RAF Waddington International Air Show 2005 Review
Saturday 2nd July - Sunday 3rd July
In recent years, the Airshow at RAF Waddington has often come under fire from enthusiasts for lacking any special items; for many, the last true 'star' in the flying display being the Israeli F-15I's that made an appearance way back in 2001. In an effort to prevent a repeat of the situation of two years ago, where Zeltweg in Austria took all the stars and left Waddington with only the scraps, the organizers moved this years show back a week, to the weekend of July 2nd & 3rd, to avoid the clash.
reports from the RAF's Premier Airshow. Additional photography from .
Waddington has made a name for itself amongst the enthusiasts for the "surprise item", but in recent years they haven't materialised. Following the appearance of the Israeli Air Force and their F-15I Ra'ams in 2001, Waddington hasn't really lived up to the high standards it set itself that year.
2002's star was set to be an EH-101 Cormorant, making a rare appearance before it was delivered to the Canadian Air Force, but it never showed, and in 2003 the show went rather flat, losing out massively to the Zeltweg Airshow held over the same weekend in Austria. Last year the star was the RAF Typhoon making its debut at the show, but several cancellations shortly before the event hit the participation list hard.
That's not to say these were bad shows - not by any stretch of the imagination. They were however, lacking that special something that people had come to expect after the 2001 show. So, what did the organisers have planned for 2005? Eastern Europeans, Russian hardware and lots of it!
Admittedly, the bulk of the stars were in the static park, but as with most shows these days, that's the case - this years provisional RIAT list being another prime example. However, static or not, there were some real treats, none more so than the quad of Romanian MiG-21 LanceRs! Stopping over at the show en route to RAF Lossiemouth for a two-week exchange, the organisers at RAF Waddington managed to entice them to the show, and both of their An-26 support aircraft too.
Another gem was from the Hellenic Air Force, in the shape of an F-16D. Not quite the variety of types for the flying display originally announced on the official website earlier in the year (1x Mirage 2000, 1x A-7, 1x F-16 and 1x F-4), but a very welcome item nonetheless.
Further rarites in the static park came in the shape of an Australian Navy SH-60 Seahawk helicopter from HMAS Anzac, which was in the country for the Trafalgar 200 events during the week leading up to the show, and from a pair of Turkish F-4 Phantoms.
As ever at Waddington though, the overwhelming majority of the aircraft came from the RAF, with nigh on every type operated by the Air Force and Navy represented in the flying and static displays; the stand out items from the RAF being the Typhoons, with a static single seat F.2 example accompanying the two seat T.1 in the flying display.
Kicking off the flying display, as per usual at RAF Waddington, was the flypast by the "home team" of an E-3D Sentry and a Nimrod R.1 from 51 Squadron, which was followed by a break and an overshoot from each aircraft. Not strictly a "display" as such, but it's always nice to see "heavies" flying at airshows, and it's also a great opportunity to catch a rarity in the shape of the Nimrod R.1.
The full compliment of RAF display teams, from Tutors to Typhoons, were all present in the flying display, in addition to the Royal Navy's Black Cats Lynx duo flying their ever polished and entertaining routine. The same couldn't be said of the Sea Harrier fourship - consisting of only a single formation pass, a run and break and then a brief spell of 4 ship hovering, the routine was rather under whelming, especially taking into consideration this is the last season for Sea Harrier displays. A return of the amazing two ship display of a few years back would have been a far more worthwhile farewell for the Sea Harriers in this reporters opinion.
Rotary winged involvement from the RAF included the Chinook and Merlin. Having not seen the Award winning Chinook display of 2004, Waddington provided me with my first opportunity to see 18 Sqn throw this beast around the sky, and it's easy to see why it's gone down so well for the last two seasons. A stunning display that defies belief - the Merlin isn't far behind either! Undoubtedly two of the best displays of the show weekend, and of the RAF's 2005 display teams.
Another of the weekend's most impressive displays was a new one on me - two Falcon 20 Aircraft from FR Aviation. Often seen at Waddington in the ACMI days, I've never seen a display by the type before, and the excellently flown pairs routine at this years airshow was a pleasant break from the norm.
The warbird contingent at 'Waddo' is normally reserved for the BBMF, but displays from the newly restored Vacher Hurricane I and a two-seat Spitfire provided some competition - the inclusion of topside passes along the crowdline from these two perhaps something the BBMF could learn from.
Somewhat more noteworthy was the appearance of B-17G 'Sally B' - back on the scene for the remainder of the season thanks to a donation from Sir Richard Branson, which meant they could afford the insurance bills after the change in EU policy had left her grounded for the first half of the season. Hats off to Mr. Branson - lets hope a more permenant solution can be found in the near future to ensure she stays active on these shores.
Catering for all tastes is a vital ingredient of a family show like this, and in a bid to do so there were several civilian display acts in the flying this year - the Utterly Butterly wing walkers were present, and Su-26 displays from the Red Bull Matadors and the Honda Dream Team wowed the crowds. I'm not usually one for these type of civvy displays, but I was won over. Both routines were fantastically flown and thoroughly captivating; Will Curtis even managing to plug his sponsors and commentate on his own display despite pulling silly amounts of G-Force. That said, at times the flying display was crying out for a fast jet to liven up the proceedings, but on the whole a good mix of aircraft kept the crowds entertained for the full seven hours.
As you'd expect from an 'International Airshow', foreign participants made up a fair share of the flying display, with a French Alpha Jet, Belgian Fouga Magister and F-16, Swiss PC-7 Team, and a rare UK appearance by the Polish Air Force Academy Display Team - Team Orlik. "A cure from insomnia" was one of the wisecracks doing the rounds during their display, but that's quite a harsh reflection on their display - as far as turboprop teams go, they were fairly impressive, and their 7-ship formation landing was something quite special!
There's only one team for the British public though, and the Red Arrows display was met with the usual enthusiasm from the crowd, and rightly so. Despite a small incident on the Saturday, which saw one of the aircraft break from the formation as they were running in for their opening pass, The Reds were in superb form once again; they're looking really sharp for 2005.
Easily the star of the flying display though came from the Hungarian Air Force - when news broke of a crash during a display practise in the spring, many thought we might not see a Hungarian MiG-29 display for the remainder of the season, but we were all pleasantly surprised when the MiG appeared on the official website. We were even more suprised when the single aircraft they sent was a two-seat MiG-29UB! Cobras, tail slides and copious amounts of afterburner were the order of the day, and the MiG easily stole the show, despite the best efforts of the F-16 and Typhoon pilots.
Both show days were hit with minor incidents, however. In addition to the small problem the Reds encountered, the F-16 pilot had to abort his display on the Saturday, and the GR.4 was also forced to abort on the Sunday, which regrettably left some unavoidable gaps in the flying display.
These incidents aside though, the show days ran smoothly. The co-operative weather no doubt helped to boost the massive crowds on both days, which should hopefully see some handsome donations made to the RAFBF and other local charities as a result.
2005 marked a return to form for Waddington Airshow - some true stars were to be found in the static parks and in the flying displays, and one hopes the organisers can build on this performance to secure the show long into the future. The only major gripe is a common one after Airshows at Waddington, and that is the static park layout. It's all very well inviting rare items for the enthusiasts, but when the barriers are so close you can almost touch the aircraft, and with a backdrop of the funfair making good photography nigh on impossible, you do find yourself wondering why they went to all the trouble of securing these items in the first place. With some more thought put into the layout of the static, specifically the juicy items, the show would do itself a massive favour.