Welcome to edition 80 of Aerodrome and our regular look into the fascinating world of aeroplanes and all things aviation. This latest edition coincides with the sad realisation that the 2017 Airshow season is now well and truly over and many of us have some long months ahead of us without the opportunity to get as close to aeroplanes as we would like. There are some positives though, which include the fact that next year marks the Centenary of the Royal Air Force and will surely result in a significant year for both the current RAF and the UK Airshow scene in general. We will also attempt to bring you plenty of interesting aviation content within Aerodrome until we all attend our first event of 2018 and try to help you avoid the winter aviation blues.
In this latest edition, we head back to the inaugural Scampton Airshow and the second instalment of our comprehensive review of this significant development for Airshow events in the UK. We will be looking at the interesting static aircraft display, which was a real highlight of the show and focus more closely on several of the aircraft taking part in the five hour flying display. We will see how a particular aircraft that featured in a previous edition of Aerodrome went on to thrill the crowds at this first Scampton event and will hopefully go on to become a regular at Airshows in future years. We end by looking at how this much anticipated Airshow was received by the public and discuss how it has the potential to become a significant addition to the annual Airshow calendar in the years to come.
Flying pride in Lincolnshire
This unusual formation announced the start of the show on both days
In the previous instalment of our Scampton Airshow review, we saw how this new event on the UK aviation scene re-established the close ties that have endured over the years between the people of Lincolnshire and the Royal Air Force. The loss of the Waddington International Airshow after the conclusion of the 2014 event was a bitter blow for the county and was an unwelcome development which stirred many local people into trying to ensure a major Airshow returned to Lincolnshire once more. This was seen as being important to allow both the continued commemoration of the heritage of ‘Bomber County’ and to allow local people the opportunity to get close to their current Royal Air Force. Thankfully, all this effort finally resulted in the announcement of a new show to be held at RAF Scampton, with Lincolnshire and the wider aviation community finally able once more to support a major Airshow in the county.
Now home to the Red Arrows, the inaugural Scampton Airshow was always going to be a significant celebration of the world’s most famous Aerobatic Display Team, but the organisers were also at great pains to ensure the new show paid tribute to RAF air power currently based within the Lincolnshire boundaries, as the county continues to be a staunch supporter of our serving air men and women. Commencing the display on both days of the show, The Red Arrows performed a nine-ship formation flypast with a Sentinel R.1 at its head, one of the RAF’s most capable electronic battlefield surveillance aircraft currently in service. Operated by No.5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron based at nearby Waddington, the Sentinel provides British forces with invaluable target tracking information in the Battlefield environment, allowing the soldiers on the ground to have the vital support of eyes in the sky.
This RAF E-3D Sentry is based at nearby Waddington and was the largest aircraft to perform at this first Scampton Airshow
Continuing the theme of current Lincolnshire based RAF aviation assets, the Saturday show also included a flypast by the impressive Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1, which has appeared all too infrequently at Airshows in recent times. Also based at RAF Waddington, the Sentry has to be considered one of the most impressive looking aircraft in current Royal Air Force operation and is another highly capable electronic warfare asset. Tasked with providing invaluable Airborne Warning and Control support (AWACS), in addition to serving as an airborne surveillance and command and control platform, the typical mission crew of this aircraft is eighteen people who are trained to exceptionally high standards for this demanding role. Able to mount patrols lasting many hours, the E-3D Sentries of the RAF are currently the only aircraft in UK service with the ability to be refuelled in the air using either the British probe and droguesystem, as well as the American flying boom fuel delivery method. These distinctive aircraft were deployed to RAF Coningsby during the runway refurbishment disruption at Waddington, but are now back at their home station, from where they undertake their vital missions.
