Biggin Hill Festival of Flight
19th - 20th August
The only 2017 display by La Patrouille de France was at Biggin Hill
The fourth year of the show in its new guise was stretched to 2 days and celebrated the centenary of the airport.
Since it restarted in its present form in 2014, the Festival has been rather fraught with problems, ranging from woefully inadequate toilet and refreshment facilities in the first year, terrible parking control for the first two years and bad luck with the weather. The infrastructure problems had been sorted by year three and the date change helped on the weather front, so 2017 was set to be the year when it all came right for Biggin Hill. Unfortunately, There were still some complaints about traffic management within the grounds, so possibly some more work to do there.
The show itself was immeasurably better than the previous few: the displays by the Czech 'Hip' and 'Hind' were not only highlights of the show but some of the highlights of the 2017 airshow season. Most of the other highlights came from abroad, too, in the form of the Belgian F-16 and the only UK display by the Patrouille de France. Add the Red Arrows, Typhoon, Chinook and BBMF, plus family favourites the Great War Display Team, Wingwalkers and Trig Team and the show was the best at Biggin Hill for a long time. (... continued below the table)
||Red Arrows ||Both days|
||Saab JAS-39 Gripen (Czech Air Force)||Both days|
||Mil Mi-35 'Hind' (Czech Air Force)||Both days|
|| Mil Mi-17'Hip' (Czech Air Force)||Both days|
||Battle of Britain Memorial Flight ||Both days|
||Great War Display Team||Both days|
|| Both days|
||Bronco ||Both days|
||Patrouille de France
||B-17G Sally B
|| Both days|
||Spitfire Mk IX 'Spirit of Kent'||Both days|
|Spitfire Mk lX PH-OUQ '3W-17' (Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight)||Both days|
||Hurricane Mk X ||Both days|
||Trig Team||Both days|
||G-Force Aeros (Little and Large)||Both days|
||Breitling Wingwalkers||Both days|
|Cancelled or withdrawn|
|Swordfish W5865 Unserviceable|| |
|B-25 Mitchell Unserviceable || |
|Additionally the following are due to be on static display, but are not flying during the show|
|EADS CASA C-295 (Czech Air Force)|
Transall C-160 (Patrouille De France Support)
Sentinel R1 (RAF Waddington) CANCELLED
Hawk T.2 (RAF Valley)
Chinook (RAF Odiham)
Airshows at Biggin Hill
Airshows at Biggin Hill were organised by Air Displays International until 2010. In 2011 there was an airshow said to 'better reflect the airport's 'emerging role as a Business & General Aviation Aerospace Centre', but with recognition of its past' with WW2 aircraft displays. A new sequence of annual airshows entitled the 'Biggin Hill Festival of Flight' began in 2014.
Biggin Hill was a famous fighter station that played a major role in the Battle of Britain and, despite repeated attacks, remained operational throughout. On November 2nd, 1939, a squadron from Biggin Hill shot down the first enemy aircraft of WW2, a Dornier Do17. It is now an international airport and home to several warbirds owned and operated by the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, based at the airport.
Credit for the success of the show is down largely to foreign participation, which accounted for a third of all the displays. The Patrouille de France; the ever-popular display by the Belgian F-16 and the contributions from the Czechs set the show apart, not only from earlier shows at Biggin Hill, but from other aerodrome shows in 2017. The two-day August format is due to return in 2018. We are hoping the line-up will be just as good and management of the car park exit reverts to 2016 efficiency.
Summary of the 2016 show: A Decent Family Show
Rich Goodwin at Biggin Hill 2016
Back for a third year in its new guise, there was around 4½ hours of flying during the rather drab and slightly damp afternoon at this year's Festival of Flight. This is a family show and featured plenty to delight the family audience, including the wingwalkers and turbulent display team, although there was little innovation or combination flying for the regular airshow-goer to enjoy.
Thankfully, lots of the logistical problems suffered at the two previous shows had, at last, been sorted out, so getting in, leaving and making use of the toilet and refreshment facilities were all no worse than at most air shows - and better than many.
