Past Airshows

RNAS Culdrose Air Day

Last show was in 2016

Sea Vixen

The Sea Vixen flew in 2015 but weather prevented a display in 2016

Air Day was held at RNAS Culdrose annually, usually in July, until 2016.

The last successful Air Day was held in 2015. The show was one of the best of the year. In mostly blue skies the displays included teams from overseas, including Frecce Tricolori and the best of british, including the Sea Vixen and Richard Goodwin.

A repeat of the excellence was not possible. What turned out to be the very last Culdrose Air Day in 2016 promised much, but delivered little, thanks to the Great British weather.

The show was to have started with a flypast by Belgian F-16s. They were in the area but the weather forced them to avoid the airbase so they continued directly to Spain. The Belgian Sea King from No 40 Squadron, based at Koksijde, which was to have provided a search and rescue demonstration, held nearby but abandoned any display attempt, eventually touching down and being towed off to the static display area.

There was some excitement when the Sea Vixen was also said to be holding off Torbay awaiting a break in the cloud, but the break never came and Foxy Lady was sent home.

Commentator George Bacon did his best to reassure visitors that something would happen until Commander Ian Fitter announced that it wouldn't.

So in the end, the only aircraft movements of the day were the recovery of six Hawks who found a brief break in the weather to return to base from operations; a Sea Harrier trio who provided welcome relief with a taxi up and down the runway and a couple of would-be display aircraft departing for home. Otherwise, activity was left to the ground.

Following that unfortunate experience, Air Day 2017 was cancelled, ostensibly because the Commanding officer wanted to concentrate on the core business of the base.

Nor further Air-Days have been held at RNAS Culdrose.

Official statement concerning the cancellation of the 2017 show

2017 promises to be a very important, and busy, year for Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose. 80% of the Air Station’s front line aircraft and personnel are already serving on operations or at very high readiness to deploy all around the world. Delivering this high operational tempo, protecting Royal Navy ships and submarines above, on and below the waves, takes much training, planning and effort – but life at the Helston based Air Station is going to get even busier.

This year will see a new era of ‘Carrier Aviation’ when HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of the Nation’s two new aircraft carriers, sails into Portsmouth. RNAS Culdrose has a vital part to play on board this new flagship, and personnel need to be ‘carrier ready’ for this significant event. Therefore due to this focus, and existing operational commitments, RNAS Culdrose will not hold an Air Day in 2017.

The Commanding Officer of Culdrose, Captain Dan Stembridge ADC said: “We have had to make the regrettable decision to not hold an Air Day this year in order to focus our resources on delivering our primary roles; to protect the Strategic Nuclear Deterrent, support Counter Terrorism and be ready to defend the Royal Navy’s Carrier Task Groups.”

“HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Nation’s new flagship, will sail into Portsmouth Harbour this year. The carriers are the most powerful ships ever built by the UK and will have a lifespan of 50 years. They will be capable of high intensity war-fighting and global counter terrorism, through to defence engagement, disaster relief and humanitarian aid. It is essential that RNAS Culdrose is fully prepared to support the aircraft carriers when they deploy with trained personnel and aircraft. Indeed one of my squadrons will provide the very first aircraft to land on her deck. This significant milestone will be a proud moment in history for Culdrose, Helston and the County of Cornwall.”

"This new focus comes as many of my personnel and aircraft are already deployed protecting the nation’s interests worldwide. Indeed 80% of my front line personnel are currently on operations or at very high readiness to deploy."

"Culdrose remains one of the largest single site employers in Cornwall and has a very bright future. Our unique relationship with the people of Cornwall is hugely important to us, and provides essential support to our families during periods of separation. The Air Day decision has involved much deliberation and we appreciate that many will be disappointed, however operations must come first. There is a lot of work to be done to deliver air power from our nation’s new carriers; and we must be ready.”

Photos from Culdrose

See our photos taken at Air Day 2015

About RNAS Culdrose

Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose, also known as HMS Seahawk, is a Royal Navy Air Station near Helston on the Lizard Peninsular in Cornwall.

