Kemble Air Day 2005 Review
Sunday 19th June
They're gonna have to rewrite the dictionary. It was at this show last year that a new verb entered the airshow vernacular - to be "Kembled", after heavy rain turned the 2004 event into a washout . No cloudbursts this year though - in fact hardly any clouds at all. A perfect day's weather at a fantastic airfield played host to what was easily the benchmark show of the 2005 UK Airshow season thus far.
readily applied the suncream and spent a scorching day in Gloustershire. Additional photography from , and .
Observing the airshow mantra - "arrive early, leave late", meant that the roads to and from Kemble were unclogged. The reviewer was parked on the airfield by 8:30am, but even by this time there were several hundred vehicles already in the public car park.
The static park was impressive for a medium-sized show. Aircraft not often seen at airshows included an RAF VC-10 ZD240, which was making its final public appearance before an impending appointment with the scrapman's blowtorch. Also on static were an Antonov An-2, Gloster Meteor, Folland Gnat and Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules - the latter the support ship for the Red Arrows.
Other ground exhibits seemed to be well received. A display of large scale flying model aircraft and model car racing drew an enthusiastic crowd before flying got underway at 11am.
A sedate start to the programme was a display by microlight and General Aviation types resident at Kemble. Impressive formation flying was the order of the day - which can't have been easy!
Rather more power took us into the lunch interval. The usual polished routines of the RAF's Hawk and Tucano trainers were rather put in what little shade there was by Jonathon "Flapjack" Whaley in his distinctive Hawker Hunter G-PSST "Miss Demeanour". There are those, myself included, who haven't always been a fan of her colourscheme, but against the hazy morning sky at Kemble, she looked awesome. Great display too - what a photogenic aircraft she is. Long may "Miss D" reign!
Concluding the morning session was a rare "display" item - an RAF Tristar. Not strictly a display as it was just two passes (though, hey, that's double the quota we get from the B-2 at RIAT…). A real treat for those of us not local to Brize Norton, and a major coup for the organisers. An undoubted highlight of the day.
There was now a break in the flying until 1:30pm. A lunch break is certainly a novel idea - though in the sweltering temperatures many would rather have had flying to concentrate on rather than their reddening arms, legs and noses! There was a parade of classic cars to pass the time, but sadly the route didn't include the western end of the display line, meaning that many hundreds of people missed out. And the person who decided to play Crazy Frog on the PA system should have been hung, drawn and indeed quartered - in full view of the crowd!
Kicking off the second half was a display from a Handley-Page Victor. Albeit a model. Measuring the size of a family car and resplendent in Cold War anti-flash white she is a beauty. Unlike the misshapen "Vulcan" model which has been seen elsewhere, this Victor looks utterly convincing. Her four jet engines give her tremendous power and agility, plenty of climbing turns were evidence of this. Displaying after the model Victor was a model US Coastguard C-130. Again a fine model and hugely believable, it opened its routine with a "troop drop". Big pats on the back for the guys who build and fly these models, though as one UKAR wag noted drily during this segment of flying - in this age of Global Hawk, "one day soon all shows will be like this".
This was a show which had something for everyone - the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight got the afternoon's full-size flying underway. No Lancaster here with the Flight's Dakota substituting admirably, though it never quite seems the same without PA474 does it? Fighter escort was provided by Spitfire Vb AB910 and Hurricane II PZ865. Photography was difficult for the fighters - when will the BBMF give us what we want - topside passes? Pictures of a black Hurricane underside don't exactly inspire. Even more of a shame in that these two are among the most beautifully coloured warbirds on the display circuit. Why go to the trouble of painting them in interesting and diverse schemes if you're not going to show them off to their best advantage?
The Royal Navy Historic Flight were rather more accommodating, if rather reduced in number. We were due to get both Sea Fury and Sea Hawk, only for the jet to go U/S at Yeovilton with an out-of-sequence starter cartridge problem. A shame, but nonetheless the Sea Fury made up for her partner's absence with a well-flown, if rather short routine.