The flying displays included the Red Arrows and a Spitfire and Hurricane from the BBMF, hot from the Queen's 90th birthday flypast, although the Lancaster, originally expected, was still unserviceable. The Apache Helicopter Display Team had been booked but support for the show was withdrawn by Joint Helicopter Command, so the Apache display had also been cancelled and the general weather situation between his base and the airfield prevented Terry Martin bringing his Westland Wasp.
The main historic attractions were the Fairey Swordfish, Sally B, the Catalina and the Blenheim and this was also the first public outing Hangar 11's Mustang in its new 'Red Tails' livery. With the exception of Sally B, these aircraft also adorned the static line-up, where those who were not keen to sit on the flightline could see at reasonably close-quarters the planes crew, fire-up and manoeuvre, adding significantly to the spectacle.
The main display was preceded by around 30 minutes of very skilled and varied flying of large (and expensive) scale model electric and traditionally-fuelled aircraft, representing both vintage and jet types. Towards the end of the main flying display, G-Force Aeros demonstrated rare skill when Chris Burkett flew his Extra 300 and Mike Williams flew the scale model of the same aircraft, solo and in formation. (... continued below the table)
|Scheduled to fly (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
||Red Arrows (RAF)
||BBMF Spitfire and Hurricane (Lancaster booked but unserviceable)|
||Fairey Swordfish (RNHF)|
|Bronco Demo Team|
|B-17G 'Sally B'|
||Mustang. 'Red Tails' (was Jumpin Jacques). Hangar 11|
|'Kent' Spitfire TA805|
|Hurricane AE977 'P3886'|
||Westland Wasp (weather prevented arrival)|
||G-Force Aeros: Chris Burkett and Mike Williams Extra 300 duo|
|Royal Navy Raiders|
|Previously announced but cancelled|
|Attack Helicopter Display Team. Apache|
|Two Gazelles from the Gazelle Squadron|
|Westland Wessex x2|
|Yak 52 (Aerobility)|
|De Havilland DH90 'Dragonfly'|
Among the civilian highlights were Richard Goodwin with his usual stonking performance, for those who stayed beyond the Red Arrows, and the Bronco, without the team's Skyvan.
On the ground two Westland Gazelle helicopters from the Gazelle Squadron were the most popular of the static displays. The team allowed visitors to get up close and even sit in one of the Gazelles. There was also a massive funfair, children's amusements, meet the pilots and the usual trade stands.
At many shows the VIP, sponsor, veteran, media and other enclosures consume so much of the crowdline that there is little left for the paying customer. A major plus for the Biggin Hill show is the generous access to the crowdline, with relatively few allocated enclosures: these at the end rather than the centre of the flightline, leaving the coveted central area for anyone who arrives early enough to base themselves there.
Keeping everyone abreast of developments as they happened were commentators Andy Pawsey and Ben Dunnell, with the specialist commentators for some teams including Red 10 Mike Ling for the Red Arrows. Unfortunately the audience in the centre of the crowd line couldn't hear a word he said over a young band screeching into a rather better audio system on the main stage. Volume aside, the stage entertainment was popular and varied, with plenty to cheer the youngsters as well as the vintage ballads more common to airshows.
The full flying list is in the table.
Getting to the Show
Biggin Hill is on the A233 in Kent, quite close to Bromley. From most directions, take the M25 and exit at junction 4. Don't try junctions 5 or 6, even from the west, because of congestion on nearby roads. There are links to route planners in the Travel Advice column if you prefer to plan ahead or don't have sat nav. The show is well signposted and there are usually several routes into the airfield to split up the traffic queues. Traffic news is provided by the airshow radio - the frequency is signposted as you get close.
National Express do not go direct to Biggin Hill, but they do have services from London to Sevenoaks, Coulsdon, Hooley and Wallington all about 6 - 7 miles away. There is also a service between Hooley and Brighton. You can book seats online. Click the National Express name to go to their web site.
Local public transport connections
Stagecoach and Metrobus have local bus connections to Biggin Hill from local towns, coach stations and train stations. There are details of local services here.
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, LateRooms and
Expedia 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 the show. 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 no-frills hotels, the International Hotels Group have nearby a Holiday Inn Express about 9 miles away in Croydon ; there are five Premier Inn hotels within 10 miles of so of the airport.