Cosford wows, Starfighter stuns, and more RAF celebrations
In 1938, the Royal Air Force’s twentieth anniversary year, 88 aerodromes hosted Empire Air Day events. RAF Hendon’s featured among its participants Hawker Fury 1 K5674, then on the strength of No 43 Squadron. Eighty years later, the same aircraft−airworthy with the Historic Aircraft Collection (HAC) at IWM Duxford since 2012− appeared at the Royal Air Force’s official centennial airshow, held in glorious weather on 10 June 2018. Giving its first ‘away’ performance in Charlie Brown’s hands, the silver biplane was one of the RAF Cosford airshow’s many stars.
Magnificent static and well focussed flying displays made for an outstanding RAF100 celebration enjoyed by an estimated 60,000 visitors. On the ground, aircraft spanning the RAF’S past century− some locally-sourced, others from much further afield−were exhibited in four ‘villages’. ‘Policing the Empire’, covering 1918-1938, featured Oliver Wulff’s BE2E A2943 alongside the RAF Museum’s Sopwith 1½ Strutter A8226 and Bristol M1C C4994, and the Great War Display Team’s replica Sopwith Triplane N500. HAC’S Hawker Nimrod II K3661 from IWM Duxford, and BAE Systems’ Blackburn B2 G-AEBJ and DH60 Cirrus Moth G-EBLV from Old Warden took spectators through a PRE-WWII line-up completed by Bicester resident Tiger Moth T7109/G-AOIM. Additional RAFM input included (ex-hendon, now Cosford) Boulton Paul Defiant I N1671, Lysander III R9125−shown mid-renovation−and Gladiator I K8042 representing the late-1930s frontline RAF.
Duxford-based warbirds constituted much of the ‘World at War’ (1939-1945) village’s content, including The Fighter Collection’s Curtiss Hawk 75, HAC’S Spitfire LF Vb BM597, Propshop’s newly-flown Spitfire PR XI PL983 and David and Mark Miller’s camouflaged DH89A Rapide G-AGJG (X7344). Centrepiece of ‘The Age of Uncertainty’ (1945-1999) was a splendid Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) line-up headed by the RAFM’S Gloster F9/40 DG202. To its right sat GJD Services’ Hunter T7 XL573 and Phantom FG1 XV582 Black Mike and, in between them, the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre’s Lightning F53 ZF580 that GJD had restored and repainted in No 74 Squadron ‘Tigers’ markings.
Resident DSAE (Defence School of Aeronautical Engineering) assets were out in force. Tornado F3 ZE340 rounded off the QRA line, while Jaguar GR3A Xx725−one of at least a dozen positioned around the site−and Tornado GR1 ZD793 made a sand-painted Gulf War trio with GJD’S Buccaneer S2B XX889
from Bruntingthorpe. Extracted from local storage, the Boulton Paul Association’s Balliol T2 replica, built around the cockpit of genuine example WN149, stood out among more commonly-seen trainer designs. Flown in from North Weald, Jet Provost T3A XN459 was eye-catching in its new Red Pelicans scheme, while the Yorkshire Helicopter Preservation Group’s Whirlwind HAR10 XP345 made a pleasing search and rescue trio with DSAE’S Wessex HC2 XR498 and Sea King HAR3 XZ596.
‘The New Millennium’ (2000-topresent) brought the story up-todate with the new-generation H135 Juno and H145 Jupiter T1 training helicopters, Grob 120TP ‘Prefect’ basic trainer and, represented in model form, the F-35B Lightning II. Period vehicles, reenactors and various other tableaux added much extra atmosphere to this static array which alone formed a very worthy RAF100 tribute.
On top of it, though, came six hours’ flying. The programme opened, as is standard, with the RAF Falcons but thereafter proceeded chronologically, from the Great War Display Team’s fourship (SE5A, BE2C and Avro 504K) combat swirls to the Typhoon FGR4’S high-energy manoeuvring. Highlights were plentiful and they included John Romain’s graceful Blenheim display, a rare view of the BBMF’S outstanding ‘Trenchard Formation’ of Lancaster, Dakota, Spitfire IX MK356 and Hurricane IIC PZ865 and the Red Arrows. The
Flying Bulls’ Chief Helicopter Pilot, Siegfried Schwarz, memorably demonstrated both the Bölkow Bö105 CB’S extraordinary agility and Bristol Sycamore OE-XSY/ XG545’S stately handling. The Bö105 was notably the only civilian aerobatic ‘act’ involved, while the Sycamore was making its first of several UK flying appearances this summer.
The afternoon’s most striking and poignant sight was that of Air Leasing’s Hurricane I P2902, piloted by Dave Puleston, in tight formation with a Polish Air Force MIG-29 to honour the RAF’S WWII Polish fighter squadrons. The Mig’s punchy solo was among the numerous modern day international items that broke up the historic stream. Furthesttravelled visitor, the RNZAF’S Boeing 757’s impressive routine finished with a fast fly-by and vapour-tinged climb. New Belgian AF F-16 solo display pilot Captain Stefan ‘Vador’ Darte’s first public
Dark Falcon performance was excellent and so too Capitaine Sebestian Navitel’s scorching French AF Rafale C display – another show first - which won the Hartree Memorial Award for the best overall flying demonstration. In contrast came show regular Peter Teichman’s Cosford farewell in Spitfire PR XI PL965 and the last appearance of an RAF Tornado GR4, ahead of the type’s decommissioning in March 2019. The ‘swing-wing’ strike aircraft made two passes within the final hour’s mix of solo displays (Chinook HC6; Tutor T1 and Typhoon FGR4) and fly-throughs (Juno and Jupiter; Tutor trio; Tucano; Prefect; Hawk T2 four-ship and A400M Atlas). These represented today’s and tomorrow’s RAF well, but gave the show a somewhat fragmented end. No matter, for this was still a very special commemoration that set the bar high for 2018’s remaining RAF100 events.
From Meteor to Tornado – Cosford's spectacular Quick Reaction Alert line-up
Balliol T2 'WN149' was a rare sight among the static display's post-war trainers
Sopwith 1½ Strutter and Bristol M1C were the earliest RAFM aircraft on display in the open
Fury K5674: an RAF display participant in 1938 and again eighty years later
Jet Provost T3A XN459 appeared for the first time in its ‘new’
Hurricane and MIG-29 fly in salute to WWII’S RAF Polish fighter pilots
Hunter T7 XL573 here arriving from St Athan on the day prior to the show
All the way from New Zealand, this Boeing 757 performed impressively
The Yorkshire Helicopter Preservation Group’s immaculate Whirlwind HAR10 was brought in from Doncaster