Taking centre stage now was the "home team" - Delta Jets three-ship of Hawker Hunters. Led by Andy Cubin in WV372, flanked by the gloss black WV318 and the unspeakably beautiful Blue Diamonds-schemed XL577, the crowd was treated to a formation take-off, followed by aerobatics and formation flying. Delta Jets and their Hunters are what Kemble is all about, and many people will have come to the show for a first glimpse of XL577 in her new scheme - if you've not seen her, then make sure you do as soon as you can. She is a stunner!
Other classic jets participating included Air Atlantique's ex-Swiss Vampire T.55 and a privately operated Jet Provost in ETPFS "Raspberry Ripple" scheme. We were due to see Gloster Meteor G-LOSM, but she remained in the static park, hemmed in by the ongoing EU insurance farrago. One wonders, and indeed fears for the Vampire and Meteor's Baginton stablemate Canberra WK163 - with the current situation, will we ever see her back on the circuit?
Replacing the Meteor was Kennet Aviation's Douglas Skyraider. A great display from a big old beast of an aircraft. An unexpected star item - despite having problems with a sticky undercarriage door on arrival in the morning.
Representing the current RAF strikeforce was the excellent Eurofighter Typhoon. A bit of history and trivia here - this was the first time the aircraft had flown a full display at the venue it was operating from! Previous outings at Southend seafront and RAF Cosford had seen the Typhoon take off elsewhere. The routine is wonderfully exciting. Flown with the burners "plugged in" almost continuously, the Typhoon display is a great steaming testosterone fuelled soup of noise and agility. Tight turns, a square loop and high alpha passes make this the "must see" routine on this year's airshow calendar.
The Typhoon's reheat-powered gymnastics set a high standard. Two of the RAF's other fast jet types stepped up to the plate to compete, with the Harrier earning its usual applause from the punters, but the Jaguar was rather tame.
2005 is the final year of the Jaguar display, and at Kemble the 41 Squadron special-schemed machine made a grand entrance, flying in formation with Hunter WV318, before breaking off to start its solo display. Maybe because the memory of the Typhoon was still fresh in the mind, this wasn't a Jaguar display to savour. It seemed too high and too distant for much of the display, and was sadly one of the show's weaker items.
As too was an "airfield attack" by Hunters WV318 and WV372. The crowd was left waiting, and waiting for the attack to start, and when it did a couple of passes and a puff of purple smoke was all we got. Deadly, that purple smoke you know...
The last hour and a half of the display was very disjointed. Long gaps between items marred what was otherwise a textbook airshow. The display Chinook had gone tech at Gilze Rijen in the Netherlands, which meant that although there was a perfectly serviceable "Wokka" in the static park, the display crew were in Holland! No Chinook meant the Red Arrows brought forward their display slot. The Reds were as good as ever - against blue late afternoon summer skies there are few sights better than the nine red Hawks trailing their patriotic smoke.
Concluding the display, at a time when many had decided to hit the road, was Lieutenant Colonel Ruud Huisman in the Royal Netherlands Air Force Pilatus PC-7. Trailing smoke from the outset, this was a great way to display a turboprop trainer. Make the most of the brightly coloured yellow and red Pilatus while you can - the Dutch chaps are painting the fleet black very soon. A really good routine, to end a high quality airshow.
Just one, small moan - for an airshow billed as being big on classic jets, there were some important types missing. No Sea Vixen, Venom, F-86 or T-33. Could the RAF have been persuaded to lend a Canberra PR.9 (or even that sexy blue retro-schemed T.4) for the static? A minor gripe, especially as this was a show which had something to cater for every aviation fetish - fast jets, classic jets, warbirds and large aircraft.
Kemble 2005 was a great show. It always helps when the sun shines, but Glen Moreman and his team at Kemble deserve special praise for trying to put on a show for both purist and punter. A great venue, good traffic management, a fair price (£20 on the day) and some excellent flying - all add up to what might just be a rival to Kemble's near-neighbour Fairford for Best Airshow Venue when this year's UKAR Awards are dished out...