Last years air show won’t go down in history as one of the best Waddington air shows. The Vulcan debarcle that saw it grounded for the weekend at the last minute, the cancellation of the Harrier role demo, the loss of the RAF role demo and little in the way of foreign military display acts left the air show to fall back on a number of civilian display teams.
An impressive performance by the Breitling Jet Team and one by my favourite displays in the form of the Chinook couldn’t hide the gaps in the line up nor stop the criticism from the enthusiasts. To be fair to the organisers they don’t have an easy task due to the date the show is held on.
A date clash with the air show at Koksijde leaves Waddington having to compete for the display acts from European military air forces and the more obvious clash with the fourth of July makes booking anything from the US Air Force understandably difficult.
So why not change the date? The date is forced upon them by the need to have enough accommodation available for the air crews attending the show. To meet this need the organisers have to make use of the University of Lincoln’s halls of residence. These are only available in the summer break when the students have vacated them. Moving the date outside this window would leave the organisers without enough accommodation .
The problems aside, the show needs to have a good 2010 to answer its critics. A task made harder by the Vulcan still undergoing maintenance at RAF Lyneham meaning the The Vulcan Operating Company can’t commit to any air shows until the work and test flights are complete. The 2008 and 2009 attendance numbers were helped considerably by the addition of the Vulcan. Without knowing if the Vulcan will be able to display the organisers haven’t been able to use the Vulcan to attract the large numbers it has in 2008 and 2009.
The announced flying displays for 2010 has all the display acts you would expect from the RAF in the form of the Red Arrows, Typhoon, Hawk, King Air, Tucano and Tutor. The Chinook and the Royal Navy Merlin are also again featured. As are the Typhoon and Spitfire pair with a much improved display routine. The French Air Force Alphajet also returns, although being unimpressed with the display from last year I hope it has been reworked for this year.
Up to this point it sounds much like the 2009 flying display doesn’t it?
But of course, there is more! The Harrier and Tornado GR4 Role Demos both will display. The Harrier being a keen favourite with the general public and will be well received by them but the display may have too much hovering in it for the enthuiast. The GR4 Role Demo lends much from the RAF Role Demo of the past but with pyros, wings fully back and reheat who can complain?
The Turkish Stars make a very welcome return to the UK with there F-5 ‘Freedom Fighters’. The Belgium Air Force has sent an F-16 and the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic have sent a JAS-39 Gripen which should be an impressive performance if the Gripen displays at RIAT last year are anything to go by. Of course, there is also a strong showing for both the Great War aircraft and the Battle of Britain aircraft along with a good static display which will feature a RC-135 and numerous E-3s.
On paper it looks like 2010 will hit the mark it needed to. I head off to the Press Preview Day to see how things are shaping up for this weekend.
The day started with a media brief from the air show team. Talking about this years air show Colin Reeves – Air Show Director said “We probably have the most aircraft we have had for a long time, certainly, on the static side we are up around 120 aircraft” and continued to say “My flight team have been working incredibly hard to squeeze eight and hours of flying into seven and half hours. We are working on it. It is a very varied flying display and it does cover all of our three main themes.“
Colin Reeves also revealed that after running the air show for three years and before that acting as Display Director for four years the 2010 air show would be his last. All the signs that 2010 would be a good show are there and I hope it does all come together especially for Colin on his last show.
The Turkish Stars performed a practice display in the afternoon (photos below – sadly it was a very overcast day) and the other star of the show, the Gripen, was meant to display but it’s arrival has been put back to Friday. There was also an update on the Vulcan. It had taken off from RAF Lyneham for a two hour test flight before landing at RAF Brize Norton (it’s operating base of choice for last years air show season). If it can complete it’s test flight program in time it will be attending the air show. Fingers crossed!
Further information about the Waddington Air Show, including directions, ticket information and a full list of both static and flying aircraft is available from the official website – www.waddingtonairshow.co.uk
Thanks to the MCO Team at RAF Waddington, the Waddington Air Show Team and the RAF personnel who assisted me today.