RNAS was designed to be a wartime airfield. It was identified as a potential base in 1942 but by the time it was commissioned in 1947 the needs had changed.

Originally a Naval Fighting School it has served as a training base for the first Navy Jets, training for early warning crews, and as a home base for carrier crews.

Whilst retaining some fixed wing aircraft, the base has moved towards rotary and is now the largest helicopter base in Europe with 75 aircraft and 3,000 personnel. It also has a very strong naval training and support role and was the Royal Navy Search and Rescue base for the area until the transfer of the service to Bristow Helicopters, based at Newquay Airport. More about RNAS Culdrose.

Dunsfold Wings and Wheels

Dunsfold Aerodrome, near Cranleigh

Red Arrows at Dunsfold 2019

The Red Arrows at Wings 'n Wheels 2019

About Dunsfold

Dunsfold airfield was built by the Royal Canadian Army in 1942. It was originally an emergency airfield and sometime home to B25s, Mustangs, Spitfires and other WWII craft. Following the war, the airfield was a repatriation centre which handled over 47,500 prisoners of war and also played a part in the Berlin airlift in 1948/9.

The airfield was involved in the development of the Harrier, Hawk, Hunter and other aircraft when it was owned by Hawker Aircraft Company Ltd (now part of BAE systems), but after nearly 50 years of Hawker / British Aerospace history, it was finally closed in 1999.

The aerodrome is currently a private unlicensed airfield, part of an industrial estate, a location for practice flights by the Chinook amongst others and home to 'Top Gear'.

There was one airshow a year. The very early and the final show were in June but most were over the late August Bank Holiday weekend. Predominantly a show for families rather than an aviation purists, it offered fairground rides, stalls-a-plenty, circus-type antics and a well supported two- and four-wheel static and moving motor show as well as around 5 hours of flying each day: with virtually the same line-up on each of the two days.

The Southeast Air Show, Herne Bay

Red Arrows rollbacks

The show depended on RAF Team allocations

New to the airshow circuit in 2015, the debut line-up at Herne Bay was very impressive. This smaller, young, show was immediately able to compete in many respects with the longer-standing and better known seaside shows.

The WW2 survivor, Hangar 11's Mustang was an early booking. This Mustang had been flying as Jumpin' Jacques but for 2016 was repainted to represent the role that it actually flew towards the end of the war, when it was part of the American 332nd Fighter Group known as "The Tuskegee Airmen", referred to as "The Red Tails".

Also due to fly were three vintage jets: Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron's Vampire pair and the Sea Vixen. Unfortunately these three had to cancel. The Sea Vixen had developed a problem with one of the flaps just before a display earlier in the day at Eastbourne and had returned to base at Yeovilton.

Nevertheless, vintage jets were still well represented and included the Jet Provost pair of Dan Arlett in T.5A XW324 and Ollie Suckling in Jet Provost T.3 XN637. Dan and Ollie are both members of the JP Display Team but this was the first year they displayed as a duo: their pairs debut was just a few days earlier at Eastbourne's Airbourne.

Mark Petrie's BAC Strikemaster, in its grey Oman livery, the Gnat Display Team and the MiG-15 brought up to six the number of vintage jets - a rare achievement for an airshow in the post-Shoreham era.

Amongst other displays worth noting were the Westland Wasp, light aerobatics and family fun displays such as the Wingwalkers and the Turbulent Team.

The organisers deserve huge credit for bringing such a variety of displays to a show that may be relatively small in size but is big and becoming even greater in reputation.

A repeat of this free seaside airshow in 2016 was conditional on being awarded a display by the Red Arrows. The Red Arrows did confirm and so the show did go on.

Not only did the RAF confirm The Red Arrows, they also allocated the Eurofighter Typhoon and the BBMF trio including the iconic Lancaster, which had missed so many shows in 2015 and earlier in 2016 because of a series of technical problems.

