5th - 7th July
Friday 5th will be arrivals day, with arrivals from about 12.30 and late afternoon displays from about 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday will be full display days. The show features representative aircraft of the Battle of Britain era and family friendly attractions.
|Display aircraft will be listed here when known
Daytime 1st - 2nd July, evening 30th June
The Battle of Britain Airshow at Headcorn has been a three-day show, from Friday to Sunday, since 2020. In 2023 the normal daytime show was held over the weekend 1st - 2nd July only. On Friday 30th June there was to have been a shorter late afternoon and early evening show with the same theme and some additional arrivals. In practice, the mist and strong winds meant the only flying was by Aero Legends' Dakota 'Pegasus' and Sally B. The two met up and made a joint display before performing individually.
There were constant weather checks during Friday and at one stage Charlie Brown went up in one of the Tiger Moths to have a look. The conclusion was that conditions were not good enough, so there was no further flying on Friday.
Because of the reduction in flying, visitors to the Friday evening show were offered free entry to either the Saturday or Sunday show instead.
Leaving aside the effects of the weather, it has to be said that the Friday version of the show was a bit of a damp squib anyway. The flying list, even before it was decimated by the weather, was much shorter than for the weekend days and the number of people attending appeared to be a fraction of normal Headcorn crowds. Apart from the bar, the traders had a very quiet time indeed.
The weekend proved to be completely different. Heavy cloud on Saturday morning looked threatening but cleared intermittently, leaving a sky that was sometimes cloudy but occasionally sunny and Sunday's main problem was strong winds.
Not only the weather, but the weekend's flying was totally different, too. There were some adjustments for the conditions and variations to the timings but overall the actual programme was very close to the proposed schedule.
|AircraftOnly Sally B and the Dakota flew on Friday
|Red Arrows (Sunday only)
|BBMF Lancaster 'PA474 Leader' (Sunday only)
|Douglas C-47 Skytrain '19345' N473DC 'Drag 'Em Oot' (Aero Legends) CANCELLED (technical issue)
|Douglas C-47 Dakota KP220 G-ANAF 'Pegasus' (Aero Legends) (all 3 days)
|Boeing B-17G 'Sally B' (all 3 days: did not land)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk1X TD314 G-CGYJ 'St George' (Aero Legends)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk TIX NH341 'Elizabeth' (Aero Legends)
|Hawker Hurricane P3717 (Sat & Sun only)
|Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 G-HUPW R4118: James Brown
|Hawker Hurricane BE505 (Sat & Sun only)
|Strikemaster pair, G-SOAF and G-RSAF
|Harvard T-6G G-BGHU 'Carly'
|Stampe Formation Flying Team (SV.4 Stampe biplanes) four on Saturday, pair on Sunday.
|Thruxton Jackaroo G-AOIR
|Tiger Moth G-AOIM (didn't fly)
|Tiger Moth G-PWBE
|Hispano HA-1112 Buchón G-AWHK 'Yellow 10' (ARC) (Sat & Sun only)
|Tiger 9 Formation Team (Sat & Sun only)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX G-BRSF 'RR232' 'City of Exeter' (Sat & Sun only)
|Beechcraft D17S Staggerwing N18V (Sat only)
|Beechcraft Staggerwing N17GL (Sunday only)
Appearances are always subject to technical, weather and other constraints.
Saturday's flying began with a stonking, close formation display by the Strikemaster pair. A great display and great, too, to see this unusual addition to a show that is generally, as it's title suggests, more focussed on aircraft that are traditionally linked to the Battle of Britain, such as the Dakota, Spitfire and Hurricane, together with a generous helping of light aircraft aerobatics.
Although it has flown here before, another welcome breath of freshness came in the form of the camouflage-liveried Beechcraft Staggerwing N18V, until the skies submitted to the show's more traditional Buchón attack on the airfield. John Romain's aggression in 'Yellow 10' was soon seen off by Aero Legends' pair of Spitfire IXs, TD314 and NH341, piloted by their own Anthony 'Parky' Parkinson and Charlie Brown respectively.
Not to be overlooked, light aircraft aerobatics did take their rightful Headcorn place, in the form of the Tiger Nine Display Team and, later, a mixed formation comprising Aero Legends' Tiger Moths and all four of the Stampe formation team, before the Moths broke away to give the Stampe team the airspace to themselves for their own routine and a Richard Ward solo.
It was back to the fighters with a formation routine and tailchase from three Hurricanes and then to the big boys when Andrew Dixon gave a fine solo display in Aero Legends' one operational Dakota before being joined by Peter Kuypers in Sally B for joint passes, ultimately giving way to a Sally B solo.
