Kemble Air Day 2007 Review
Sunday 17th June
The Kemble Air Day rightfully enjoys a place at the top table of British airshows. Glen Moreman and his team always manage to pull off a show which combines top-class display acts with the garden-party atmosphere normally associated with smaller shows. Blessed with dry, if not sunny weather, the 2007 event held on June 17th - Fathers Day - really was "The Daddy", featuring some stunning flying, a benchmark-setting performance from the much-criticised RAF Role Demonstration, and a couple of unique formations.
reports on the eleventh Kemble Air Day. Additional photography from .
Kemble may not have the size of the show at neighbouring Fairford, nor the history of Biggin Hill or Waddington's displays but year in, year out Kemble Air Day continues to set the standard for medium-sized airshows.
On the face of things the on-the-day admission price of £23 (£17.50 in advance) may look pricey compared to other shows of a similar size, but this year's line-up was worth every penny. Where else can you see a Gloster Meteor flying in formation with a Eurofighter Typhoon? Or a Canberra PR.9 moving under her own power?
Static displays included the recently-retired Canberras as well as a host of home-based Hawker Hunters. The RAF's popular Team Merlin were also on-site and their display appeared to be doing a roaring trade in eager punters. Most of the participants in the flying programme were also well placed for photography, with Kemble's crowdline bending around the active "ramp".
The day began with a rare photo-opportunity which was sadly under-advertised. Lined up for probably the first and only time were a selection of aircraft marking the history of jet aviation in the UK - there was a fine non-flying replica of the Gloster E28/39, the first jet aircraft to fly in Britain; this was parked up alongside Martin-Baker's stunning black Gloster Meteor T.7, Kemble-based blue-painted Hawker Hunter T.7 from Delta Jets and bringing things right up-to-date a modern-day Typhoon. Sadly this rare collection was broken up at 9am as the aircraft needed to be moved around, with an announcement of this made on the public address system with less than ten minutes to spare, resulting in plenty of wheezing, huffing and puffing enthusiasts running to the spot. Many, including this wheezing, huffing and puffing enthusiast missed out! More warning next time, please.
Flying at Kemble, rather quaintly, is broken up by a very civilised hour's break for lunch. The "morning session" this year consisted of a jump by the Silver Stars parachute team, a fine routine from Ultimate High's Extra 300 followed by the RAF Tutor. Appetites were ratcheted up further by a splendid formation of the Red Arrows with Folland Gnat and Hawker Hunter T.7. The classic jets then displayed individually before the mighty Reds took us into the lunch break.
After Kemble's traditional model aircraft flying demonstration, the second half of the programme kicked off. The afternoon session featured some novel displays, not least a terrific and genuinely awe-inspiring aerobatic sequence from Guy Westgate and John Gowdy. Gowdy's mount was an airshow staple - the Extra 300, but Westgate flew an aerobatic glider. A quite remarkable, and refreshing addition to the display circuit, this display had hardened "seen it all before" enthusiasts open-mouthed. Let's hope they return next season.
The only major cancellation was Air Atlantique's Canberra, but the type was at least represented by a taxi run from one of the PR.9 variants retired, or shall we say "rested" to Kemble last July. Word is that these magnificent beasts could soon be back in action, leased back to the same military that retired them after half a century's gallant service only months ago. It was a terrific sight to see XH135 taxied down the runway, as many of us feared we'd had our last sight of a PR.9 moving under her own power.
Kemble was one of the shows lucky enough to be granted the RAF's Role Demonstration, which before Kemble had suffered much criticism at the disastrous Spirit of Adventure at Abingdon, and also on previous outings at Biggin Hill and Cosford. Whether it was the more intimate nature of Kemble, or just tweaks made to the routine, the Role Demo at this show was easily the highlight of the day. Fast-paced, dynamic and always exciting, the pilots landed after a noisy and fiery display to the sort of greeting Maverick gets when he lands back on deck at the end of Top Gun! The public, for whom the Role Demo is geared, appeared to absolutely love it, so in that respect Squadron Leader Andy Pawsey and his team can consider it a job well done, clearly having taken on board the criticism levelled at the set-piece at earlier shows. And UKAR can claim an "assist" too - with the Marham-based Tornado GR.4s performing a missed approach before heading for home, on the suggestion of forumite "st24".
Also worthy of mention in the afternoon session were a topside-laden display from Air Atlantique's de Havilland Venom, a three-ship combination of Strikemasters and Jet Provosts, the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Hawker Sea Fury flown alongside John Beattie's Douglas Skyraider, and Peter Teichman's beautiful P-40 Kittyhawk, which flew a routine every bit as impressive as the one seven days before at Cosford.
Afternoon aerobatics came from the Red Bull Matadors, with Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones flying an impeccable pairs aerobatic display in their neatly-liveried Sukhoi Su-26 aircraft.
Having seen the Red Arrows in formation with the Gnat and Hunter in the morning, the afternoon brought another unique formation: The RAF's first jet aircraft, the Gloster Meteor in formation with its latest, the Eurofighter Typhoon to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine. We've become used to USAF and US Navy Heritage and Tailhook Legacy flights, so could this signal the start of the RAF doing something similar. Judging by the reaction to this formation at Kemble, UKAR certainly hopes so.
On the same afternoon, central London was playing host to the flypast to mark the 25th anniversary of the Falklands conflict. Kemble got a flypast from some of the returning aircraft at the end of the display, with a special-tailled VC-10 and a pair of Lyneham-based Hercules flying through.
Even though the skies were leaden and sunshine was a rare commodity, Kemble came up trumps with another display to add to their catalogue of superb recent shows. Many came away saying that 2007 had been the best Air Day at the venue yet. Such opinions are highly subjective, but the show put on in this corner of the Cotswolds was a cracker, and the bar has again been raised. What will Glen Moreman and team conjure next year?