25 airshows, 7 countries
My 1st year out with a Fuji HS10 camera!
Shuttleworth Collection Spring Airshow
With all the weather forecasts promising wall to wall sunshine I decided, last minute, to add this airshow to my agenda and try out my new camera. The sun shone but, unfortunately, the high winds tore the flying programme apart especially cancelling some of the older machines. Nevertheless there was some flying including the eagerly awaited debut of the Soviet built Polikarpov PO2. The 'Golden Apple' Sabre was the star for me, along with the Collection's own Hurricane and the Lysander.
Tiger Meet Airshow, Cambrai-Niergnies
The promise of sunshine and warmer temperatures did not really materialise, and the day became very cold at times. This was only the 2nd time out with my camera and even the professionals were admitting poor light conditions for photography, ranging from bright to gloomy. The colourful schemes of the Tiger aircraft, operating from the nearby Cambrai Épinoy - Base Aérienne 103, were silhouetted during their flypast. However it was Operational duties and the economic climate, not the weather, that caused a number of Military cancellations. Nevertheless there was still an excellent and varied flying programme consisting of military jets and helicopters, vintage and civilian acts. The Aerostars stole it for me, although the Turbulent Team went down very well with the crowd.
Duxford Spring Airshow, Cambridge
Very strong westerly winds were the cause of changes to the flying programme but, despite this, a varied and very skilful flying display was put on by all. The Meteor NF11, Catalina and Black Cats Display Team were my highlights.
28th & 29th May
With splendid views across the Thames Estaury this two day show always puts on good entertainment. Strong winds continued from the previous weekend and caused a number of changes to the flying programme, noteably the cancellation of the RAF Falcons and BBMF. Nevertheless the Vulcan and Reds, on alternative days, and the Blades never fail to impress. The RN Merlin gave a great display over the mud flats whilst the GR4 Tornado provided the noise element in their first display of the year.
Reds over Rye
Spots of rain and grey skies did not deter the locals from attending this one however they were, judging by their comments on the way back, left a little disapointed at just how far the displays were taking part outside of the town. The Reds were never going to display over the town so I had made my way to the West near the open fields and had a pretty good view. Most of the low passes would have been behind the houses if viewed from the town (where most had gathered). Some of the normal rear crowd passes actually happened in front of them! The start of the Reds display was considerably held up by two aircraft intrusions and was, at one stage, in jeopardy of being cancelled.
Margate's Big Event
The weather forecast could not have been more accurate on this one. A stormfront was expected at 4pm, and boy did it arrive on time. We had already been treated to the BBMF, tutor, Tucano and Hawk when the Sqaull hit, but as the rain subsided a single Tornado GR4 (the 2nd was u/s) treated us with a very dramatic display with plenty of vapour and its reheat lighting up against the still very dark skies. Whilst sheltering from further rain in the new Turner Gallery, XH558 made the most impressive entrance I have ever seen and right in front of the panoramic windows. Needless to say the gallery emptied to witness the rest of the Vulcan's show despite the rain. She departed into virtually blue skies!
Yet another show that I had not intended to attend, but the billing of an 8 Hawker Hunter formation took me on my first 240 mile round trip to Kemble, and I am glad I did! Team Viper with their 5 Hunters joined the pair from the Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation and 'Miss Demeanour'. Sadly Miss Demeanour was not able to complete her solo due to fuel venting issues. The single Gnat display also ended in drama but it also allowed for the unscheduled duo with the BBMF Spitfire whilst it checked the Gnats undercarriage following a faulty indicator lamp.
1st & 2nd July
Airpower 2011, Zeltweg
For me the highlight of the year and arguably the best European Airshow of 2011. Decent weather and a stunning backdrop made my 1st trip to Austria all the worthwhile. This was to be the first European appearance of the Saudi Hawks however their Saturday show was prematurely ended when one of their aircraft suffered a bird strike. This was not the only drama. Unfortunately two paratroopers got entangled during the Forces show and suffered serious injuries. This part of the show was curtailed whilst the troopers were airlifted from the airfield. The para drops were cancelled on the Sunday. Despite these setbacks the 10 hour flying programme was excellent with numerous Aerobatic Teams and the debut of the Austrian Typhoon Solo Display. The amount of photos indicate just how varied the programme was.