There was a bonus when no fewer than five Spitfires, rather than the scheduled three, took to the skies: a quartet of TD314, N3200, PL983 and RR232 making fine, close formation passes whilst NH341 performed a solo routine each time the quartet cleared. They were replaced above the Kent countryside by the full four of the Stampe Team, performing an encore to their display with the based Tiger Moths earlier in the afternoon.
The traditional finale at Headcorn is a balbo of Aero Legends aircraft, although it was reduced to the single operational Dakota, the Spitfire pair and 'Carly', the USAF liveried Harvard, on her own as the second Harvard suffered a technical problem.
On Sunday there were a few variations in the timings but to begin with the content was very similar. Flying began with light aircraft. Initially, the Jackaroo, Tiger Moth and two of the Stampe formation team, which went on to give their own Stampe pairs display. They were followed by more light aircraft aerobatics from the Tiger 9 Display Team, with their varied formations and opposition passes in the air, in sometimes tough, gusty conditions, and concluding with their formation engine cut after landing.
The WWII Buchón vs Spitfire re-enactment preceded the first content changes from Saturday when Nigel Wilson displayed the rather gorgeous dark red Beechcraft Staggerwing N17GL and John O’Connor gave an aerobatic display in Aero Legends' Harvard ‘Carly’. Saturday's five-ship Spitfire routine was replaced on Sunday by a trio comprising the Aero Legends pair and MkIX RR232 ‘City of Exeter' in formation and tail-chase modes followed by Peter Kuypers giving a Sally B solo, replacing the pairs displays with the Aero Legends Dakota seen on the other two days.
The Strikemaster pair, who had opened the show on Saturday, then followed. One of the pair is the Mk.80A Strikemaster G-RSAF, which is now permitted to fly passengers.
The same three-Hurricane formation and tailchase as Saturday's followed and then the Aero Legends' quartet comprising the Dakota, Harvard and Spitfire pair.
To this point, much of Sunday's show had repeated Saturday's, albeit in a different sequence. The final stages were the exception and were the highlight of the weekend for many. These stages were provided by the RAF. Initially it was the BBMF Avro Lancaster flown by Seb Davey watched, along with the thousands of other visitors, by centenarian and World War Two veteran Colin Deverall DFM, who had himself flown Lancasters and Stirlings. The RAF kept the focus when the eight (for the 2023 season) Red Arrows performed their rolling display.
See our photos of this and previous Battle Of Britain Airshows at Headcorn.
If you think this review is not balanced, or that a point has been missed, or even if you agree with it, do get in touch to let us know.
Our description of the actual flying has been kept brief although more details are in the table. If this is being read with a mind to the next show, rather than the last one, it may be more significant to gain a feel for the atmospherics of the show. Here, Headcorn scores well. There are some complaints that so much of the flightline is taken up with premium enclosures that the rest, available to people who pay the basic entry price rather than the higher enclosure prices, are cramped in a relatively small space. Having said this, amount of this space has improved recently. Yes, you are more likely to be peering over someone's shoulder if you arrive at the flightline close to take-off time, but no more so than at most shows, and much better than at some others.
The crowdline is quite close to the runway, so it is easier to see most of the pre- and post-flight movements and most of the participating aircraft are lined up along, and close to, the crowdline. This means that most visitors can see the aircraft throughout the day and, more significantly, perhaps, the pilots making their way to and from their planes and the reality touches in between displays, such as refuelling, cleaning, inspections and so on.
There are the usual traders' stands with mostly-aircraft-related goodies for sale and plenty of refreshment opportunities at the sort of higher-than-High Street prices you would expect at an event where there is a captive clientele. The grounds are reasonably spacious, so if you are seeking picnic space rather than crowdline viewing, there should be room for you seats or a blanket.
Headcorn, 24th - 26th June 2022
The seventh 2022 Battle of Britain Airshow at Headcorn opened on Friday with high cloud and decent sunshine when the Red Arrows arrived to start the show bang on time at 13.00. They were able to perform a full rolling display to the evident joy of the crowd - which appeared rather thin compared to earlier years.
The RAF have been very supportive with the Red Arrows on Friday, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster promised for Sunday (although the display was cancelled because of high crosswinds at Coningsby) and Andy Preece flying the BBMF Hurricane LF363 on all three days, substituting for the scheduled Spitfire.
The biplane balbo was less populated than in previous years, comprising the Aero Legends Jackaroo with their pair of Tiger Moths, joined on Friday by the Bucker Jungmann.
One of the highlights came early in the day when the Aero Legends Dakota 'Pegasus' rendezvoused with B17 Sally B. The pair then entertained with several flypasts before splitting to enable Sally B to transition to her elegant and evidently popular solo display. Later in the show, 'Pegasus' took her turn centre stage with Andrew Dixon in control.
