RAF Cosford Air Show
10th June 2018
Hurricane R4118, one of the flying displays in 2017
The RAF Cosford Airshow used to be the second biggest of the RAF airshows after Waddington. After 2014, in the absence of the Waddington Airshow, it became not only the main, but the only, airshow directly organised and managed by the RAF. The new airshow at RAF Scampton, launched in 2017, and RIAT at RAF Fairford, although on RAF bases, are organised by the RAF Charitable Trust (RAFCT), not the RAF.
Airshows at RAF Cosford are themed and the static, ground and flying displays follow those themes. In 2018 the show will be a tribute to the RAF in its 100th year and already planned is a chronological line-up of no fewer than 100 static aircraft spanning the century of the Royal Air Force. The first of the 100 static aircraft to be announced is the RAF Museum's Boulton Paul Defiant l: the only complete example of this two-seat turret fighter in the world.
Another of the 100 aircraft on static display will be the F-4 Phantom II XV582 'Black Mike'. The Phantom was operated by the Royal Air Force between 1969 and 1992, principally as an air defence fighter. Although the jet was an American design, produced by McDonnell Douglas, the UK’s Phantoms were a special batch built separately and containing a significant amount of British technology including the addition of Rolls-Royce Spey engines. Of all the UK’s Phantoms, the airframe which arrived today at RAF Cosford is perhaps one of the most iconic, known as ‘Black Mike’ due to its unique paint scheme applied by 111(F) Squadron in the late 1980s.
Also promised is a six-hour display incorporating an increased number of vintage ex-RAF aircraft flying alongside today's RAF.
|Aircraft due at the show will be here when announced
|Due to fly (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
| || |
|Additionally the following are due to be on static display, but not flying during the show|
|Boulton Paul Defiant l (from RAF Museum)|
|All appearances are subject to technical, weather and other constraints|
In addition, expect a major part of the RAF Cosford Air Show to embrace the 'STEM initiative', which aims to inspire young people to follow careers in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics.
Phantom Arrives for Static Display
Cold-war era F-4 Phantom aircraft ‘Black Mike’ has arrived by road at RAF Cosford, where it will be on display at the airshow on 10th June 2018.
The primary focus of the RAF Cosford Air Show is to give visitors the opportunity to engage with the Royal Air Force, and to better understand the work they do, not only in the West Midlands and the United Kingdom, but across the world. In 2017, Air Show Director, Clive Elliott, said
“Opening the gates of RAF Cosford is a fantastic chance for the public to see what goes on behind the scenes on an operational Royal Air Force base.”
About RAF Cosford
RAF Cosford was built in 1938 as a training, storage and maintenance base and remains a training base even now, accommodating several RAF and general aviation schools.
Other uses have been a major RAF hospital from 1940 until 1977 and an RAF POW repatriation centre after WWll.
As well as training schools, there is also an aerospace museum: part of the RAF museum, which houses mostly developmental aircraft including one of only two existing TSR2s. It is also the only museum that has one of each of the three 'V' bombers in the same place - The Valiant, Victor and the Vulcan.
Weather curtailed, but some thrilling débuts
Great War Display Team won the 'Best Display' award
The dull weather and low cloud did not detract from the enjoyment of most of the RAF Cosford Air Show. However, poor weather here and elsewhere did reduce the number of displays and rain from about 4 p.m. meant a very wet Apache display and premature end to the day. A road traffic incident then hampered the get-away afterwards, leaving many drivers quite angry, no doubt to the frustration of the organisers who had made huge efforts to improve the traffic handling this year following complaints after previous shows.
Hopefully the show will not be remembered for the weather and the egress, but for some impressive flying right from the opening fly-past by the Airbus A400M; the flypast by the Red Arrows with the King Air; the debut 2016 display of the Chinook, the first display of the season by the solo Apache with pyrotechnics and many others.
The themes for the RAF Cosford Airshow 2016 were 'Speed', 'Training' and the 75th Anniversary of the Air Cadet Organisation.
The key theme was a celebration of Speed and showcased the evolution of the jet engine. The theme marked the 75th anniversary of the inaugural flight of Britain’s first jet engined aircraft, the Gloster E.28/39. The evolution of British jet engine technology was exhibited in a special hangar display, which also marked the 20th anniversary of Sir Frank Whittle’s death.
