Abingdon Air and Country Show 2008 Review
Sunday 4th May
The Abingdon Air and Country show is a great way to start the display season. With its family atmosphere and very reasonable admission prices, Neil Porter and team always deliver a top day out whatever the weather! The organisers even pride themselves on attracting international participation and 2008 was no exception. Arriving on the Friday was a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk from SHAPE based at Chievres in Belgium. Other notable static exhibits included a gathering of Abingdon's previous types : Chipmunk, Bulldog and Hawk. A last minute addition was the Merlin HC.3 from 28(AC) Squadron at nearby RAF Benson. Well done to Team Merlin for getting a cab on the ground at Abingdon, the locals enjoying talking to the crew who had only just returned from combat operations.
reports from Dalton Barracks. Additional photography by .
The first casualty of the day was the Chinook helicopter from 18 Squadron which was due to arrive from RAF Odiham in Hampshire. Sadly the aircraft had to turn back after developing a fault just 12 miles from landing at Abingdon, much to the disappointment of the team who were looking forward to performing their first public display of 2008. The crowd were soothed instead with Neil Diamond played over the PA!
The gentle buzz of GA traffic arriving for the fly-in at the Oxfordshire airfield was interrupted in fine style by a four ship formation of classic types from Delta Jets at nearby Kemble. Hunter pair, plus Jet Provost T.5 and Gnat performed a fine break over the airfield before parking up in front of the waiting crowd. The Gnat, resplendent in Yellowjacks colour scheme completed a unique line-up of ex-RAF display types - Red Arrows Gnat (flying), Blue Diamonds Hunter and Black Arrows Hunter.
A third Hawker Hunter was also present. This being the front fuselage of WV381, a GA.11 variant which ended up in the sea after the pilot ejected following an aborted take-off on 1 November 1972 at Lee-on-Solent. The ex-Royal Navy Hunter was making its first public outing since Dave Webb acquired the cockpit section from storage at nearby Culham.
Peter Teichman opened the afternoon flying display at Abingdon in the Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk from his Hangar 11 collection. Abingdon show regulars will remember that last year Peter kindly brought in his Mk. XI photo reconnaissance Spitfire - proving he can perform a tight, polished display whatever fighter he flies.
Next to take to the skies was Percival Pembroke C.1 wearing colours of her previous service owner - No. 60 Squadron at RAF Wildenrath in Germany. Still in V.I.P. fit, the twin engine transport gave a very lively display including several cheeky topsides to keep the photographers happy.
Airshow veteran Barry Tempest in the Steen Skybolt was followed by the solo Lynx HAS.3SGM from RNAS Yeovilton. Both types stuggled in the overcast conditions but the Royal Navy helicopter had the advantage with its tight turning circle and ability to hover crowd centre.
Looking very smart in its new RAF 90th Anniversary scheme was the Tucano T.1 from No. 1 FTS at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. The Tucano display worked really well in the tight confines of Abingdon airfield. 2008 display pilot Flt Lt Stew Campbell taking pride in showing off the large RAF roundel painted on the underside of the turboprop trainer.
Another favourite from last year, Rob Davies returned in his stunning North American P-51D Mustang "Big Beautiful Doll". The highlight for me towards the end of the flying display being the pairs departure of the Hangar 11 P-40 and Rob's Mustang - what a great sound!
Also cutting a dash was the Silence Twister G-TWST, its smoke system enabling it to stand out against the overcast Oxfordshire sky. More smoke and silence but this time a different twist courtesy of the Swift Aerobatic Team. A superb routine flown by Guy Westgate in the Swift S-1 including a very late roll and low pull out which left the crowd gasping.
The advertised DC-6 sadly wasn't serviceable for Abingdon and so was replaced in the flying display by Classic Flight's DC-3 Dakota G-AMPY from Coventry. This gave an exceedingly spirited and lively display for such a large aircraft. Unfortunately slightly too spirited towards the end of the routine as the crew miscalculated the bank on one of the turns and exited across the crowd line and out towards the public car park. The result was a chat with the flying display safety officer!
A call of '90 seconds' to air traffic heralded the arrival of the Spitfire IIa P7350 of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Unfortunately this also coincided with the heavens opening, the classic lines of the Supermarine fighter being lost in the heavy drizzle.
Closing the show was the Black Arrows Hunter T.7 from Kemble flown by Andy Gent. A large proportion of the crowd stayed behind for the departure of Delta Jets formation at the end of the flying. One of the departing Hunters staying very low after takeoff and scaring the traffic on the A34!
The organisers of the Abingdon Air and Country Show have learnt from the comments made in last year's UKAR report - improved road traffic signage from the major routes plus more on-site toilets were the result. 2008 saw another excellent show which the weather tried its best to spoil but everyone enjoyed.