One of the traditional set-pieces of shows such as this is an attack from an enemy aircraft, a role played this year by John Romain flying the Duxford-based Buchón, before succumbing to the Aero Legends Spitfire pair. Although traditional, the display doesn't loose its appeal, especially when the tailchase and attack sequences are executed so captivatingly.
Once the Buchón had been dispensed with, it was time for the Spitfires to perform their pairs display, interspersed with fly-throughs from the Dakota and Harvard trio whilst the Spitfires retreated from centre stage.
The stars of the aerobatic displays were The Starlings, Michael Pickin and Tom Cassells, in their Nuii-sponsored CAP232 and matching Extra NG, presenting very close-formation flying and high-octane aerobatics in sometimes tricky conditions.
The Wingwalker display was a change from the traditional AeroSuperbatics version, when the locally-based Wingwalker Company took to the air in their pair of Stearmans. This is something of a family affair. The company was started by Michael Pickin and one of the Stearmans was flown by his father, Richard, with his sister on the wing. The shapes thrown by the girls mimicked many of the articulations of the more familiar AeroSuperbatics pair, right down to the broad smile and wave on landing.
There are several Yak displays on the airshow circuit. The Yak 3U at the Battle of Britain airshow was over from Belgium, when Bob Davey demonstrated how fast and versatile a Yak can be. The commentator was at great pains to emphasize that this Yak was built in Romania, not Russia, and had served with the Free French and the Ukrainian Air Force. It bore no Russian star but did have Ukrainian markings on the tail.
The finale was a warbird balbo, comprising a mix of Hurricanes and Spitfires. They performed circuits taking to the centre line in slightly varying formations, whilst Charlie Brown in another of the Aero Legends Spitfires played the 'Joker' role, to keep activity in sight of the audience whilst the main group was away from the display line.
There are always changes to the programme and the greatest disappointments were the cancellation, because of crew illness, of the Strikemaster display, which, other than the Red Arrows, would have been the only jet display of the show, and the cancellation of the Lancaster, which was weather-bound at Coningsby where high cross-winds prevented its departure. The Stampe and Aero Legends second Dakota were also listed but absent all three days.
|Aircraft All due to display on all three days except where noted in the list
|Red Arrows (Friday 24th only)
|BBMF Lancaster 'PA474 Leader' (Sunday 26th only) CANCELLED: high cross winds at Coningsby
|Hawker Hurricane LF363 (BBMF) replacing the scheduled BBMF Spitfire
|Boeing B-17G 'Sally B'
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk1X TD314 G-CGYJ 'St George' (Aero Legends)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk TIX NH341 'Elizabeth' (Aero Legends)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk X1 G-PRXI 'PL983' (ARCo)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIIIc D-FEUR 'ZX-M MT928': MaxAlfa Aviation
|Hawker Hurricane Mk I P3717
|Hawker Hurricane Mk I R4118 (James Brown)
|Hawker Hurricane Mk I V7497 (Hawker Restorations)
|Yakovlev YAK3-U F-AZIM
|Douglas C-47 Skytrain '19345' 'Drag 'Em Oot' (Aero Legends) CANCELLED.
|Douglas C-47 Dakota KP220 G-ANAF 'Pegasus' (Aero Legends)
|Harvard T6G G-DDMV (Aero Legends)
|Harvard T-6G G-BGHU 'Carly' in USAF livery (Aero Legends)
|Harvard G-BGPB ‘Taz’
|Tiger Moth G-AOIM (Aero Legends)
|Tiger Moth G-PWBE (Aero Legends)
|Jackaroo (modified Tiger Moth) G-AOIR
|Stampe SV4 G-BPLM CANCELLED
|The Starlings Aerobatic Team (Extra 330 and CAP 232)
|Hispano HA-1112 Buchon G-AWHK 'Yellow 10' (ARC) (dogfight with Spitfires)
|Strikemaster pair, G-SOAF and G-RSAF CANCELLED: crew illness
|Boeing Stearman x 2 G-WWLK & G-WGWK: Wingwalkers (The Wing Walk Company)
|Beechcraft Staggerwing (Saturday 25th only)
|Bucker Bu131 Jungmann G-BTDZ
Headcorn, 25th - 27th June 2021
The Aero Legends Battle of Britain airshow is based around their own impressive and growing fleet as well as locally-based aircraft. Aero Legends' Dakotas, Spitfires, Harvards and Moths took to the skies in differing combinations throughout the day, joined by Battle of Britain era warbirds from further afield and locally-based biplanes.
Once again, the weather was rather unkind to the organisers, who had really 'pulled out the stops' and arranged a total of nine Spitfires, a Hurricane and Sally B to fly on all three days, the BBMF to be represented at the weekend, and for the Red Arrows to display on the first and last days. Regrettably, it was not to be.