Following this same 'Speed - evolution of the jet engine' theme, the Bristol 188, Fairey Delta II, Avro 707 and Hawker Siddeley Gnat T1, all of which played a vital role in the development of British aviation technology, were outside at various points across the air show site. The Bristol 188, known as ‘the flaming pencil’ because of its long, sleek design, and intended as a supersonic research aircraft, was one of the main attractions amongst the static aircraft which also included, for the first time, the Museum's new Vickers VC10: the fastest ever sub-sonic airliner.
RAF Cosford is the home of training for RAF engineers and technicians, as well as military photographers and fitness instructors. The air show gave the Royal Air Force the opportunity to showcase the diverse roles within the Service, mostly in ground-based exhibitions.
The third theme of the RAF Cosford Air Show 2016 celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Air Training Corps. On the ground, an enhanced Air Cadet village promoted the array of opportunities that the ATC gives young people. Visitors also had a chance to experience flight simulators, a climbing wall and other interactive activities. On display were historic and current aircraft operated by the 633 Volunteer Gliding Squadron (VGS) and 8 Air Experience Flight (AEF) units, which provide flying training for Air Cadets. (... continued below the table)
|Flying display (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
|AAC Historic Flight Scout. Sioux due to display as well but unserviceable|
|Agusta A109 (Belgian Air Force)|
|Apache. Attack Helicopter Display Team. (solo in 2016)|
|Avro Anson (BAE Systems / Shuttleworth Collection)|
|BBMF Spitfire Mk XVI TE311 and Hurricane Mk IIc PZ865 (Lancaster cancelled. Unserviceable)|
| ||BBMF Dakota (Cancelled. Unserviceable)|
| Chinook (RAF)|
|Chipmunk (John Higgins)|
|Eurofighter Typhoon (RAF)|
|Gazelle Squadron. 2 Flying. 2 static|
| ||Gloster Meteor NF.11 & T.7 (pairs display) (Cancelled in advance of the show)|
| || Gnat Display Team (weather prevented transit from Bristol)|
|Great War Display Team. 9 aircraft. (winners of the 'best display' award)|
|Jet Provost XW289 (substituted for XN637) (JP Display Team)|
| ||King Air Display Team (RAF) (Cancelled in advance of the show)|
| ||Mustang: North American P-51D, 'Red Tail' (ex-'Jumpin Jacques') cancelled.|
|Nanchang CJ-6 trainers (2 due. Only G-BVVG flew. Other unserviceable)|
| ||Puma HC2 from RAF Benson (Flypast cancelled)|
|North American T6 AJ841 'Wacky Wabbit'|
| ||RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team (flew in but weather prevented jump)|
|Rans S-6 Coyote II G-SBAP|
|Red Arrows (RAF)|
||Sea Vixen (Fly Navy Heritage Trust) (weather at base prevented arrival)|
| ||Venture (private cancelled)|
|Grob Tutor x 3 (Flypast to honour Air Cadets 75th year)|
|Boeing B-52H Stratofortress (Flypast) |
|C-130J Hercules (Flypast)|
|A400M (RAF) (Flypast)|
|Static aircraft scheduled to appear|
|AAC Historic Flight: Auster, Beaver, Sioux, Scout, Skeeter|
|Aerospatiale TB30 Epsilon x2 (French Air Force)|
|Alouette III, Belgian Navy|
|BAe 146 (RAF)|
|Fairey Delta II|
|Grob Tutor T1EA|
|Hercules C130-H (RNAF)|
|Jet Provost Mk 5 XW324|
|King Air T1 (RAF)|
|Pilatus PC-9M (Irish Air Corps)|
|Squirrel HT1 (RAF)|
In the air, despite the weather and the reduced flying schedule, several displays did impress. Lauren Richardson threw her Pitts around the sky for the third time in the same day, having previously flown at two other shows, and the Gazelle Squadron flew their debut 2-ship display in less than perfect weather conditions, with another 2 Gazelles on static. The show was one of only 11 public venues listed to get the RAF Chinook display this year, always a crowd-puller and pleaser. Another impressive rotary was the only European flying display to make it to the starting line, the Belgian Agusta A109, unfortunately not the one in the special paint scheme.
The planned Meteor pairs display did not happen, because the operators cancelled all displays this season, but there were vintage jet displays by the Jet Provost Display Team in the person of Ollie Suckling flying the T.5A XW289, a late substitution for the intended T.3 XN637, and the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron's MiG-15. Per Strømmen flew a generous number of topside passes in this example of a cold war jet from the 'other side', probably the most widely-produced jet aircraft ever, presented in the colours of Yuri Gagarin's Red 18. Vintage jet flying displays were also to have included the only airworthy Sea Vixen in the world, but this was weather-bound and unable to reach the venue, and the Gnats, who were weather-bound in Bristol.