Trying to lift the gloom at Scampton, Flt. Lt. Ryan Lawton and his impressive mount
Known to many UK enthusiasts as Fighter Town UK, RAF Coningsby is now one of the busiest stations in the Royal Air Force and home to Britain’s southern area QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) and the mighty Eurofighter Typhoon, the RAF's latest front-line fighter. As the nation’s current Spitfire, the Typhoon is one of the most exciting aircraft in the world, and without doubt the most capable aircraft to ever serve with the Royal Air Force – as such it is also a highlight act on any Airshow display programme where it is scheduled to appear. For these reasons, the honour of displaying the Typhoon to the British public is a significant one and this year was entrusted to No.29(R) Squadron based at Coningsby and pilot Flt. Lt. Ryan Lawton. Selection as the Typhoon display pilot for the year almost guarantees aviation hero status during the Airshow season and I am certain that Ryan will have been treated like a celebrity every time he has been in a position to meet his adoring public. Displaying the Typhoon serves to illustrate his undoubted flying skills, whilst also underlying the skill, professionalism and capabilities of today’s Royal Air Force. The challenging conditions over the weekend of the show will have certainly restricted the type of display that could be performed by many of the aircraft taking part, but the Typhoon still managed to give a dramatic demonstration of its awesome capabilities in what was one of its final Airshow appearances of the 2017 Airshow season.
‘Lest we forget’
The crowds were delighted to see the return of the BBMF to the UK Airshow circuit after a difficult year
Perhaps the most poignant commemoration of Lincolnshire’s association with the Royal Air Force and specifically bomber operations during the Second World War comes in the form of the much-loved Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. With their priceless aircraft also based at nearby Coningsby, the BBMF are currently celebrating their 60th Anniversary and whilst this is undoubtedly a significant occasion for both the Flight and the UK aviation enthusiast, this special year has not been without its difficulties. The pride of the fleet, Avro Lancaster PA474 underwent a major service at Duxford early in 2017 and with this highly specialised work overrunning somewhat, the bomber returned to the Airshow circuit later than would have originally been hoped, especially as this is such a significant anniversary year for the Flight. A further problem discovered recently with the Merlin engines that power most of the Flight’s aircraft saw the Lancaster, Hurricanes and Merlin powered Spitfires all removed from display duties until the problem could be rectified. This curtailed many of the late season display appearances of the BBMF, leaving Airshow crowds disappointed and the Flight’s personnel extremely frustrated – this situation was still plaguing the BBMF in the run up to the Scampton show and it was looking unlikely that these iconic aircraft would be able to take their place on the display programme of this significant inaugural event. Thankfully, following a herculean effort by the engineers, technicians and aircrew of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Avro Lancaster PA474, Spitfire PR XIX PS915 and Hurricane Mk.IIc PZ865 were able to pay their own unique tribute to Lincolnshire’s Bomber County heritage and delight the large crowds at Scampton.
As some of the most famous Airshow performers in the UK, these are extremely valuable aircraft and have strict operating parameters designed to preserve their safe operation for future generations. Unfortunately, the wind speeds at Coningsby on Sunday were such that they were outside the operating limits permitted for the aircraft, which were forced to stay safe under the protection of their hangar – this was certainly a major disappointment for many in the crowd at Scampton and left Saturday’s spectators feeling rather fortunate to have this memorable look at the BBMF in their 60th Anniversary year.
One of the highlights of the static display was certainly this classic Saab J32 Lansen
One of the undoubted highlights of the inaugural RAF Scampton Airshow was the imaginative aircraft static display arranged by the organisers, which included an eclectic combination of aircraft types that would be difficult to replicate at any event anywhere in the world. With aircraft on display that were designed in Britain, America, Russia and Sweden, it included an enviable variety of classic Cold War jet types that certainly had enthusiasts buying their tickets. Over recent years, the operation of classic jet aircraft at UK Airshows has rightly been coming in for some close scrutiny, but with famous aviation names like Hawker, Saab, McDonnell Douglas, Blackburn and Sukhoi all scheduled to be in attendance, it is no wonder that RAF Scampton was the place to be on this particular weekend.
