some obvious frustrations, the renowned resourcefulness of the organiser, Neil Porter, and his team ensured a full and varied flying programme at an entry price that is unbeaten for an airshow at any time in the season.
In the air, the Blenheim followed the opening parachute jump and reassured the audience that airshows certainly are still worth attending. John Romain managed to show every angle of the recently-restored Blenheim, making its first post-restoration appearance at Abingdon, and flying a pleasing number of topside passes. Peter Davies reprised his very popular 2015 Abingdon début but Terry Martin's Wasp was the rotary star on the day. Major George Bacon, often a commentator at Abingdon, is also manager of the Army Historic Flight, which brought more rotaries as part of their contribution to the show: a Mk1 Sioux and a Mk 1 Westland Scout gave a fine pairs display whilst their Mk 9 Auster rested on static. Regrettably the anticipated Beaver was a late cancellation. (... continued below the information box)
Airshows at Abingdon
One show a year. Used to be held on the Sunday of the first Bank Holiday in May but from 2017 has been held later in the same month.
The Twisters often display as a close-formation pair but this year Pete Wells flew G-TWST as a solo, Kevin Hale, often an Abingdon static, displayed for the first time in his Auster AOP6 and Peter Teichman, an Abingdon regular, brought his Kittyhawk 'Lulu Belle' this year. Lulu Belle is one of the aircraft Peter Teichman is making available for sale, so its longer-term future is uncertain. From the same era, a late and very welcome addition with a very graceful display to open the flying programme was the Aircraft Restoration Company's Bristol Blenheim, brought in to replace the Old Flying Machine Company's close-formation Mustang and Spitfire. The Blenheim was one of the stars of the show alongside its ever-popular Duxford stable-mate, Plane Sailing's Catalina, which was also a popular static item offering internal as well as external viewing. Despite the non-appearance of the Lancaster, the BBMF Spitfire and Hurricane did manage to get out of RAF Coningsby after weather delays and gave fine pairs and solo displays. (... continued below the table)
||Calidus Autogyro (Peter Davies)
||BBMF Spitfire and Hurricane
||Lauren Richardson, Pitts S-1S Special
||Jump 4 Heroes Parachute Display Team
||Auster AOP6 (Kevin Hale)
||Westland Wasp (Terry Martin)
||Silence Twister solo (Pete Wells)
||Curtiss P-40N Lulu Belle (Peter Teichman)
||Catalina (Plane Sailing's PBY-5A)
||Army Historic Flying: Sioux, Scout|
||Curtis Wright TravelAir|
|Bronco Demo Team|
||Piston Provost 'XF690' (Simon Wilson)|
|Static aircraft on display included:|
|| Gazelles from the Gazelle Squadron|
||AAC Auster (Beaver cancelled)|
||Belgian Air Force NH90|
||Yak One (Dom Wilkinson)|
|Plus all display aircraft except the BBMF. Further examples here|
|Other aircraft notes|
|Yak 3 UM (Will Greenwood) CANCELLED - oil cooler leak|
|Global Stars (Chris Burkett +3) CANCELLED - overseas commitment
|Sea Vixen CANCELLED - over-running maintenance|
| Antonov AN-2 CANCELLED - storm damage|
| Harvard (Richie Piper) CANCELLED - storm damage|
|P-51D Mustang 'Ferocious Frankie' & Spitfire Mk IX MH434 (pair) CANCELLED|
|Lancaster CANCELLED (by BBMF but Spitfire and Hurricane did display)|
|Fournier RF4 Motorglider CANCELLED and replaced by Piston Provost |
An Abingdon regular who returned in 2016 was Tony De Bruyn, fresh from the Bronco Fan Day at Kemble to the static park and the flying display in his Bronco OV-10, with its torpedo repainted for the 2016 season in its new 'Tiger' paint scheme.
The lightest aircraft on the programme was the very impressive Lauren Richardson. Lauren arrived before the weather turned in 2015 but was unable to display because of the worsened conditions. Thankfully she had better weather fortune in 2016 albeit in gloomy skies and a gathering breeze. Abingdon always provides an opportunity to see aircraft not frequently displayed at major shows elsewhere. This year the role was filled by the Curtiss Wright TravelAir which arrived with the equally scarcely seen Miles Messenger and a Chipmunk.