The show may be remembered by many for the incident in which DRUINE D.31 Turbulent G-ARNZ ditched in the sea, flipped over and was righted by spectators, thankfully, without serious damage or injury.

A less-reported incident was the failure of the parachute of Tigers Parachute Display Team member LCpl Chris Smith who came in on his reserve 'chute just seconds after the landing of the tandem pair of Cpl Frank Millerick and LCpl Jake Manwaring who had dropped as a tandem pair, one upright and one inverted.

As in 2016, the third running of this free seaside airshow in 2017 was conditional on being awarded displays by the RAF. Displays by the Red Arrows and the Typhoon were awarded and so the airshow did go ahead.

Other displays included the Wildcats, Terry Martin's Westland Wasp, the Kent Spitfire and Hurricane, Strikemaster and the Aerosparx Twilight Display. It was hoped that the Sea Vixen would also display, but 'Foxy Lady' was damaged during a wheels-up landing on return from a display at Duxford and is not expected to return to flight before 2019.

On the ground, attractions included static aircraft, the 'Trench' experience with a converted 40ft container featuring the sights and sounds of a Great War trench, live music and the usual trade stalls on the lawns either side of the bandstand and on the sea side of Central Parade.

Unfortunately, a planned 2018 Herne Bay (South East) Airshow was cancelled and none have been held since

Llandudno Airshow

The last airshow in Llandudno was in 2015

Catalina

PBY Catalina, one of the 2015 displays

The organisers cancelled the show in 2016 in the wake of the new safety regulations, introduced following the incident at the Shoreham Airshow in 2015. When the 2016 Llandudno airshow was cancelled Edward Hiller, Managing director of Mostyn Estates Ltd, which organised the event, is reported in the local newspaper, the Daily Post, as saying the decision to cancel the 2016 show had not been taken lightly but that there was not enough time to implement the new rules.

He was reported as saying that the new CAA regulations were the key factor, but that there were other considerations. The company hoped to be in a position to organise a show in 2017.

However, that show was not held and there has been no published information about that or any future show.

The Llandudno airshow traditionally brought a blend of military and civilian displays to the coast, simultaneously celebrating charitable work for blind veterans and servicemen. We sincerely hope that the airshow organisers will find the revised safety regulations manageable and that the airshow will return at some future date, for the benefit not only of airshow fans and the local community, but of the charities the show supports.

Manston (South East) Airshow

Vulcan at Manston 2013

The Vulcan at Manston

In August 2013, nearly twenty years after the previous show at the location, Kent International Airport, alias Manston Airport, once RAF Manston, once again played host to an airshow.

The show promised much and the line-up was good, including the Vulcan, Sea Fury, Dutch B-25 Mitchell, Red Star Rebels in L-29s, Sally B and Hawker Hunter 'Miss Demeanour'.

Photos from Manston 2013

See our photos taken at the Manston Airshow

However, the traffic problems that beset the former RAF Manston shows returned to plague its reincarnation, hitting many visitors with queues so long that they abandoned their intended visit.

The weather was an enemy, too, causing several display cancellations and making access to the car parking tricky and slow, no doubt adding to the traffic problems.

The attempt to hold a show at Manston has not been repeated.

Scampton Air Show

Red Arrows

The Red Arrows are based at RAF Scampton

This was a new UK airshow which enjoyed its debut in 2017. Although it was on an RAF base, and unlike the RAF Cosford Air Show, it was not run by the RAF. It was organised for, and raised funds to benefit, the RAF Charitable Trust (RAFCT), which also organises RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) at RAF Fairford.

There were about 50,000 visitors to the show over its two days in 2017 but mixed reviews of what turned out to be, the one and only Scampton airshow.

Following the show, the organisers said they would skip 2018 with the aim of staging an improved show in 2019. Their statement is in the beige-coloured box.

In practice, there were no further shows at Scampton.