Any Airshow which can boast the appearance of the magnificent aircraft of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight can always count on significant crowd numbers turning up to catch a glimpse of these rare birds, and even though their attendance at Scampton would unfortunately only be in the static aircraft display, this was still an opportunity too good to be missed. This was something of a coup for Scampton, as these are without doubt some of the most enigmatic airworthy classic jets in the world and appear all too infrequently at UK Airshow events these days. With four of the flight’s aircraft making the journey from their home base at Satenas (F7) (also home of the Skaraborg Air Force Wing), it was arguably one of their lesser known aircraft that could claim to be the star of the static display.
This early attack aircraft underlines Sweden’s determination to use indigenous aviation designs
The Saab J32 Lansen is a two-seat attack fighter of the Swedish Air Force which entered service in 1956 and went on to enjoy a long and distinguished career. Powered by a licence built version of the Rolls Royce Avon turbojet, the Lansen was an early generation jet aircraft, but one which was designed from the outset specifically to undertake all weather attack missions – one of the first such aircraft in the world. The aircraft proved to be such a successful design that it was later developed into both fighter and reconnaissance variants and although its appears to bear some similarity to several early fighter designs of the era, such as the North American Sabre, the Lansen was a proud achievement for the aviation industry in Sweden. This particular Lansen is the only airworthy example of the aircraft currently flying in the world and it has been many years since one of these attractive early jets has attended a UK Airshow – it is no wonder that the Saab Lansen came in for plenty of enthusiast attention over the weekend of the show.
Also representing the very early days of indigenous Swedish Air Force jet types, the delightful Saab J29 Tunnan (flying barrel) helps to illustrate the post war ambition of the Swedish military in pursuing their own aircraft designs, rather than simply buying an existing foreign design. Belying its almost comical appearance, the Tunnan was one of the most advanced aircraft in the world when it first entered service and was an incredibly effective fighter/attack platform.
Despite its appearance, the J29 Tunnan was an extremely capable early fighter design
Again adopting a licence built version of a British jet engine as its powerplant, this time in the form of the de Havilland Ghost turbojet, the J29 incorporated design information captured from the Germans at the end of WWII during its development and can claim to be only the second swept wing jet design to enter service in Western Europe after the ground-breaking Messerschmitt Me262. Without doubt, the diminutive Saab Tunnan is one of Europe’s classic jet aircraft designs and marks the transition from fledgling jet aircraft technology to effective and capable fighting aircraft, capable of pushing performance towards the speed of sound. As the only airworthy example of the aircraft in the world, it is no wonder that the aircraft of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight are amongst the most sought after display acts on the European Airshow scene.
Dragon and Thunderbolt
The aircraft of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight represent some of the world’s most exciting classic jets
As far as airworthy jets of the 60s and 70s are concerned, the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight are the custodians of two of the very best and arguably now the most exciting classic jets on the European Airshow circuit. At a time when many of the world’s smaller air forces elected to procure aircraft produced in the US, Soviet Union or Great Britain, the Swedish Air Force were determined to operate indigenous designs and this policy was responsible for producing two of the most exciting aircraft to appear in European skies – the Saab Draken and Viggen. Despite their age and the fact that both aircraft have been out of service for many years, both still look rather futuristic and certainly demand attention wherever they perform.
The Saab Draken looks as if it could star in an episode of Thunderbirds
The Saab SK35 Draken (Dragon) can trace its development history back to the early 1950s and almost looks as if it could have come straight from filming an episode of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds. A highly capable fighter of the Cold War era, the Draken holds the distinction of being the first fully supersonic aircraft to be deployed in Western Europe and was a contemporary of the British English Electric Lightning.
Without doubt, the Viggen is one of the most exciting historic aircraft in Europe
Perhaps even more spectacular looking, the Saab AJS37 Viggen (Thunderbolt) was one of the most capable aircraft in the world when it first entered service in 1971 and was specifically developed to be a highly complex and fully integrated fighting aircraft. Originally intended as a highly advanced replacement for the J32 Lansen, the Viggen proved to be such a capable aircraft that it developed into an attack fighter, fighter interceptor, reconnaissance platform, maritime strike and two-seat training aircraft – undoubtedly one of the most flexible aircraft in the world. Not only was this something of a thoroughbred aircraft, it was designed to be extremely rugged and capable of operating from the most basic of facilities – keeping any potential enemies on their guard, these exceptional aircraft were designed to operate away from their home bases as short notice, whilst retaining their full tactical effectiveness. With Sweden having vast forested areas and plenty of places to hide aeroplane, Viggens were regularly dispersed around the country, operating from improvised landing strips and public highways, but making their detection extremely difficult. With this being such a capable aircraft, this effective dispersal of assets would certainly have alarmed any potential aggressor nations.