In 2016 ground attractions included a tethered hot air balloon from the Oxford Balloon Company and two from the RAF (although it was too breezy for them to inflate on the day), live music from Radio Days, Greg Pullum (Blues & Boogie) and the Oxfordshire Rock Choir; Irish dancing, Clog dancing, Thames Valley Police Mounted (Horses) Division demonstration, Search & Rescue Dog demonstration, local crafts, a falconry demonstration, ferrets, Williams F1 car, vintage and classic vehicles and motorbikes, World War 2 re-enactors, Sea Vixen and Fairey Gannet cockpits and military tanks. The tanks that were available on the dunes were a Russian T55, Austrian Saurer Schutzenpanzer 4k4fa, Vickers Armstrong FV432 and Diesel CVRT Scorpion. There were be tank rides, but no live firing this year.
At a relatively small show like this the static park is especially important. It is easier here to get 'up close' to some craft that can only be seen in the air, or on the ground at greater distance, elsewhere. The static park, supplemented by the traditional show fly-in and out, is invariably populated with some impressive types including many of the aircraft that are to display. This year the static park featured a gathering of Gazelle helicopters and around 60 other aircraft including most of those displaying.
A flavour of earlier shows at Abingdon
Renegade hits the spot before your very eyes in 2014
Abingdon has not forgotten its roots as the Abingdon Fayre. At recent shows there has been plenty to entertain the whole family, including those who may not see the airshow as the main highlight. A variety of arena events have started before the airshow and continued through the day. There have been vintage vehicles of all types including domestic and military, four wheels, three wheels and two wheels: even working tanks, one of which, an Eastern Block T-55, toured the length of the crowdline and gave a demonstration firing before the air displays began in 2015 and before.
A marquee has provided a wide range of musical entertainment. Stalls showed off local crafts and interests and there have invariably been animals, usually including Dr Mike Leahy of National Geographic TV fame, who brings along a zoo bus of reptiles, insects and other wriggly things to touch and stroke. Recent shows have also had birds of prey to look at during the day and see flying in the arena.
For those of us whose main interest is aircraft, the shows have had plenty to offer. Lets be honest, there are likely to be disappointments. That is partly bad luck and partly a risk associated with being the first show of the season; vulnerable because maintenance and certification schedules don't always run to plan and also sometimes at risk from the unpredictable late Spring weather. However, at Abingdon the team work extremely hard to find substitutions and so reduce the risk of gaps in the running order.
Peter Davies and the Calidus Autogyro, Abingdon 'newbies' in 2015
Abingdon was one of the first shows at which the Bronco became a regular, either flying or as a static item. Seen here in 2015
Fieseler Storch. A very popular last minute substitute in 2014
Gazelle in 2014. Abingdon is always good for rotary fans
Meteor NF-11 in 2015
Dave Puleston shares his fuel in 2014. At Abingdon you can get close enough to see backroom jobs, not just the flying.
For example, in 2013 the loss of scheduled RAF trainers was more than matched by the substitution of a flypast by the RAF's Tristar 2CA. In 2014 an early deletion from the programme, Peter Teichman's P40 Kittyhawk, was replaced well in advance by his Spitfire Xl. Other losses that year included the Army Air Corps Lynx AH7, fully understandable in view of the tragic loss of life in Afghanistan just a few days before, and the Grob Tutor because the fleet was grounded. The Catalina was still at Duxford undergoing maintenance; the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Sea Fury was also still having its winter service and, possibly most disappointing of all, the much-anticipated Midair Squadron Hawker Hunter T7 XL577 G-XMHD, whose paperwork couldn't be sorted in time. Peter Vacher's Hurricane Mk1 R4118 G-HUPW also had to be cancelled on the morning of the show because unsatisfactory ground conditions meant that it could not leave its home airfield.
So are all these changes catastrophic for the show? Absolutely not. Even in 2015 when the very rough weather played havoc with the intended running order and caused around a third of the intended displays to be cancelled, the resilience that is typical of the Abingdon show means every year there is still a decent, if punctuated, programme. An example of this resilience in 2015 was the replacement of the Vampire Preservation Group's Vampire T11 with the Fennec T-28, but when that, too, could not appear because of a nosewheel problem, the RV8tors stepped in and opened the show.
The most popular substitute in 2014 was Peter Holloway's infrequently seen Fieseler Storch, which hopped over from nearby Old Warden and truly fascinated the crowd with its ultra-short landing and take-off, as well as its ability to almost hover over the runway and apparently to move in all directions. Bearing in mind that this is a family show to entertain people with all levels of knowledge about aircraft, this appeared to be a most welcome addition to the programme, being so different to the other airborne contributions.
