Biggin Hill International Air Fair 2008 Review
Saturday 7th June - Sunday 8th June
Air Displays International always put together a wonderful selection of displays to cater for all tastes in aviation. From Edwardians, warbirds, classic jets to the latest hardware and international visitors – the Biggin Hill International Air Fair has it all. Situated south of London, the airfield is the location of London Biggin Hill Airport and its business jets. Biggin Hill earnt its place in aviation history as a legendary fighter station during the Battle of Britain and makes the perfect location for the largest privately organised air show in Europe.
takes a look back at the 2008 event. Photography by , and .
International participation included a static two seat F-16 from the Danish Airforce, the Indian AF Sarang helicopter team performing their first UK display and a welcome appearance by the French AF in the flying programme with their excellent Mirage 2000 display.
Even with heavy rain the week before, the ground held up well and was beginning to dry out with the increasing temperatures. Even with the RAF supporting the photocall at Northolt the same weekend there was an excellent turnout by the home team in keeping with the classic feel of Biggin Hill.
Arriving at the show at around 8.30am, one was allowed to drive straight in and get parked easily. It was a bumper attendance, especially on the Sunday with the better weather. The queuing traffic outside the gates seemed to last all day.
Easing us gently into the flying display was the RAF trainer duo of Tutor and Tucano. For once the crowd were able to pick out the white scheme of the Tutor basic trainer against the blue sky which made a change from the usual grey overcast. The gloss scheme on the Tucano catching the sun, especially on the wonderful ‘Khe Sahn’ type approach at the end of the display with pilot Flt. Lt. Stew Campbell waiting to the last minute to level the aircraft out… cunningly laying down the gauntlet for the King Air routine later on!
An interesting French theme in the skies over the Kent airport as the Bleriot replica monoplane flown by Michael Carlsson touched down gently on the grass to make way for it’s Dassault companion from EC.05 based at Orange. The Mirage 2000 flew an excellent routine and picked up the best individual display award at Biggin Hill. An impressive achievement especially as most of the Breitling L-39 pilots were watching, many of the team being ex-Mirage 2000 veterans with thousands of flying hours between them. Sadly, 2008 is set to be the last year of the solo Mirage 2000 fighter display, the type giving way to the latest design from Dassault - the Rafale.
After a disappointing Cosford debut when a fire warning from the auxiliary power unit forced a precautionary landing, the Apache AH.1 from the Army Air Corps rose up from behind the parked Breitling Team to take its place alongside the Lynx AH.7 in the 2008 Blue Eagles line-up. With so many front line assets deployed on operations it was great to see the latest hardware for the British Army displayed to the public.
From drab green to the magnificent girls in their make-up machines! Big round of applause from the crowd for the Team Guinot Stearman pair as they went through their airborne exercise workout. Another two-ship display followed in the form of two WWII fighter classics – Spitfire & Mustang. With Red Bull Air Race pilots Nigel Lamb in MH434 and Paul Bonhomme flying P-51 ‘Ferocious Frankie’ the pair performed a superb example of close formation aerobatics. Quite rightly, their high quality display was rewarded with the Best Team Trophy at Biggin Hill 2008.
Establishing itself as one of the top RAF displays on the circuit, Flt Lt Leon Creese in the Beech King Air from 45(R) Squadron based at RAF Cranwell has developed a super routine which shows off the twin’s elegant lines to great effect. The tight display worked well in the strict confines of the Biggin airspace where upper air routes preclude excessive vertical manoeuvres. The RAF Hawk display from Valley followed with its tight routine paving the way for the Leeming based examples to enter the fray later on.
Next up was a cheeky addition to the flying display. With the formation of the B-25 Mitchell plus Hangar 11 P-51 Mustang coming to an end, the Duxford based F-86 Sabre took off allowing Biggin to claim no less than three North American designs in the sky at once! Pity they couldn’t be enticed back for a flypast but it was still good to see.
The sound of no less than four Pratt & Whitney radial engines announced the start of the DC-6 display. Taxing out in its fabulous British Eagle colour scheme, for such a large aircraft the high angle wing overs and topside passes were quite astonishing. Known as the C-118 Liftmaster in USAF service, the Douglas airliner held on the Biggin runway to allow some Peacocks to depart. These birds were not of the feathered variety but of the rotary kind. Making their first UK display appearance was the Indian AF Sarang helicopter display team. Flying four HAL Dhruv utility helicopters their display may not be as dynamic as other teams but this is more than made up by their wonderful golden colour scheme which utilizes bright colours with a peacock form imposed on it.
The international theme of Biggin continued with a display by the Dijon based Breitling Jet Team. Making the most of the blue skies over Kent, the close formation routine by the seven L-39 Albatross jet trainers was especially welcome as the Red Arrows were absent from the flying programme due to their tour of Canada and North America. The Swift Glider Team gave a brief respite from the whine of jet engines … but it was about to get noisy again!
It was the turn of the RAF to celebrate their 90th Anniversary in style. The sight of two Tornado F3s nosing out from the flightline heralded the start of the Role Demonstration. Having been well received the previous year, significant improvements had been made to the display to make it even more intense and crowd focused. The departing Tornado fighters departed stage right to join up with their ground attack cousins and orbiting E-3 Sentry which could be seen in the distance. With Biggin Hill airport being located on a ‘bump’ the Tornado crews used the geography to full advantage by surprising the crowd with a late ‘pop-up’ attack and numerous strafing runs. The scramble by two Hawks from RAF Leeming being notable as the defending Tornado F3s were on their tails before the ‘enemy’ had time to put their landing gear up! Joining the fast jets was the AAC Apache and RAF Chinook dropping off troops and providing direct fire support. At the end of the display a missed approach by the Tornado GR4s plus Sentry topside pass was appreciated by the crowd who rose to applaud the final formation flypast and to honour 90 years of the Royal Air Force.
Continuing the celebration was the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight which were followed by classic jet displays by the Meteor and Hunter. Bringing us back to the present day was the Typhoon from 29(R) Squadron at RAF Coningsby with an awesome demonstration of pure power.
Not to be outdone was the Royal Navy with their Historic Flight Sea Hawk and the Lynx pair of the Black Cats helicopter display team. With the light fading, there was just time for John Romain to round off the flying programme with his superbly flown solo Spitfire routine in tribute to ‘the few’ who flew from Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain.
Even with the Red Arrows being absent and just missing out on the Vulcan display, the 2008 Biggin Hill Air Fair delivered a varied and solid show which will be hard to beat in 2009.