About RAF Scampton

The original airfield on the site was a WW1 landing field called Brattleby. It was abandoned after the first war in favour of agriculture but taken back into military use and expanded to meet the threats posed to national security in the 1930s. The new Royal Air Force Station Scampton returned to active operations in 1936 and became home to bombers in WW2, most famously Hampdens, Manchesters and Lancasters.

Nine Hampdens from RAF Scampton, six of them led by Guy Gibson, flew the first RAF offensive of WW2, just 6 hours after the declaration of war. The last RAF bombing mission of WW2 was also launched from RAF Scampton, as part of an attack on Obersalzberg.

RAF Scampton was home to 617 (Dambusters) Squadron: the Dambusters Raid was launched from here.

After the war, RAF Scampton was home to Canberras and Vulcans but in 1982 the station reverted to a training role until 1996, when it was to have closed. In practice, in remained in use as an overflow from RAF Waddington and the Red Arrows continued to train in its airspace.

RAF Scampton is now the base for the Red Arrows, No 1 Air Control Centre and the Mobile Meteorological Unit.

Statement by the show

On September 9-10 Scampton Airshow Limited, with the support of the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises (RAFCTE), RAF personnel and a hardworking team of volunteers successfully staged a new airshow at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. The two-day event attracted 50,000 visitors from the East of England and beyond. Organising an aviation event on the scale of the Scampton Airshow involved many stakeholders, significant planning and we are very proud of what was collectively delivered.

However, post-event there remains a lot to reflect on and areas where we would like to improve. As the organiser, we have concluded that rather than stage an airshow in 2018, we will use next year to fully consider the many lessons learnt with the ambition of running an event in 2019. We are very grateful to the many volunteers, sponsors, participants and local agencies, as well as the many thousands of people who attended September's airshow, for their support.

Waddington

New airshow at RAF Scampton replaced the RAF Waddington Airshow

Red Arrows

Red Arrows

The last airshow at RAF Waddington was in 2014, following which there was a planned pause whilst extensive work was carried out to the runways. Overrunning work and silence about the return of the show in 2016 led to suspicions, subsequently confirmed, that there would be no more airshows at RAF Waddington for the foreseeable future.

The RAF Waddington International Air Show, to give it its full title, until 2014 the RAF's major UK airshow, was a two-day show. It ran for 20 years and attracted over 135,000 visitors, raising millions for local and RAF charities. In 2014 alone the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF), the Royal Air Force Association (RAFA), Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and the RAF Museum, each received over £55,000 and another £39,000 went to Station Charities.

The official reason for scrapping the show was that there were significant security concerns and operational risks. Following an MOD review of involvement in airshows, and to confirm their commitment to a show in the area, the RAF said back in September 2015 that an alternative air show may be held at RAF Scampton, but not before 2017 at the earliest. In the meantime the RAF said they would have to sort out significant legal, commercial and infrastructure issues. The RAFCT, were significant contributors to that review.

Then in November 2015, the Lincolnshire Echo reported that Lord Howe, the Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, had confirmed in a letter to Sir Edward Leigh that RAF Scampton could be the venue for a Lincolnshire Airshow in or after 2017.

Lord Howe, more fully The Rt Hon Earl Howe, was also the Deputy leader of the House of Lords so carried some influence.

Sir Edward Leigh, MP for the Gainsborough constituency, which includes RAF Scampton, was said to be a long-time supporter of RAF Scampton and of the Red Arrows, sometimes credited with helping to make sure they were not axed as part of defence budget cuts.

The letter was prompted by an enquiry from the leader of the local authority, West Lindsey District Council, who supported the move of the airshow to their district, especially because of the benefits to tourism in the area.

It was reported on the local Conservative party web site that Sir Edward welcomed the possibility that the International Air Show might move to RAF Scampton saying.

“Lincolnshire is great flying country and has a proud RAF history, which are the perfect ingredients for an international air show .... Scampton should be a perfect alternative to Waddington and I hope the RAF and locals will work together to make it happen ... It's a great opportunity for the area and for the county.”

