As I had explained in the Waddington Air Show Preview, 2010 is an important year for Waddington. To silence the critics the 2010 show had to be a good one. The announced flying displays looked good with a strong showing from the RAF with all the main display acts for 2010. The Turkish Stars, Czech Gripen, Czech L-159, Belgium F-16 and French Alpha Jet formed the foreign military display acts and answered two of the main complaints from 2009; that there wasn’t enough foreign attendance or fast jet displays. The static display was also looking good with almost 120 aircraft on display including an RC-135 Rivet Joint (the aircraft type that is due to replace the Nimrod R1 currently operated from RAF Waddington).
A few items had dropped out in the run up to the air show; most noticeably the Nimrod MRA4 flying display and both the Czech Mi-24 and French E-3 but good news for Waddington was received on Friday. Vulcan XH558 had completed it’s test flight and was signed off to display. This was the final piece of the puzzle that Waddington needed.
I left for Waddington early on Saturday with a feeling this show would be a return to form. This year I was going to shoot the show from the press tent rather than my usual position at crowd centre. I knew this would cost me for the Harrier bow and some of the Chinook display but I hoped it would give me a different angle and the chance to shoot the take offs and landing. Getting to it was another story and thanks to some ill informed civilian Policemen I ended up being sent in the wrong gate which was the other side of the airfield. A series of well intentioned marshals sent me on to the next marshal as they didn’t know where I should be going. Finally I found a RAF Police NCO who was very helpful and directed me to drive down the static line to get to the correct area (that was a first!!).
The flying display ran smoothly with only one noticeable gap and one change of display order (due to the low fuel state of an aircraft in the hold). The only downside to the display was I was having trouble finding a gap in it to go walk around the static displays or go eat. In the end the Blades (I had seen the display on the preview day) and the UAV demo provided the gaps needed. Whilst I can understand the organisers wanting to feature a UAV (or remotely piloted aircraft as they are being called now) in the display I didn’t think the concept worked.
I had seen most of the 2010 RAF displays and Royal Navy Lynx display at the RAF Cosford Air Show in June so I knew what to expect from them. So it was the Gripen and Belgium F-16 displays that I most wanted to see. I was also interested to see how the French Alpha Jet display would perform. Having seen it last year at Waddington and feeling rather underwhelmed with it.
The show started with the home team (E-3D, Sentinel R1 and Nimrod R1) performing a fly past; this was the same as last year and the Nimrod R1 again didn’t land after the fly past but went off for a sortie to return in the afternoon. Following that was the Hendon fly past, Great War display and the Falcons; giving a sedate start to the show. The next hour saw the pace kicked up a few levels with Team Viper (featuring two Hunters for the first time), the GR4 Role Demo, Czech L149 and then the Turkish Stars. All of which performed good displays, although the L159 display struggled to stand out and the GR4 demo was almost impossible to shoot it but was a good watch. The Typhoon as it did at RAF Cosford took a much earlier slot than it has it previous years; flying a little after midday.
The Royal Navy Merlin and RAF Chinook both put on good displays. The Chinook in particular stood out for me. In a change to the usual routine, the Chinook started with a Land Rover under slung. Dropping the Land Rover onto the runway it took off again before returning to drop another vehicle from inside. Again, it took off and returned yet again for soldiers to fast rope down the vehicles and then drive away. This was a great demonstration of the capability of the Chinook. It then performed a small part of the old display act before being cut short due to time constraints. The Royal Navy Lynx also displayed but rather than being a part of the Black Cats pair it was a solo. A good display but it lacked the presence of the other helicopters.
The Vulcan display was well received and once again a great sight but the weather refused to play along and the whole display was performed under cloud cover. The French Alpha Jet followed and put on a much improved performance over 2009, but still not reaching the high standard set by the 2010 Hawk display.
The Red Arrow performed a pilot short. Red 3 – Flt Lt Kirsty Moore had been sick for the last week and therefore hadn’t taken part in any flying. Whilst the gap was noticeable on some of the formations it didn’t effect the usual polished performance you come to expect from the Reds.
Next came a Battle of Britain sequence that saw the German Luftwaffe take on the RAF. This neatly led to a display by the BBMF before the Spitfire teamed up with the returning Typhoon for their combined display. I say ‘returning Typhoon’ but both the display pilot and the airframe was different to the solo Typhoon display earlier in the day. The display was very well organised and executed, especially the opposing passes. A good improvement over the old display that was in effect just formation flying.
The 2010 Hawk display then took to the sky. A great paint scheme and what seems to be a talent for attracting the sun makes it easy to like this display. The flowing style of the display with lots of negative g manoeuvres elevates it above the other aircraft in it’s class.
With the Hawk using up the remaining sun quota for the day the headline act, the Czech Gripen, the Harrier and the F-16 all performed their displays with only patches of sun. The Gripen’s display was excellent, A fast and flowing display similar to the Hawk but with more power. An attempt was made to do a ‘dump and burn’ as seen at RIAT 2009 but the fuel didn’t ignite.
The Harrier display was to be honest a little disappointing, although with so many years off the display circuit and a public with high expectations it was always likely to end up this way. For me, too much of the display was handed over to hovering and slow performance handling. I hope to see a more balanced performance from the team next year.
The final act of the day was the Belgium F-16. Producing a very spirited display, plenty use of reheat and the horned vapour pattern the F-16 produces under high g. For me this was a great end to what was one of the best Waddington air shows in recent years. Well done everyone involved!
Thanks to the MCO Team at RAF Waddington, the Waddington Air Show Team and the RAF personnel who assisted me.