Sharing top spot in the popularity stakes in 2014 was the Canberra, even without its intended Hawker partner. The previous public outing by the Canberra was its inaugural post-restoration display at Goodwood Revival in September 2013, when the weather was rather murky and rendered the paint scheme more grey than silver. No such problem at Abingdon, where the weather was perfect: the blue sky and bright sunshine giving this sexagenarian a brilliance that belied its age. Pilot Dave Piper was clearly keen that the entire crowd should see the Canberra in its first post-restoration season opener from every angle and in every configuration, including the bomb-door-open wheels-down dirty pass and ending with a howler of a fast departure, which had followed a slight pause and came as a surprise to many but a pleasure to all.
The Canberra was a fine 2014 finale to a 3 hour programme which had also seen the first airshow outing of the RAF's only display at Abingdon: its Tucano in this year's extremely popular 'Lest We Forget' livery, featuring poppies along the cowlings and a huge poppy on the underside, commemorating the centenary since the start of the first world war. As these displays demonstrated, this is the place to see new routines, new aircraft, new displays, new liveries.
In 2015 another 'first' for Abingdon was the much-anticipated inaugural display for the new season of the Typhoon-Spitfire synchro pair. Although not the Spitfire dressed in camouflage livery seen later in the season, the close and opposition flying of this new pairing thrilled the crowds, as did the first appearance at Abingdon of Peter Davies who threw his Calidus Autogyro around the airfield like a dog with a rag doll. The versatility of this craft has to be seen to be believed.
The Abingdon Air and Country Show usually has some military involvement, vintage jets, WW2 representatives and aerobatics. In 2014 aerobatic biplanes at the show included the Pitts Specials of the Trig Team. Richard Grace and Dave Puleston flew their usual ultra-close formations in these brightly painted diminutive aircraft which, like many of the other show contributors, had been on the static apron prior to the show. Being able to see the pre-display preparations by the teams adds hugely to the enjoyment of shows like this, so much so that many in the crowd choose to remain along the static crowd line rather than the flying line throughout the flying. Those watching Richard and Dave earlier in the afternoon would have witnessed a friendly sharing of fuel using pipes and a jug to even the loads between the aircraft. You don't see that at a seaside show.
Supporting Air Ambulance
Despite all the difficulties in 2016, the show made a donation to the Thames Valley Air Ambulance donation of £8,000. The total donated to the air ambulance since 2007 is now £68,095.00 and an additional £16,800 has been raised for other charities since 2001 (as at Dec 2016).
Getting to the Show
Abingdon is in Oxfordshire, north-west of Abingdon town and about 4 or 5 miles south of Oxford.
Follow signs north from A415, not far from the junction with the A34, signposted for the event or for Dalton Barracks.
For sat nav use post code OX13 6JG but, as with all shows, ignore the sat nav instructions in favour of local show direction signs as soon as you see them. There are links to route planners in the Travel Advice column if you prefer to plan ahead or don't have sat nav.
National Express have coach services to Oxford, about 4 miles from the airfield. You can book seats online. Click the National Express name to go to their web site.
Find accommodation near the show
It is best to book as far as possible in advance. This is not only because nearby hotels and guest houses tend get booked up well before the date of an airshow but also because prices can be better when you book early online.
There are plenty of booking agencies. We find that many of the well known ones are better at finding hotels from international or larger UK chains and may suggest hotels in main towns or cities quite a distance from the show site.
Between them, Expedia and LateRooms list a good selection of smaller, as well as bigger, hotels and will find accommodation in villages and small towns as well as the main centres. Expedia also give, and take, Nectar points.
Click either blue agency name for a list of hotels and guest houses near Abingdon. The venue is already built into both links, so when the list comes up you just have to enter your dates.
Trivago will list competitive prices for a range of hotels, but they might not necessarily find them all, because some chains do not subscribe to their service. You may also get a better rate if you book direct with an hotel, especially if you are a member of a 'loyalty' or 'rewards' scheme.
For other hotels, the International Hotels Group have nearby Holiday Inns and a Holiday Inn Express (search for Oxford, not Abingdon)and there are two nearby Premier Inn hotels.
Weather for the show area
The BBC's five-day forecast has overall conditions including temperatures, UV range and a description that may help to determine how pleasant the day will be for the visitor.
The Met office seven-day forecast includes maximum, minimum and "feels like" temperatures, the likelihood of rain, wind direction, gusts and visibility: the latter can have an impact on the viability of displays.
Click the blue-text link to go to the forecast. The location is already built into the links.