Kemble Air Day 2008 Review
Sunday 15th June
Fathers' Day in the Cotswolds is rapidly becoming synonymous with the Kemble Air Day, and June the 15th 2008 saw the event celebrate not only the RAF's 90th anniversary in fine style, but also the 70th birthday of the airfield itself. For the first time in the event's 12-year history the organisers had elected to adopt a charity, with the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF) being the chosen beneficiary.
reports from the Cotswolds. All photography by the author.
Having set off at 0600, the Drage clan turned the corner towards the airfield just before 0800 and were greeted by the imposing sight of a RAF C-17A Globemaster III belonging to 99 Sqn, and resident of the nearby RAF Brize Norton. The perfect welcome mat for the show! We drove straight in, parked up and were in line to enter the showground before the gates were opened.
It was impossible to forget that Kemble's still a living, breathing, working airfield, with many of Delta Jets' Hunters (non-flyers, at least for now), one of Chevron Technical Services RJ100s, and various other residents all presented in a row as you entered the static park.
Speaking of which, full marks go to the organisers for attracting a number of seldom seen airframes for the static, most notably the Martin Baker Meteor pair, and the 84 Sqn (RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus) Griffin.
It was also particularly nice to be able to note a VC10 and a C130K present, in addition to the aforementioned C-17A. It's been a while since our over-stretched Air Transport branch have been in a position to provide such support. The only minor criticism that I could offer is that it was impossible to get an unobstructed view of them.
1100 hrs rolled around and signalled the commencement of the flying display. The duty of opening the show fell to the Rolls Royce owned and painted, Griffon-engined Spitfire Mk XIX, sadly in less than ideal conditions for photography. Rolls Royce' chief test pilot Phil O'Dell was doing the driving.
I've yet to see the combined 18(B) Sqn and 27 Sqn Chinook HC2 display this year in nice light. Such a shame that once again Flt Lt Rich Simpson and his team got the rough end of the stick with the weather. The Chinook still remains one of the crowd's favourites with its unmistakable sound and ability to perform the seemingly impossible.
Flt Lt Stew Campbell put the 1 FTS Tucano T1 through its paces next, before it was Flt Lt Dave Davies turn in the 208(R) Sqn Hawk. As well as the two displays were flown, the colourschemes just look horrible in anything other than sunny conditions...
Peter Teichman benefitted from some slightly nicer light when he displayed his own Hangar 11 collection's P-51D Mustang, "Jumpin' Jacques". As always with Peter's displays it featured a number of lovely sweeping passes, showing off the top surfaces of this wonderful aircraft, with such a distinctive sound.
Kemble traditionally takes a break for an hour or so during the flying display, and taking to the skies during the lazy lunch period were a couple of examples of the amazing jet powered model planes that had been on display on the showground, this F/A-18 Hornet being one.
The Royal Navy's Black Cats opened part two of the display with a typically accurate routine. The Lynx helicopters and crews are drawn from 702 Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton.
Another Kemble resident organisation are Ultimate High who combine the operation of an advanced flying school with performing air displays and hosting corporate entertainment days. The four-ship routine witnessed during the show featured two Extra 300s and two Bulldogs, and was flown by Mark Greenfield, Bill Perrins, Mark Griggs and Ian Hoolahan.
Making his first airborne appearance of two during the day was Andy Cubin in the Delta Jets Gnat, painted to represent an example from the "Yellow Jacks" display team, who operated the type.
On the subject of first appearances, making his airshow debut was locally based Steve Roberts, who showed off the lovely lines of the de Havilland Hornet Moth. Steve hails from the village of Oaksey, a mere three miles from the airfield at Kemble.
Clive Denney and Mike Dentith performed a nice airfield attack routine in a pair of Messerschmitt Bf-108s, or more correctly Nord 1002 Pengouins, given that they were built in France after the end of World War II.
The Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight's Dakota had been scheduled to appear at the show, however, a technical issue meant that just Hurricane Mk IIc PZ865 and Spitfire Mk IIa P7350 - the oldest airworthy Spitfire in the world - were present.
Army Air Corps participation came next, with the departure of the Apache AH1, the Army Air Corps Historic Flight's Alouette II and Scout AH1, the Gazelle AH1 and the Lynx AH7. As far as I'm aware this was the first full public performance by the new look Blue Eagles, and incorporating a solo demo by the Apache that features the use of a few pyros. It made a welcome change and would look great on a sunny day. It's such a menacing looking piece of kit.