The Great War Display Team flew their new 2016 routine complete with pyrotechnics and really impressed, winning the 'Hartree Memorial Trophy' Best Display award. The RAF were unable to jump in with the Falcons, again because of the weather, and the Dakota was unable to fly because it is still unserviceable, but the other RAF contributions, the Typhoon and the Red Arrows, were able to fly their flat routines under the low cloud.
There was a big build-up before the show for the flypast by the iconic B-52. The B-52H, the US Air Force's long-range, large-payload multirole bomber, is used as both a strategic nuclear and conventional weapons platform and has seen action in numerous conflicts around the globe. The B-52 is a huge aircraft, with a length of nearly 50m and weighting a mighty 220,000kg. However, the much-anticipated B-52 is only cleared to fly at shows above 1,000, which was above cloud level, so the Stratofortress was heard but not seen. Hugely disappointing. An RAF A400M was flown by Tim Dunlop earlier in the afternoon and there was a single pass by a Hercules in standard livery: the special schemes being committed elsewhere.
Other displays are detailed in the table, together with a note of those planned but absent on the day, and the list will not be duplicated verbally here, but worthy of special note was an unusual combination flypast by the Anson and the T6 and a pairing of the Scout with its modern counterpart, the Apache.
Let's be honest, this wasn't the greatest RAF Cosford Airshow. Many of the problems were not the fault of the organisers: they could not be predicted or helped. The road accident that hindered travel away from the show, for example, could happen anywhere. The weather was the one factor that had most impact on everyone - the decreased vision, the dull photos, the difficulty seeing some aircraft against the gloomy skies and especially the cancellations caused not only by the conditions here but the weather elsewhere as well. The poor weather had been forecast but there was nothing RAF Cosford could do to change it.
There are some other things that the show will probably want to look at before the RAF Cosford Air Show 2017. In 2015 the main commentator, Sean Maffett, was pretty poor. The relief that year was Peter Dickson, who gave a comedic commentary when Rich Goodwin flew his display and was much lauded for it. He should have quit whilst the going was good, because in 2016 he joined Jonathan Ruffle, Gareth Attridge and Radio DJ Claire Sturgess in an even worse joint attempt to describe happenings at the show. Apart from the inane nature of some of the comments, they seemed to forget the main purpose of the commentary team is not only to elaborate on what is happening now, but to keep the crowd advised of what is going to happen next and later. The audience seemed to have to depend more on whispers up and down the crowd line, originating from others gaining their information from Twitter or Facebook messages. A new commentary position and new commentary team are a must for 2017.
The other disappointment was that the excellent array of static aircraft were again arranged in a rather higgledy-piggledy way around the site, mostly in cluttered positions. This is not unusual for the show but it is a huge contrast with some other shows, Duxford for example, where the statics are lined up with clear country backgrounds for a clear view of the exhibits - and clean photographs. Changing this would require considerable re-organisation of the layout but if RAF Cosford is going to continue to be attractive to enthusiasts, and to live with the new RAF show at Scampton, this is the sort of thing the volunteers at the base will need to consider.
The team at RAF Cosford work tirelessly for a long time to make the show as good as they can make it. They must be applauded for getting such a wide range of static exhibits and as many displays in the air as they did in very unfavourable conditions. They do tackle challenges, such as the parking, which has evolved and improved over the years, and they do the very best to attract a suitable variety of displays. For next year they will, no doubt, try to avoid clashes with continental airshows to ensure the availability of European aircraft and will take on board other comments which they themselves have invited. All is looking promising for a first class show in 2017, as long as uncontrollable factors such as the weather and any further tightening of the regulations don't get in the way.
RAF Cosford Airshow 2015
Sea King bows out in 2015
In 2015 the RAF Cosford Airshow was the UK's biggest RAF show in the absence of an airshow at RAF Waddington. An impressive complement of military and civilian aircraft helped the 55,000 visitors celebrate this year's main theme: the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
The organisers made some determined efforts to make the 2015 show even better than the sell-out or near sell-out shows of earlier years. To achieve this they concentrated on a change in traffic management to make coming and going easier; moving to advance-ticket only, also easing traffic flow before the show, and broadening the variety in aircraft attending. And it seems to have worked, with lots of interest in the display items and easier traffic flows on the day, although there will need to be some fine-tuning in 2016 to make sure the apportionment between on-site and the newly-introduced off-site public parking is seen to be fair.
