RAF Waddington International Air Show 2007 Review
Sunday 8th October
The RAF's premier airshow, held annually at Waddington in the heart of Lincolnshire, is known for its ability to attract something out of the ordinary. This year was no exception. With a detachment from the Indian air force visiting for exercise "Indra Dhanush II", actually based at the aerodrome during the show, the organisers didn't have to look too far. Another special visitor, one that was far less welcome, was the weather.
braved the elements to bring this report. Additional photography from and .
Guarded by the distinctive presence of the most famous Vulcan - XM607, RAF Waddington is steeped in history and tradition. With no RAF Leuchars airshow this year due to runway re-surfacing, and the days of RAF "at home" open days a fading memory, the Waddington show this year became one of the few events promoting the activities of the RAF to the general public.
It was already known that Vulcan XH558 wouldn't make it to the show, perhaps next year? The week before Waddington airshow is anticipated by the enthusiast and the local population alike. Unusual visitors are known to attract both to the airfield to witness their arrivals. The Wednesday before the show was one of the busiest non air show days in recent years, the reason being the expected arrival of the detachment of six Sukhoi Su-30MKIs, together with their Illyushin Il-76 and Il-78 support aircraft. Arriving in two groups of three, the Flankers made an impressive sight, each formation being shepherded by an accompanying Il78 tanker.
Apart from the Indian contingent, the "International" title to the airshow could be questioned. Save for the expected refuelling demonstration by the Flankers, there were no visitors from foreign air arms in the flying display. The static aircraft park has in recent years been bolstered by privately owned ex military aircraft. It does fill some ever growing gaps, but the line up appears to becoming rather familiar.
One "star" that failed to make it was a Greek F4E that unfortunately went tech en-route to the show. There was an additional air of disappointment amongst the enthusiasts when the NATO E-3A arrived. It wasn't the nicely painted anniversary jet, but the standard grey job. One punter summed up everyone's feelings with a muttered, "They've sent the wrong one!". To their credit RAF Marham sent both the "Shiny Two" (Celebrating II (AC) Squadron's 95 years,) and last year's 31 Squadron"Goldstars" special Tornadoes to add a bit of colour to the place.
A poignant ground display organised by the South Atlantic Medal Association was a collection of various airframes commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Falklands conflict. The large number of attending veterans was a fitting tribute to the memory of the task Force.
There must be a very good reason for it, but the powers that be decided to brush the retirement of the Jaguar in RAF service "under the mat", as an opportunity to bow out at the show was missed. A relatively minor event was being held just twenty or so miles away at Coningsby. This 6 Squadron Families day appeared to be the only tribute for over 30 years of service of these aircraft and the crews that operated them. It was nice to see a Boscombe Down based Jaguar GR.3A from Qinetiq down for Saturday's display, albeit only on its way to display at the Coningsby event. It was flown by Dave Southwood, who will be remembered as one of the pilots in the TV series "Test Pilot".
The flying display on Saturday was to have opened with the traditional "Waddington formation", this year as a three ship with the addition of the Sentinel R.1 to the now familiar Sentry E-3D and Nimrod R.1, making an impressive statement of the RAF's ISTAR capabilities. Unfortunately the visibility put paid to this and the decision was made to fly past the assembled crowd individually. The difference in noise levels between the Sentinel and Nimrod will not have gone unnoticed by the locals.
The sight of three Flankers taking off into the rain was quite something, but unfortunately the weather was still too poor for the refuelling demonstration to take place with just a few flybys possible due to the low cloud and rain. A welcome participant was the latest version of the Nimrod MRA4, with its relatively smoke free and new, quieter, more efficient engines also used on the Sentinel. It is due to enter service by the end of the decade.
By three O'clock I'd got a bit fed up of getting wet, so I called it a day, hoping to fill in the missing gaps on Sunday. There followed a flypast of a Sentinel with the 8 Hawks of the Red Arrows marking the arrival of 5 Squadron's latest mount in service at Waddington. The reason for only being 8 was due to an accident suffered by Flt Lt Andrew Keith who had fractured a bone in his hand. The now familiar "Role Demonstration" with its accompanying pyrotechnics went ahead despite the inclement weather and with reduced participation, demonstrating adaptability to the poor conditions.
Sunday morning was greeted first thing with an almighty downpour which started soon after I arrived just after 7am. Coupled with the overnight rain and the weather over the previous week it soon became evident to the organisers that the grass parking areas were waterlogged and cutting up badly in places. Several vendor's stalls were flooded and as emergency services were needed elsewhere in the county due to far more serious needs, the show was quickly cancelled. I was on Alpha dispersal when the announcement was made, and being out of range of the Tannoys was unaware of the cancellation. Blissfully unaware, I was soon to be informed by a smiling UKAR member who jokingly blamed me for the situation! A lot of disappointed people made their way from the airfield, the weather being especially unkind by staying fine for the rest of the day. The cancellation was put into perspective by the suffering caused by those families on Humberside earlier in June. Hopefully next year will bring better weather and more participation from the NATO allies.