On Friday, the earlier rain had largely cleared by start of play. Although there was very light drizzle at the beginning, the cloud base was high enough not to disrupt the day's flying too much. Unfortunately, the exception was the Red Arrows, whose display slot coincided with probably the lowest visibility of the day.
Right up to the show start time, word was awaited from Squadron Leader Adam Collins, Red 10, about display viability.
The Red Arrows did arrive in two sections, led by Reds 1 and 6 respectively, with the intention of opening the show on Friday but after checking out the visibility were, unsurprisingly, unable to display, so had to burn off fuel and return to their temporary base at Farnborough. On Sunday it was Red 10 who carried out the weather survey and, as it turned out, his EC135 arriving and departing was the only flying the crowd got to see that day.
|The Red Arrows were listed to open the show on Friday, but they arrived and found that visibility was inadequate for a display. They were also due to display at the show at 4pm on Sunday but, after Red 10 arrived to assess the weather, this display was also cancelled.
|Supermarine Spitfires TE311 and AB910 (BBMF) (Sat & Sun) (pilots Sqn Ldr Mark Discombe and Flt Lt Andy Preece)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk1X TD314 G-CGYJ (Aero Legends) (pilot Flt Lt Antony 'Parky' Parkinson)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk TIX NH341 'Elizabeth' (pilot Charlie Brown)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia G-CFGJ 'N3200' (pilot Jon Gowdy)
|Spitfire Mk IX PT462 (pilot David Ratcliffe)
|Spitfire Mk XI PL983 (pilot Martin Overall)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIIIc D-FEUR 'ZX-M MT928': MaxAlfa Aviation (pilot John Romain)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXb G-ASJV MH434 (pilot Brian Smith)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX G-BRSF 'RR232' 'City of Exeter': Boultbee Flight Academy (pilot Jim Schofield)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX G-IRTY 'MJ271' 'Silver Spitfire'
The 'Round the World Silver Spitfire': Boultbee Flight Academy (pilot Matt Jones)
|Dakota (BBMF) (due only on Sunday but cancelled due to poor visibility)
|Douglas C-47 Dakota KP220 'Pegasus' (Aero Legends)
|Douglas C-47 Skytrain '19345' 'Drag 'Em Oot' (Aero Legends)
|Boeing B-17G 'Sally B'
|Hawker Hurricane P3717
|Hispano HA-1112 Buchón G-AWHK 'Yellow 10' (ARC) (Steve Jones)
|Harvard T6G G-DDMV (Aero Legends) (pilot Sam Whatmough)
|Harvard T-6G 'Carly' G-BGHU (Aero Legends) (pilot Gavin Ashdown)
|Stampe Formation Flying Team (3x Stampe SV.4C biplanes)
|Stampe SV4B G-AYIJ
|Tiger Moth G-ANMO (Aero Legends)
|Tiger Moth G-PWBE (Aero Legends)
|Jackaroo (modified Tiger Moth) G-AOIR
|Yak 3 (removed from programme)
|The Starlings Formation Team (pilots Michael Pickin and Tom Cassells)
The programmes for Friday and Saturday were close to the intended schedule, with the exception of the cancellation of the Red Arrows and the BBMF on Friday. All displays were cancelled on Sunday due to poor visibility.
Most display aircraft were on static display.
Sunday Day ticket holders, who did not get to see a show because all flying was cancelled, will be contacted and invited to attend on a day of their choice in 2022.
Originally farmland, the site became a First World War training school in 1914 but reverted to a working farm following the war. In 1942 it was requisitioned by the Airfields Board and became Lashenden aerodrome. The Canadian Air Force moved in during August 1943, flying Spitfire 1Xb’s under the command of ‘Johnnie’ Johnson. The United States were later based here flying the North American P51D Mustang until they left in June 1945 when the airfield closed.
Flying resumed at the now-private aerodrome in 1963. Aero Legends arrived in 2014 and introduced flight experiences.
With the exception of the Red Arrows and the BBMF Spitfires on Friday, the organisers did achieve most of the anticipated programme on the Friday and Saturday, with necessary flexibility in the order of the displays in response to the changing weather outlook but Sunday's flying had to be abandoned altogether.
The Goodyear Zeppelin, based at Friedrichshafen in Germany, made several trips to the UK during the week of The Battle of Britain Airshow. On the Saturday of the show, after spending a while over Dover and circling Canterbury Cathedral, it diverted from its previously intended course to enable a flight over the airfield at Headcorn, cruising low and slow along the runway, en route to London and the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch.
There was also a bonus during the morning of Saturday, before the main display started, when Goodyear Zeppelin D-LZFN diverted from its planned course to pass above the Headcorn runway - with just a slight, brief, diversion over the crowdline. The pilot of the Zeppelin was Kate Board, the first, and once the only, female airship pilot.
