Weston-super-Mare Helidays 2005 Review
Friday 29th July - Sunday 31st July
Every year Weston-super-Mare seafront is turned into a three day chopper fest, attracting many exotic visitors from overseas who would otherwise not be seen anywhere on the UK airshow circuit. The event also offers an opportunity to get up close and personal with the flying machines in a way that is unlike any conventional airshow. Being a 'Helidays' virgin I did not know what to expect, but after a long day at the coast I was certainly not disappointed.
headed west in search of whirlybirds. Additional photography from and .
At just £4 entry for adults, £2 for children and OAPs, it's great value for money, especially if you consider that you can quite literally get right on top of the static items. Most crews are on hand to answer questions and let you hop over the rope and get a better look inside their office. Children get the opportunity to sit inside some of the aircraft and watch demonstrations like the WSO's use of the Apache's cannon.
The aircraft themselves are parked up on a length of the grass bank immediately the other side of the road running along the beach. There was a good selection of civilian and military examples, with a handful of tasty overseas visitors.
There were helicopter rides operating all day, from the beach, for the general public to take advantage of, giving those wanting a ride in a Jetranger the opportunity to see some of the South West coastline from the air.
There are some excellent photo opportunities as the helicopters take off right in front of you but the best place for the departures day (Sunday) is on the beach itself. It was just unfortunate that the weather, although hot enough to burn my face off, was pretty terrible by the afternoon for photography purposes, but at least the rain held off, even if it was rather overcast.
Standing on the beach is all well and good until the Norwegian Air Force Sea King Mk.43B (possibly the furthest travelled visitor) decides to spring a surprise search & rescue winch demonstration on the very beach you are stood on, picking up the crew left behind while she took off to refuel. I woke up the next morning still tasting the crunchy sand between my teeth and I was washing the sand out of places I never knew I had for the next week. Never before has sand been so painful, but it was worth it.
Another visiting Sea King was the Mk.41 from MFG-5 which wore special markings, celebrating 30 years of Sea King operations with the German Navy. Even the Sea King's landing lights were cleverly used in the design of the special scheme.
As well as two ex-Royal Air Force Gazelles (still sporting military colours and serials) there was also a civilian registered ex-Royal Navy Gazelle HT.2 on show, complete with shark markings on its tail, indicating that it was once a mount of the "Sharks" helicopter display team.
The Italians were there in numbers! On show was an Agusta-Bell AB.212AM from the Italian Air Force, while the Italian Army had an Agusta A.129A Mangusta and an Agusta A.109 EOA-2 on show. Highlight for many was the Agusta-Bell AB.412 of the Italian Carabinieri, which is believed to be the first Carabinieri visitor to the UK.
A U.S. Army Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk, based in Mannheim, Germany, attracted visitors but unfortunately had to depart early in the day on Sunday, so was missed by most people only attending the event on the Sunday. There was a military Bo.105P from Germany, as well as a Bo.105DBS from The Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance, which had to depart very rapidly not long after it had arrived, possibly on a shout. They were not the only service on show either, as a Police helicopter put in an appearance too.
European military hardware also included two AH-64D Apaches from Holland. The lack of a distinctive 'Longbow' mast-mounted radar making them look very different to the British WAH-64D variants. Also a Royal Netherlands Air Force AS.532U2 Cougar MkII was on show.
As well as military whirlybirds for all to see, there were many interesting civilian examples too. Two tiny Brantley B.2Bs were present, but unfortunately James Bond was nowhere to be seen. A number of Robinson R-44s and a couple of R-22s were on show and the unique shape of the two Hughes 269Cs was also there to be seen. There were also many other civilian registered helicopters in attendance.
If you're in the area, why not pop into the helicopter museum which has some great aircraft on display? Apparently you can get in at a discounted rate with a Helidays stamp on your hand.
This is a must show for any aviation enthusiast, especially those with a special interest in helicopters. You get to see and experience the aircraft in a way not possible at a conventional airshow. The arrival and departure days being something extra special.