The Lincolnshire Echo article also contained an inference that the aircraft for any show could be based at RAF Scampton whilst, if public access to the base raises security concerns, the public areas could be at the nearby Lincolnshire Showground.

Another chapter in the story of a possible new airshow at RAF Scampton to replace the RAF Waddington Airshow was written on 19th February, when the RAF Charitable Trust (RAFCT) announced that it had reached an agreement in principle with the Royal Air Force to organise an airshow at RAF Scampton.

The announcement by the RAFCT, which also organises the RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) at RAF Fairford, confirmed commitment to RAF airshows and left the future of the Scampton Airshow in experienced and very capable hands.

The new airshow had its own Scampton Airshow website at the time, on which the RAFCT Chairman, Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson, was quoted as saying:

"The East of England is a heartland of the Royal Air Force and has an enormous number of aviation enthusiasts. Bringing a new airshow to the area is an exciting prospect that will involve a lot of planning and support. Our Charity is delighted to rise to the challenge of staging an aviation spectacle befitting an RAF station that was once the base of the legendary 617 'Dambusters' Squadron and is now home to the world famous Red Arrows. Having agreed to stage an airshow at RAF Scampton in September 2017 at the earliest, work will now begin on looking at the finer details."

The Chief Executive of RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises, Andy Armstrong, said:

"My team has a wealth of experience organising airshows and over the coming months we'll engage with local agencies and community representatives to deliver a new, exciting and enjoyable day out for the whole family.

"Across Lincolnshire, there's a great appetite for a new airshow and we are determined to create one whose identity reflects the region's strong aviation links - past, present and future."

The RAF Waddington International Air Show did not return and the RAF Scampton show was, indeed, held in 2017, although it proved to be short-lived.

Welshpool Air Show

Red Arrows

The Red Arrows performed a flypast in 2017

Following a discussion between the Welshpool Town Council and Bob Jones, it was agreed that the Town Council would run a new airshow at the Mid-Wales Airport and that Bob Jones, the airport owner, would provide the air facilities and run the aviation side of the event. The first such show was held in 2008.

Major teams, including the Red Arrows and the Vulcan featured in displays at Welshpool which attracted thousands of visitors from its inauguration through until 2017, in 2015 winning the Wales Tourist Board Silver Award, Best Small Event. The show became known as the Welshpool (Bob Jones Memorial) Air Show following Bob's tragic death in an air accident in 2012.

The show also later absorbed the Welshpool Transport Festival. Despite excellent weather and attendance for many years, additional safety measures increased costs, and two consecutive poor-weather shows reduced income, resulting in "an unsustainable strain on financial resources which resulted in the decision to place the Air Show on hold" (Town Clerk, Robert Robinson, 2017).

In 2018 The Welshpool (Bob Jones Memorial) Airshow and Festival of Transport 2018 was cancelled by agreement between Linda Jones, the owner of the airport, and the Town Council. The show has not been held since then.

Wirral Airshow planned for 2016

Postponed to 2017 but not held

Red Arrows rollbacks

Red Arrows were scheduled to fly

The Wirral's first ever airshow was scheduled for 6th and 7th August 2016. The Red Arrows, Typhoon, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and King Air Display Teams were all scheduled to fly. However, problems making local arrangements in time led the Council to tell the organisers to postpone the event until 2017.

As well as agreeing arrangements with the teams due to fly, the Civil Aviation Authority and others, every airshow has to agree local arrangements for such things as traffic management, emergency procedures, car parking and safety.

The local authority say that Jumbo Ltd., the private company organising the event, had not agreed the appropriate arrangements in time and that concerns about these local issues had lead their safety advisory committee, comprising representatives of the council, police and fire service to call for the event to be postponed until 2017.

Jumbo Ltd said they were trying to agree procedures but Wirral Council was convinced the show could not go ahead this year as planned.

The show’s web site continued to promote the show but with a change of date to 5th & 6th August 2017. However, neither the 2016 nor the 2017 shows took place.

This story was first in the local paper, the Wirral Globe, whose article is here.

 

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