On Friday before the displays began, a highlight in the warm-up activity was the arrival of six warbirds based elsewhere, arriving as two trios before circling to land.
On Friday the show itself got underway with a balbo comprising four Stampe SV4s, 2 Tiger Moths and the Thruxton Jackaroo (Tiger Moth conversion); the formation flown as a tribute to Angus Buchanan, who tragically lost his life in an accident whilst flying a Stampe near the airfield a few weeks before.
The display began with all seven biplanes in a variety of formations until the Moths broke away to land. The Stampes flew further circuits until G-AYIJ separated: a traditional and very emotive 'missing man' routine.
The remaining three Stampes remained in formation, led by Chris Jesson, who then went on to display an impressive solo. A similar set of routines on Saturday was flown later in the day.
Michael Pickin impressed at the 2020 show with his display in high winds in the Global Stars liveried CAP 232. His versatility was proven again in 2021 when, on both display days, he flew a stonking solo in a Bucker Jungmann. Michael is also half of a team that is new to the airshow scene this year. The Starlings, Michael Pickin in the Mudry CAP232 and Tom Cassels in the new Extra 330NG, flew close formation and opposition routines followed by a lively solo by Tom on Friday and separate solo routines by both Tom and Michael on Saturday.
The listed BBMF Spitfires had been unable to arrive for their Friday display because of weather en route, but before Michael's Jungmann display on Saturday, TE311 and AB910 were able to display in the always-capable hands of Mark Discombe and Andy Preece. They were then based at Headcorn for the rest of the weekend, expecting to fly again on Sunday. Indeed, most of the display aircraft were based at Headcorn. An exception was B17G Sally B, which was based for the show at nearby Lydd.
Sally B flew in and was joined by the Aero Legends Dakota pair for circuits before Sally gave her solo display. The Dakotas remained aloft and were joined by the Aero Legends Harvard and Spitfire pairs for an Aero Legends Combo, enabling spectators to enjoy the sight and accompanying harmony of engine types, much missed over the past year.
Aero Legends took control of the skies again with separate Dakota and Harvard pairs displays, following which on Friday (but opening the show on Saturday morning) there was the traditional airfield attack and repulse re-enactment. This year the attack was promulgated by a single Buchón, ARCo's Yellow 10, in the hands of Steve Jones. There were no pyrotechnics but, even without visual and audio aids, it was clear to see that the nasty Hun was attempting to do his worst for the airfield but luckily, after a few silent passes, he was joined in the sky by Parky in TD314 who saw off the attack in the traditional fashion, proven by the billowing smoke emanating from the stricken foe.
The victor was joined by Charlie Brown in NH341 for the Aero Legends Spitfire pairs display during which the remaining seven Spitfires and the Hurricane became airborne for the finale.
The form of the finale had changed a little since announced. At first it seemed there would be a 'diamond nine' of Spitfires, then nine Spitfires plus a Hurricane. Many people were expecting, and the commentary seemed to foretell, a single mass formation. In practice, seven Spitfires and a Hurricane flew circuits as a pair of diamond-fours, led respectively by Jon Gowdy in the IWM's Mk.I 'N3200' and Stu Goldspink in Bygone Aviation's Hurricane Mk.I 'P3717', whilst the two local Spitfires flew a separate routine above the circuits in constant view of the crowd.
There were a few comments from spectators to the effect that a mass formation would have been welcome but, by and large, the balbo was received with some excitement and presented the only opportunity to see some of the warbirds. That, itself, was something of a shame. One or two, such as 'G-IRTY', the 'Silver Spitfire', that gained much fame for its round-the-world longest trip, was at the end of the flightline on Friday and within the Spitfire Enclose for the rest of the weekend. It could be viewed close-up by visitors taking advantage of the new Flightline Walk, but otherwise, only as part of the balbo. There are always issues of cost and scheduling but there did appear to be plenty of opportunities for the sell-out crowd to see one or two solo circuits by G-IRTY and others, to enable everyone to focus on, and appreciate, some magnificent restorations.
If you are dizzied by the hectic action at shows such as those at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, where something demands your attention all of the time, then you might feel more relaxed at Headcorn, where there are intervals-a-plenty between displays and a myriad opportunities to visit the stands and take refreshments without missing anything.
Covid-19 precautions were extremely good in 2020. 5M squares marked on the ground in the main spectator area were largely observed and kept people appropriately spaced. In the enclosures the stewards 'patrolled' and made sure that the 2 metre rule was observed.
In 2021 observance of the separation rules did not appear to be so well practiced. There were no white guidelines. Whilst a large proportion of the crowd appeared to do their best to stay socially distanced, that lack of visual reminder may, perhaps, have led to some other people forgetting.