Although unable to take part in the flying display, the Viggen was a huge draw for the crowds that headed to Scampton
As one of the most capable aircraft in the world, the Viggen has a number of significant achievements to its name and whenever the aircraft made one of its rare Airshow appearances in the UK, it would always draw large crowds of enthusiastic admirers. The aircraft had the distinction of being the first canard design in the world to be produced in quantity and the fighter interceptor variant was the only aircraft to obtain an acknowledged radar lock-on on the speedy and elusive US Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft. The attendance of these magnificent Swedish jet aircraft at the inaugural RAF Scampton Airshow was a real bonus for aviation enthusiasts and although they only managed to grace the static aircraft display on this occasion, many will be hoping that a future Scampton show may see them included in the flying programme.
Classic jets galore
Several classic Hawker Hunters are based at Scampton with HHA
For the classic and historic jet enthusiasts, Scampton 2017 will be remembered for serving up a unique collection of static jet aircraft, the combination of which was unlikely to be seen anywhere else in the world. As well as being the home of the Red Arrows, RAF Scampton is also the home base of Hawker Hunter Aviation (HHA), who own and operate a fascinating collection of jet aircraft. As their name suggests, the most numerous aircraft owned by the group is the classic Hawker Hunter and their aircraft are employed in providing specialist aerial support on behalf of defence contractors and government agencies. Operated on the military register as opposed to the civilian equivalent, these aircraft provide vital support in assisting with aerial trials and threat simulation missions, using specialist electronic equipment to enable them to mimic the attack profiles of numerous aircraft types. Allowing RAF aircrew to train and respond to unfamiliar hostile aircraft threats, they protect both the flying hours and airframe fatigue life of existing front-line aircraft, which is important in these cost-conscious times.
UK enthusiasts will hope to see this aircraft take to the skies once more
One of the most unusual aircraft in the HHA fleet is this Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter
Also part of the HHA fleet and resident at RAF Scampton are a number of other classic jets that are rarely seen by UK enthusiasts, but were part of the magnificent static display for this inaugural event. With all aircraft kept in either ground running or inhibited storage condition, all are potentially capable of returning to flight once more, should they be required and there is the tantalising prospect that these relics of the Cold War era could be seen in the skies around Lincolnshire in future years. Representing British air power is Blackburn Buccaneer S.2B (XX885) which has long been rumoured to be returning to flight operations in the UK and appears to be kept in pristine condition. I remember seeing this aircraft ground running and operating its wing folding mechanism at an HHA open day some years ago and many would welcome the sight of a Buccaneer in the air once more.
Still one of the most popular jet aircraft in the history of flight, the Phantom will always draw a crowd wherever it appears
A stablemate of the Buccaneer at Scampton is this real Eastern Block warhorse, in the shape of a swing-wing Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter, which has to be the absolute epitome of an adversarial aircraft, looking all the more sinister for its rather dishevelled appearance. Last but certainly not least is the jet aircraft probably qualifies for the name Cold War Classic better than any other – the magnificent McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom II. This aircraft is one of two which could be based at Scampton in the future, with the second aircraft currently undergoing maintenance in Germany, but already allocated the registration ZK848, offering the distinct hope that at least one of these aircraft may take to the skies once more. The Phantom can boast legions of devoted fans and should one take to the skies above Scampton at any point in the future, the airfield perimeter is likely be packed with camera toting enthusiasts, all hoping to record this momentous occasion.