Blades with oil spill response Boeing 727
The result was that the biggest RAF show was the best it has been for a very long while, despite the determination of the weather to spoil the organisers' efforts. The show was also unlucky with some high-profile late cancellations including RAMEX Delta, the German Navy P-3C Orion, the Polish Air Force MiG-29 as well as the Polish Sokol, intended for the SAR-themed exhibition. The intended Belgian F-16, the camouflage Typhoon and the Anniversary Chinook were also non-starters for technical reasons and the Tutor was weather-bound at Cranwell, although all four: F-16, Typhoon, Chinook and Tutor were substituted. The Bulldog was weathered in, so the Tutor flew a totally solo display in place of the intended pairs arrival. The Hercules was also not fit enough to perform its planned flypast although the RAF's Voyager did manage its single and very impressive pass.
In addition to the main VE70 theme, a secondary theme was Search and Rescue through the ages, which also had its static area as well as flying representatives. The static area was supported by contributions from Europe including an Italian AgustaWestland HH-139A, a German Sea King Mk41 and a Dutch NH90 as well as UK entries from the restored Westland Whirlwind HAR10, RAF Griffin HT1 and the EC135 Air Ambulance. Displaying in support of the theme were Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina and 22 Squadron RAF Valley's active-service Sea King.
One of the unintentional themes was fond farewells, but farewells there were. The RAF Sea King HAR3 bowed out at the end of its last public display before the disbandment of the Squadron, and the imminent transfer of the SAR role in this area to Bristow Helicopters, with a long, emotional wave and bow farewell sequence and the Vulcan flew its last ever Cosford display in its final flying season.
Red Arrows with the BBMF
Apache Gunship 2 in 2015 role demo
Bexi Owen, part of the continuous ground entertainment in 2015
The show's original line-up was studded with novelty and a generous splattering of foreign aircraft but regrettably the RAMEX Delta Mirage pair, the German Navy P-3C Orion and the Polish Air Force MiG-29 were amongst the last-minute cancellations. Nevertheless, two rarely seen combinations that did display were Dan Griffith in 2Excel's Oil Spill Response Boeing 727 with The Blades and a pair each of Hurricanes and Spitfires from the BBMF within the V of the Red Arrows marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Also near-unique to RAF Cosford, a pair of GR3/TR Jaguars performed a ground run, stopping for photographers and others who wanted a chance to see this enigmatic ground-attack aircraft not just in static positions around the grounds but also in action.
A highlight at this, as any, show was Rich Goodwin with another remarkable display in his Pitts. Talking visitors through that display was the unmistakeable Peter Dickson, whose wit and novelty was certainly the commentary highlight of the day. Hopefully not too many people really believed that Rich has to fly half his display upside down because he painted the union flag the wrong way up, or that his dog helps him with the flying on long journeys. At least his misinformation was deliberate and comic, whereas the inaccuracies from the base team of Sean Maffett and Jonathan Ruffle were just mistakes.
True to the key theme of the show, the finale was a VE70 set-piece featuring the Anson of the Classic Air Force, the Vacher Mk1 Hurricane R4118, Cliff Spink in Spitfire Ltd's Buchon and Lars Ness in the Norwegian P-51D "Sharkmouth" Mustang, now in its 112 Squadron livery, each performing in the set-piece and individually.
Airshows at RAF Cosford
There is one airshow each year at RAF Cosford, generally towards the middle of June.
The RAF Cosford Airshow has previously played second fiddle to the larger and traditionally better-favoured show at RAF Waddington. In 2015 the Cosford show was the biggest RAF show in the absence of Waddington from the airshow calendar during runway works. During 2015 Waddington was withdrawn altogether as an airshow venue, leaving RAF Cosford in top place for RAF.
The RAF Cosford airshow features military and civilian aircraft, modern and heritage, flying and static. There are arena demonstrations, military displays, a fairground and craft and memorabilia shops.
During the show, the RAF museum with some unique displays is free to enter and some museum exhibits, which included the TSR2 prototype in 2015, also get a rare airing, so giving visitors an opportunity to see historic aircraft in a more natural and photo-friendly environment.