6th & 7th July
65 Years Airforce, Koksijde AFB
A quick dash back from Austria, a couple of days back at work and then a short channel crossing led me back to Koksijde for the second time. In addition to the Saudi Hawks, and numerous other teams, there was the USAF Thunderbirds. Wednesday's show was in mainly Blue Skies but Thursday ended in a Heavy downpour. Unusually this was a mid-week show, however an evening show on the first day provided a stunning orange backdrop for the later acts.
Airday Yeovilton RNAS
For me the best UK show of the year, a little bit of rain but the varied line up provided plenty of WOW moments culminating in their famous Commando Assault Finale where the RN appear to throw everything they have into it including plenty of Pyro Technics (although it is a somewhat depleted show compared to the memories I have back in my youth!). The pairing of XH558 and the Sea Vixen was a definite highlight but this show also attracted the participation of the Polish Mig29 Fulcrum and the French Navy's Super Entard and Rafale. Team Viper and a strong presence from the RAF complimenting the varied RN acts made the 275 mile round trip well worth the journey.
15th,16th &17th July
RIAT 2011, RAF Fairford
You don't get to see the Saudi Hawk's but this was the 3rd airshow in 7 days that I have seen them (but no complaints!). Weather was not at its best but generally all acts displayed at some stage apart from the Patrulla Aguilla, a team that I am in need of a photo. I never had a camera with me on previous sitings. This would, however, be the 1st siting of the Turk solo F16 display.
13th & 14th August
Airborne 2011, Eastbourne
Another Seaside show but nevertheless a great line up of acts. I spent Saturday on the Centre axis getting some close up views but ventured up to Beachy Head for the Sunday. Blowey would be an understatement but some stunning and close up views of aircraft arriving and departing the display axis.
19th, 20th & 21st August
MAKS 2011, Zhukovsky, Moscow
Arranging the necessary VISA's was a chalenge in itself but somehow I managed to get into Russia and then travel alone out of Moscow to the venue. Having arrived on Friday, following a night flight, I decided to drop my bags at my hotel and travel straight to Zhukovsky. I'm glad I did as this day was the best for weather and display flying. Saturday and Sunday was hampered by Heavy downpours including flooding to the venue. However there was flying every day and I got to see the aircraft and aerobatic teams that I had gone to see. With more MIGs and Sukhois than you can shake a stick at, this show was never going to disappoint. The display of the Sukhoi SU-35 was simply out of this world and by far the best display of all time.
27th & 28th August
From Moscow I caught a direct Aeroflot flight to Warsaw, my first trip to Poland. After a couple of days relaxing in 100 deg temperatures around the Krakow Lakes and an emotional visit to Auschwitz, I attended Radom for both the Saturday and Sunday shows. The Sunday show was somewhat cooler than the temperatures in previous days. Once again this was a show plenty of different acts and many that I had not seen before. The SU22 pair complete with flares was a highlight but for a military jet freak, I was in my element. This was my 1st siting of the Greek F16 solo display 'Zeus'.
3rd & 4th October
Having witness the USAF F15 display a couple of weeks earlier in Moscow it was nice to capture it with a background of blue skies! This was another excellent UK show, with a number of acts that I had not seen before.
Axalp 2011, Live Airpower Demo
My first trip to Switzerland and the now infamous Live Fire Demo...hmmm... both days were cancelled due to flooding in the local area in the days leading up. However it was not all doom and gloom as I somehow managed to struggle up the mountain just in time for the start of the afternoon's full rehearsal the day before! More bad news, my camera packed up and I was only able to get a few photos's of the later demo's (the camera was returned for repair on return to the UK). A stunning back drop, exiting and unique demo's gave me a taster of what was supposed to come. My agenda changed and I did get to see more of spectacular Switzerland than I had intended.
I'll be back!