The Aero Legends Battle of Britain Airshow 2022 will be held on June 24th - 26th.
In the Premier Enclosure the practice appeared to vary from time to time and from area to area. At times, stewards appeared reluctant to approach people, even when there was crowding around the fenceline as the Spitfires fired up, for example. Indeed, some of the stewards themselves became part of those crowds. At other times some stewards returned people to their tables, explaining that the table was their bubble and no-one should stray from it. It was easy to witness that inconsistency causing not just confusion but irritation as well.
Stewards had a difficult job, but there was certainly evidence that either last year people were more willing to comply, or this year the rules were not applied as uniformly.
These days, most people travel by car and depend on sat nav to get close. But there are usually signs as visitors approach to guide drivers away from the sat nav directions around road changes made necessary by the airshow. The 'airshow this way' signs seemed to be rather thin on the ground in 2021, causing belated diversions away from the 'wrong end' of the temporary one-way road. A few more, and earlier, signs would have been helpful and reassuring to those unfamiliar with the local area.
For the first time, the show had a flightline walk before the flying, and after flying on Friday and Saturday, guided by Aero Legends ground crew. Tickets, for a specific time slot, were priced at adults £20, children (5 and over) £10.
If you think this review is not balanced, or that a point has been missed, or even if you agree with it, do get in touch to let us know.
Once at the correct end of the access road, parking was straightforward and efficiently controlled. Arrangements for leaving were also much more controlled than at many shows, with stewards on each of the spurs that invariably arise around the gate, when drivers cut across the parking area to seek an advantage by joining a queue nearer to the exit point.
The only rather weird exception was on Saturday, when the parking area was filled from the point furthest from the pedestrian entrance, so early-arrivals had to traipse through the whole car park to the gate, whereas late-comers were directed to the parking nearer the entrance. The reason for this was not evident. The traditional arrangements (first arrivals park nearest the entrance) were in place on Friday and normality returned on Sunday.
Once out of the car park, the route to the showground was evident and well controlled and the pedestrian entrances through the gate into the airfield were enclosed and plentiful with negligible queueing once the initial opening rush had cleared.
The date for the 2022 show has already been announced. It is worth keeping 24th - 26th June 2022 in your diary for the next edition of this evolving and continually improving airshow. And please, weather Gods, be kinder to them next time.
Neither Covid nor the weather could stop the Headcorn Airshow
Towards the end of a season of airshow cancellations, there was a breath of fresh air at Headcorn for the extended three-day Aero Legends Battle of Britain airshow.
The downside was that the 'fresh air' came in the form of winds that were rather too strong for many of the aircraft. Massive credit, though, to the pilots who did get aloft, especially Michael Pickin in his CAP232 and the biplane pilots of the Stampe Team, all of whom were able to show the wind who was boss.
Everyone who came had some less-than-ideal conditions to deal with, too. Wind most of the time; gusts much of the time, low temperatures all of the time and rain from time to time. Many must have wondered how different the show would have been just one week earlier. Credit to the crowd who stayed with it for the most part, glad to be part of a rare UK 2020 walk-in airshow.
Huge credit, too, to the organisers who were able to overcome the myriad of obstacles that have defeated best efforts at other airshow venues. Despite a date change, the weather and the introduction of fresh Covid-19 regulations just days beforehand; the show did go on. Arrangements had clearly been thoroughly thought out and implemented with great care, and ample stewards were on hand to ensure the reasonable rules were followed.
The arrangements for 2020 included a significant limitation in the number of people able to attend. The event was extended from two to three days in mitigation but on each of the days a maximum of 4,000 could be on site on any one day - down to 1,000 on Friday. It is difficult to imagine how that was controlled in practice. Normally, organisers would be able to keep to capacity by limiting the number of tickets issued. However, for this show, anyone who bought a ticket for the original June date could choose to go to this September show or to the proposed June 2021 event. It was not necessary to advise in advance the date on which the tickets would be used, so some guesswork must have been involved. Perhaps the poor weather reduced the chance that a greater proportion than estimated would attend this September show. Whatever system was used it seemed to work, with no crowding on any of the days.
The entry configuration was changed, too. Instead of the tandem desks of previous years, which made it inevitable that people would walk past, or close to, others, the entry gates were more widely spread, with a greater number of one-at-a-time entry points and easier control of social distancing.
Within the show ground the premium enclosures were stretched to the entire length of the crowdline. This may have upset those who bought a standard ticket and had no opportunity to reach the fence but it also meant that there was no 'rush for the front' or consequent crowding either on the way to, or at, the fence line. Very clever. Within those premium areas there was plenty of space, again reducing the crowing risk, with tables spaced at the appropriate distance and stewards making sure that the gaps were maintained.