Other vintage jets displaying were Jon Corley, chief pilot of Classic Air Force in their Gloster Meteor NF11 and Dan Arlett in Jet Provost T5 XW324, which was not programmed but was flown as a tribute to former Flying Display Director Bill Hartree, who had died in the previous November.
Modern jets included welcome contributions from abroad: a replacement Belgian Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon, minus flares, flown by Cdt Tom “Gizmo” De Moortel and Capt. Julien “Teddy” Meister in a Swiss Air Force F/A-18C Hornet, with a display so impressive it won the Hartree Memorial Trophy, introduced in 2015 as a memorial to Bill Hartree, for "the most accurate, safe and polished flying" during the show.
The RAF contribution to the fast jet displays was Johnny Dowen with his vigorous outing in the 29(R) squadron centenary FGR4 Typhoon, which was also flown by Flt Lt Ben Westoby-Brooks as a replacement for the intended camo Typhoon for the synchro display with Flt Lt Antony Parkinson MBE in the BBMF's Mk. Vb Spitfire AB910.
As well as the BBMF's contribution to this and the Red Arrows formation, their Dakota made its usual dignified contribution. Other props included the Wingwalkers who put down their usual smokescreen. Why, oh why, do they use so much smoke?
Amongst the rotaries, the Royal Navy offered a welcome and increasingly rare outing by a Lynx, taking their HMA8 through its paces but the Chinook's intensive and aggressive demonstration of the agility of this massive beast is most people's favourite. However, they were taken to the line this year by the Apache AH1 duo, giving one of only a few displays by the team in 2015 complete with bright and loud pyrotechnics as Gunships 1 and 2 worked through a realistic scenario seeing off the baddies in traditionally competent RAF style.
The six hours of flying displays, backed up by static aircraft displays, are the focus for most, but there are always other treats on the ground at airshows during, before and after the air displays. One of the ground attractions provided at RAF Cosford but not common elsewhere is the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) hangar, especially appealing to youngsters, where visitors can see and interact with STEM displays.
Backing up the VE70 theme, a hugely popular Victory Village was filled with re-enactors representing civilian and military encampments at home and abroad. I'm sure I saw General de Gaulle. And not far from the re-enactors, musical entertainment was virtually continuous adding to the VE70 atmosphere.
Shows in earlier years had been less high-profile and rather in the shadow of big brother RAF Waddington. Foreign participation had been minimal and road traffic problems had tended to be a constant curse, despite the close proximity of the base to the motorway and major road networks. These issues were addressed for 2015 which almost certainly offers a better example of the shows to expect in 2016 and future years.
These shows do not happen by themselves. At RAF Cosford the show is the result of the efforts of the 1500 RAF Cosford personnel, reserves, recruiters and cadets. All credit to them for the 2015 show and we look forward to the results of their meticulous planning for 2016.
Getting to the Show
One of the easiest shows to access, Cosford is off the A41 and only a mile from junction 3 of the M54 with easy access to the motorway network via the M56, M5, M6 and M40. Even so, the roads in the area can become very busy indeed because of the popularity of the show. To get close to the site, use the post code TF11 8UP. Not all sat nav systems recognise this post code: the alternative is WV7 3EU. Follow local show directions in preference to the sat nav once you get close.
National Express have direct coach services to Telford and to Wolverhampton, both of which are about 7 miles from the show site. The local 892 bus service runs from Wolverhampton and stops at Cosford but it does not usually run on Sundays and the nearest stop is at a garage about a mile from the show site. The easiest way to get to Cosford using the coach is to go as far as Wolverhampton and get a train from there to Cosford station. You can book National Express seats online. Click a blue National Express name to go to their web site.
Special coach services
Several companies have special services direct to the show.
Cosford has its own station, which is only a very short walk from the show site. Trains from Cosford go to Wolverhampton (about 20 minutes), Birmingham (about 30 minutes) and, via Birmingham, to London (roughly 3 hours) and other major cites.
Click here to create a pocket timetable for your journey between any stations on the National Rail network.
The variety of rail tickets and fares can be very confusing. Trainline and Raileasy web sites list all ticket and fare options for the time and day of travel you choose, but they both levy an admin fee. Click either of the blue ticket agency names to go to their web site.
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.
The International Hotels Group have a Holiday Inn in nearby Telford; there are four Premier Inn hotels in or close to Telford, between four and eight miles from the show and two in Wolverhampton about 13 miles away.
Weather for the show area
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.
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.
Click the blue-text link to go to the forecast. The location is already built into the links.