RAF Cosford Air Show 2006 Review
Sunday 11th June
The RAF Cosford Air Show is the Midlands' premier aviation event. Hosted annually, the show is one of only three organised by the Royal Air Force, along with Waddington and Leuchars. As a result Cosford can always rely on strong RAF participation. With high temperatures, plenty of sunshine and Sean Maffet on the commentary gantry, the 2006 Cosford airshow was all set to be an excellent day out.
made the short hop to his local RAF Station for UK Airshow Review. Photography by the author and .
One thing that must not be overlooked with the Cosford show is it's emphasis on a family day out, rather than the hardcore Aviation junkie. It's a known fact that Joe Public make up around 90% of the attendance figures at airshows, looking around the crowd at Cosford, this was certainly the case.
An instant problem any aviation photographer faces when arriving at the show is the unfortunate place of the sun's position early in the day. You're shooting into the sun initially. With the show starting around noon, this remains a problem for a couple of hours and makes photography difficult to get decent results. This is just bad luck; we'd all prefer to see the sun at airshows, however.
As usual the show kicked off with the RAF Falcons leaping out of the rear of an RAF Hercules C.5 from 12,000ft. After all the Falcons safely landed the Hercules did its ceremonial low flypast before recovering at Cosford. The next flying display item was the RAF Tornado GR.4 from XV Squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth. The Tornado, as with all the other fast jets, was operating from nearby RAF Shawbury, due to Cosford's relatively small runway. The GR.4 variant is now the only RAF Tornado display on the airshow circuit. Despite its swing-wing design, the multi-national aircraft put on a tight routine, using the afterburner on the two RB199 turbojets to great effect resulting in a classic display that we know and love. The display wrapped up in true Tonka style with a high-speed pass and zoom climb back to Shawbury.
Peter Teichman put on a good show in his Spitfire Mk.II, whilst two RAF trainers in the shape of the Tucano and Hawk displayed. The Hercules C.5 of 24 Squadron performed an improved demonstration over previous years, most notable towards the end of the display heading straight towards crowd centre and diving down to a few hundred feet before breaking hard right to conclude.
As we all expect the Royal Navy's Black Cats once again put on some incredible synchronised flying, whilst Delta Jets sent a Hunter from Kemble. A late cancellation on the Saturday before was the P-40 Kittyhawk this was swiftly replaced by OFMC's P-51D "Ferocious Frankie" in time for the Sunday. Ferocious Frankie turned out to be one of the main highlights with some brilliant flying including some sensational low-level topside passes.
The RAF once again took centre stage with the Harrier GR.7, which during its hover routine seemed a bit short, perhaps because of the warm conditions? The Tutor soon followed and Typhoon F.2 - the latter putting on another impressive agile display with plenty of turning and burning. Squadron Leader Matt Elliot is once again displaying the Typhoon in 2006.
The BBMF have also freshened up their routine for 2006. With the Spitfire and Hurricane performing a tail-chase instead of individual displays. A welcome change as the pair's samey demo of previous years had become a bit stale. The BBMF's Lancaster and Dakota also performed.
Another UK act that has changed its display for 2006 is the Army Air Corp Blue Eagles. Whilst the Lynx is still the integral part, the Gazelles are being used far more impressively this year and a number of new manoeuvres have been worked up, including the Lynx chasing two of the Gazelles at one point. A much better thought out display and a big improvement.
While on the subject of rotary aircraft, it would be rude not to mention two of the show's highlights. The Merlin HC.3 and Chinook HC.2. Firstly, Team Merlin, leading this year's team is one of last season's co-pilots, Flt Lt Colin Dempster who returns as the Merlin display pilot for 2006. Colin put the Merlin through some fantastic manoeuvres with plenty of tight turns and steep climbs, showing off this large helicopter in a spectacular fashion. The display is very aesthetically pleasing and will without a doubt be a highlight throughout the season for the numerous Team Merlin fans on UKAR.
Then there is of course the RAF Chinook display, winner of the "Best RAF Display" in the UKAR awards for the past two seasons. A tough act to follow considering the high standard of displays from previous years. Well it's fair to say it lives up to the expectation, another fantastic display from 18 Squadron showing the helicopter's great manoeuvrability and raw power. The Chinook display has once again laid down the gauntlet to the other RAF Displays for its crown.
A big highlight booked prior to the show was the RAF Canberra PR.9 display. The Canberra is being displayed in 2006 as a send-off for its final few months of a glittering career, spanning over fifty years. A few weeks prior to the show rumours started circling on the UKAR Messageboard that the crew had not yet received their display authorisation and this would not happen until late June, thus the PR.9 would not be at Cosford. This was never really confirmed and to add to even more confusion the flying display list in the programme stated "Canberra PR.9 - Air Atlantique". Problem is, Air Atlantique doesn't have any PR.9's on their books, they have a B.2 and T.4. Yet neither showed, as was probably inevitable. Sean Maffet made no reference to the proposed Canberra display during his commentary, leaving most enthusiasts somewhat bemused. Whilst a shame, this isn't the first time a Canberra has not attended at Cosford, a similar situation happened in 2004.
A new UK Civilian display team made their Cosford debut, flying four Extra 300s. Known as The Blades, and based at Sywell, they put on a great show for such a new team. Three out of the four pilots are ex-Red Arrows, some of the Reds class and precision certainly showed.
Closing the show, as only they can were the Red Arrows. The Reds were making their first UK airshow appearance of 2006, having been on a three-week goodwill tour of the Far East, Middle East and Europe. Unsurprisingly they put on another high-energy display from the World's finest and most professional display team.
A big disappointment with this years show was the complete lack of any foreign participation. Previous shows have seen the likes of a RNZAF C-130 (2005), French Air Force Mirage 2000C and Belgian F-16 (Both in 2001) displays. Whilst it is noted about the difficulties of securing foreign displays in this day and age, the author wonders how much effort was made. Particularly given that Cosford is an RAF Organised show, this must surely give extra pull in attempts to book foreign display acts and additionally there are no other significant rival airshows around Europe on the show weekend.
Cosford 2006 was a very enjoyable show, with some fantastic flying and good value for money. The Midlands is lucky to have such an event annually. There was also an impressive large crowd in attendance that will of course bode well for future shows. What the long term plans for the future of the show remain unclear. Do the organisers intend to carry on in a similar vein as a successful family orientated show? On the other hand, will they pursue more foreign attractions so they can rival the likes of Kemble and Biggin Hill? Hopefully Cosford 2007 will yield the answer.