Squares were marked out in the main grassed area beyond the premium enclosures. These couldn't guarantee that distancing would be respected - it is always possible for two groups to stand on the neighbouring edges, leaving no social distancing at all - but by and large groups tended to keep around the middle of the marked areas and consequently the recommended distance from 'strangers'. All in all, a simple but effective regime which surely ensured the minimum risk to visitors and may well be the model for future shows if restrictions remain necessary into the next season.
The flying list had been announced over a period in the weeks before the show. The intention was that six displays would take to the air: mostly combinations and ending with a balbo of the Aero Legends aircraft that had gone before. The full list at its most optimistic is in the table. The weather inevitably affected both the number and order of the displays, which varied each day according to the conditions. Friday's displays had to be curtailed and Sunday's were squeezed up then had to end a little early but, apart form the BBMF and some of the light aircraft, Saturday's flying was virtually as planned.
The Cap 232 is just one of around fifty types flown by Michael Pickin. He is a commercial pilot flying Boeings and a vintage aircraft pilot as well as an aerobatic pilot. He won his first aerobatic competition at 14; was the youngest person to be awarded a CAA Display Authorisation; at 23 was the youngest ever British Advanced National Aerobatic Champion and is the youngest Unlimited Level aerobatic pilot in Europe.
Possibly the greatest disappointment for most was the cancellation of all displays by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The BBMF display was the first item to be announced. Everyone anticipated not simply the standard BBMF trio but the Dowding Display, comprising 5 aircraft including the Avro Lancaster, three Spitfires and a Hurricane, specially designed to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
A display by the Lancaster in particular was eagerly awaited but even in advance of the show it was feared that its appearance might be prevented by an hydraulic problem. Just before the show, that problem was overcome but as it happened the weather was the greater issue: a problem that no-one at Headcorn or Coningsby could defeat. In the event, the wind won and the Dowding display - the main draw to the show for many - was not seen on any of the three show days.
Understandable, of course, and safety of the aircraft and personnel are priority one, but disappointing nevertheless.
Michael Pickin is no stranger to Headcorn, where he is normally based, nor to aerobatics (see the aero-bio in the box). Nevertheless, his display of unlimited aerobatics in the Mudry CAP232 on each of the days demonstrated rare skill as he coped with wind conditions sufficient to test even the most experienced of pilots.
Keeping one aircraft to a routine in the conditions was a triumph, but on each of the three days the Stampe Team were able to keep their four SV.4 biplanes not only to a routine but also in formation. Constantly battered by the wind and brought back into line it was clear to see how the gusts were affecting the light aircraft but the experience and deft touch of the pilots were sufficient to keep the SV4s on their intended course. There were two Stampe Team bonuses on Saturday. As well as their regular four-ship, a second display in the slot that should have been filled by the absent BBMF was taken by a second Stampe Team display, this time with a fifth SV.4. Following the main team displays each day their leader, Chris Jesson, flew an equally impressive aerobatic solo.
The main Battle of Britain fighter sequence varied a little bit each day. The constant component was a masterful aerobatic display by John Romain in Yellow 10, inevitably climaxing in the traditional fighter chase. At the end of the chase the Buchón, intercepted by Parky in TD314 'St. George', trailed smoke to indicate combat over. Before or following the victory, depending on the day, Charlie Brown took to the air in NH341 ‘Elizabeth’; Martin Overall went aloft in N3200 and David Ratcliffe joined them in Hurricane R4118.
During his display on the Friday of the Battle of Britain Airshow, Charlie Brown reached 1,500 hours as the pilot of a Spitfire, six years after reaching his 1,000th hour in 2014.
The airshow at Headcorn is focussed on the Battle of Britain. Its displays feature representative aircraft of the Battle of Britain era and around the grounds are family friendly attractions.
The show was to have been in June but was postponed because of the Covid-19 outbreak. The organisers confirmed following a review on July 6th that the show would go ahead and that the previously 2-day show would run over three days in 2020, to include the Friday as well as the weekend days. Visitor numbers were limited to 1,000 on Friday and 4,000 on Saturday and Sunday to enable social distancing.
All fighters then graced the skies in a formation comprising the three Spitfires, the Buchón and the Hurricane. Again, the order varied from day to day, in one instance the Buchón joining the Aero Legends Spitfire pair followed by N3200 but in all cases the Hurricane was a fairly distant tail.
The fighter components, battle sequence and outcome will have come as no surprise to anyone, but it was that extra bit special coming, as it did, 80 years, almost to the day, since allied and axis aircraft flew in anger in the very same skies. Not so long ago we might have expected a wealth of such exhibitions all over the country and beyond, but in the Covid-19 times Aero Legends, the organisers, the volunteers and the relevant authorities should be applauded for enabling what turned out to be a rare commemoration of these historic events.