Scampton 2017 – A photographic record
With so much to see and do at this first Scampton Airshow, there really is enough material to compile several review blogs. To help bring you a flavour of this enjoyable event, here is a selection of images featuring some of the aircraft taking part in both the static and flying displays.
This CF-188 Hornet was flown from Canada to attend the show
This Belgian Air Force F-16 provided an international flavour to the flying programme
One of the highlights of the flying display was this French Air Force Alpha Jet
Classic British aviation, in the shape of this Percival Pembroke
The most enthusiastic take off was performed by this Pitts aerobatic aircraft
Boeing B-17G ‘Sally B’ is a firm favourite on the UK Airshow circuit
This Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is an extremely agile performer
An unusual view of two WWII classic aircraft at Scampton
De Havilland Vampire Pair of the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron
This converted Boeing 727 gave a dramatic display of its spraying capabilities
Could Scampton Airshow become a major celebration of our Royal Air Force?
Bumping into an ‘old friend’
We end this review of the inaugural RAF Scampton Airshow by featuring a beautiful little aircraft which starred in an edition of Aerodrome posted earlier this year. Back in March, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the training day for members of the Gazelle Squadron Display Team at Bourne Park Airfield in Hampshire and get up close to the Gazelle helicopters operated by the team. An extremely professional organisation, it seemed as if 2017 would be a significant year for the team, who would be asked to attend and perform at more events that they had done previously. Well, that certainly appears to have been the case and there was an impressive complement of ‘Whistling Chicken Legs’ at this first Scampton show
It was such a treat to see Gazelle ZB627 entertaining the crowds at Scampton
It was initially hoped that the Gazelle Squadron display slot would include a pairs routine by two of their beautifully presented helicopters, however this did not turn out to be the case, with just Gazelle HT.3 ZB627/A ‘Ginger’ braving the elements to showcase the talents of this diminutive helicopter which used to be such a feature of British Airshows. For many Airshow regulars in the audience, the distinctive sight and sound of a Gazelle display would have brought back many happy memories, but for myself, this was a very pleasant reunion with one of the aircraft I was fortunate to get close to earlier in the year – in fact, I was extremely lucky to be allowed on board this very aircraft to document one of the training sorties that were conducted during my visit.
Westland Gazelle HT.3 (G-CBSK) ‘Ginger’ was procured as an RAF training aircraft and given the military serial ZB627. Flying for the first time on 18 May 1982, the helicopter was delivered to the Royal Air Force on 13 July of the same year, and served primarily with 2FTS at RAF Shawbury, the RAF’s rotary training establishment in Shropshire. He also served with 7 Squadron based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, used for night vision reconnaissance sorties, painted in an olive drab colour scheme – the only Gazelle to wear such a scheme.
There is nothing like having a Whistling Chicken Leg on an Airshow programme
He was flown back to RAF Shawbury on 17 September 1997, though not for continued service but for storage and onward sale to a military or civilian customer. Ginger was purchased by London Helicopter Centres Ltd at Redhill in Surrey and registered as G-CBSK on 6 June 2002. He was then sold to Knoland Aviation Ltd, before finally being purchased by Falcon Aviation at Bourne Park and registered to them on 2 November 2011. London Helicopter Centres repainted Ginger back in to his RAF 2FTS colour scheme, which he has retained throughout his civilian life.
It was such a treat to see this aircraft performing in the flying programme of the very first Scampton Airshow and a personal highlight of the 2017 season for me. It is also a fine way to bring this review of the show to an end, but not before I congratulate the organisers one final time. Many will certainly hope that this was just the first of many Scampton shows to come and the successes of this initial event will serve to ensure this remains a permanent fixture on the UK Airshow scene. It would also be nice to think that the RAF may adopt this Airshow as their own and support it wholeheartedly in the future, making as many assets available as they possibly can to ensure this is a celebration of today’s Royal Air Force and its links with the county of Lincolnshire. Whatever its future, I intend to return to Scampton Airshow as many times as I possibly can in the future, keen to sample the delights of this truly historic aviation venue and to chart the development of this event.