On Saturday there was a display by the locally-based North American T-6 Texans flown by Sam Whatmough and Michael Pickin. The bright yellow markings of the California Air National Guard '49-3209' and the United States Air Force schemed 'Carly' contrasting visually but with well-matched roars from their radial engines. Unfortunately, 'Carly' developed a technical fault on Sunday, so the pairs routine was not repeated, although the 'National Guard' Texan did join the Spitfires and C-47s for the Aero Legends Balbo.
|Aircraft. All aircraft were originally due to display on all three days
|BBMF Dowding 5-aircraft display: Lancaster 3 Spitfires and Hurricane. Did not display on any day - wind gusts too strong.
|Stampe Formation Flying Team (four SV.4 Stampe biplanes)
|A fifth Stampe SV.4 biplane
|Thruxton Jackaroo (Aero Legends) (couldn't fly - too gusty)
|de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth (Aero Legends) (x2) (couldn't fly - too gusty)
|Bucker Jungmann (Michael Pickin)
|CAP 232 (Mike Pickin)
|* Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia G-COG 'N3200'
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk1X TD314 G-CAGY 'St George' (Aero Legends)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk TAX NH341 'Elizabeth'
|* Hawker Hurricane P3717
|Hawker Hurricane R4118
|* Hispano HA-1112 M1L Buchón G-AWHK 'Yellow 10' (ARCo)
|Douglas C-47 Skytrain '19345' 'Drag 'Em Oot' (Aero Legends)
|Douglas C-47 Dakota KP220 'Pegasus' (Aero Legends) flying with 'Drag 'Em Oot'.
|Harvard T6G G-DAM (Aero Legends)
|Harvard 'Carly' (Aero Legends) (Technical problem on Sunday)
|* Because of high winds at the airfields they were coming from, the Buchón, Hurricane and Mk1 Spitfire were unable to reach the show and did not therefore display on Friday.
Just as the light aircraft had impressed when they opened the show, so too the 'heavy' C-47s: Douglas Sky Train ‘Drag 'em Oot’ in her D-Day 1944 USAAF markings and Aero Legends' more recently acquired ‘Pegasus’ in RAF livery, were imposing from the moment they rumbled down Headcorn's grass strip: the first time both ‘Pegasus’ and ‘Drag 'em Oot’ had flown together since the pair were used to drop over 1000 parachutists into events throughout Normandy as part of the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
Jon Corley and Peter Kuypers took the Dakotas on circuits of the airfield, mostly in tandem configuration and often battling not only the wind but also very limited visibility. On Sunday, because of the conditions, the display by the Dakotas followed the Balbo and became the final display but on Saturday the pair held off after their circuits to await their role in the Balbo.
The Balbo itself was a pared down version of the all-Aero-Legends mass formation that had been planned, missing the light aircraft, but still demonstrated the growing strength of the Aero Legends fleet. On Saturday the formation comprised ‘Drag 'em Oot’ escorted by the Texans and ‘Pegasus’ escorted by the Spitfires whereas the slightly earlier Balbo on Sunday lost the unwell USAF Texan.
The Battle of Britain Airshow may not have been quite up to the billing. The weather was to blame for that. But it was a rare opportunity for airshow fans to enjoy a variety of aircraft flying in commemoration of a battle that took place in the same skies 80 years before. And it is the organisers and Aero Legends to thank for that. The date for the diary if you wish to enjoy next year's show at Headcorn, hopefully unaffected by the weather or Covid-19, is 25th - 27th June 2021.
The Aerodrome is about 15 minutes (in normal traffic) south of Junction 8 of the M20. Use Sat Nav TN27 9HX until you get close, but ignore the sat nav in favour of local directions signs as soon as you see them.
There are links to other route planners in the Travel Advice section.
Headcorn has its own railway station on the London Charing Cross to Ashford International line. A taxi from the station to the aerodrome takes about 5 minutes in normal traffic.
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.
The location is already built in to the link but please check, and change as necessary, the dates, number of rooms and number of guests.
There are six Premier Inn hotels in the Ashford and Maidstone areas within about 15 miles of the aerodrome and several more slightly further away.
Travelodge have five hotels within 16 miles; the closest is in Maidstone about 9 miles away.
Click any of the blue names to go to the corresponding web site. The links already have the location built in, but please check, and change as necessary, the dates, number of rooms and number of guests.
A full 7 day local weather forecast from the UK Met Office
The Met Office 7-day forecast includes actual and "feels like" temperatures, the likelihood of rain, wind speed, wind direction, wind gusts and visibility: the latter can have an impact on the viability of displays.
The BBC's 14-day forecast has overall conditions including and hourly estimate of temperature, wind direction, wind speed and UV range.
Click the blue-text link to go to the forecast. The location is already built into the links.