It's a pleasure to see Andrew Dixon and his Pembroke getting a bit of extra exposure this year. The lovely, graceful bird looked fantastic as she performed a series of low-level sweeping passes.
The newest addition to the RAF's display repertoire is the Beechcraft King Air B200, captained by Flt Lt Leon Creese of 45(R) Sqn, RAF Cranwell. Leon transitioned to the type four years ago, and immediately recognised that the aircraft could and should be present on the display circuit, however, he only received the green light to work up a routine this year, promptly winning the Wright Jubilee Trophy for the best display by a RAF training aircraft in the process. Prior to the posting to 45(R) Sqn, Leon flew Hercules from RAF Lyneham. It makes a real change to see the King Air being put through its paces like this.
Not only did the RAF have an Air Transport presence on the ground at Kemble, they also had one in the air, courtesy of a 216 Sqn Tristar from RAF Brize Norton, who performed one clean and one dirty pass, and also a Hercules from RAF Lyneham, who did a single flythrough. It's been a while since I've seen a Tristar appear at a show, and with it being a year where the RAF are unable to provide a Herc for either a solo display or the Role Demo, these were very welcome appearances.
Since its inception in 2007, nothing on the UK airshow circuit has got tongues wagging more (save for the Vulcan's impending return) than the RAF Role Demonstration, and whilst that first year's routine was good, full credit has to be given to Sqn Ldr Andy Pawsey and his team for listening to the constructive feedback that was received, going away and coming back with a quite superb set piece routine to wow the crowds in 2008.
The demonstration tells the story of the rescue of two friendly troops who have been captured during a recent operation, and who are being held on an active enemy airfield. The mission is to rescue the friendlies and destroy the airfield. Unfortunately as previously mentioned operational commitments mean that the Hercules is no longer able to take part in this season's piece, but there is a newcomer to the party; the Apache.
The lack of Hercules means that the troop insertion/extraction is left to the Chinook to undertake, whilst the Apache provides fire cover, and the Tornado F3s the top cover. In the midst of all the action, the enemy launch a pair of 100 Sqn Hawks in a bid to take out the attacking forces. They're soon dealt with by the Tornado F3s, however. The Tornado GR4s are on hand to provide Close Air Support once the enemy Surface to Air Missile sites have been knocked out. With the friendly troops rescued it's now time to extract them and the ground forces. It's then down to the GR4s to destroy the airfield infrastructure with high-energy bombs.
Mission accomplished, the players return to base in time for tea, medals and a celebratory flypast. The action's non-stop, the pyrotechnics impressive, and most of all, it's a damned good spectacle.
The comments from members of the public near to me suggested that they too thought it was superb. The vision of Sqn Ldr Andy Pawsey is for the Role Demo to engage with the public. There's no two ways about it; the mission has been well and truly accomplished.
Kemble also bore witness to another of the RAF Events Team's "Signature Images". This time it featured two of the resident Delta Jets Hunters (Andy Cubin in the blue example, and Brian Cornes in the black one), together with the pair of Tornado F3s that had taken part in the Role Demo. A really lovely sight.
Dave Harvey was fortunate enough to display Golden Apple's F-86 Sabre in some of the best conditions of the whole day. One of the best looking classic jets on the circuit, in my opinion, though it has been claimed that she could be heading west at the end of the year.
The plan had been that the Air Atlantique Classic Flight Vampire T55 on static would display with its fellow Coventry-based de Havilland relation, the Venom FB50. However, due to a lack of qualified pilots that wasn't possible. Instead, John Beattie took to the skies in the Venom alongside Pat Barnes in the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Sea Hawk.
The 2008 29(R) Sqn Typhoon display pilot is Flt Lt Charlie Matthews. Charlie was born in New Zealand, joined the RNZAF and had hoped to convert on to the F-16 with the air arm until the acquisition of said type was cancelled. Consequently he joined the RAF in 2001 and following tours on the Tornado F3, he now finds himself based at RAF Coningsby as an instructor on the Typhoon. Conditions were lovely for his display and it was very well flown - the transition between high-speed and low-speed flight is particularly impressive, but its the raw power the EJ200 engines exude that makes it a real crowd pleaser.
Displaying immediately after the Typhoon, and having the distinction of closing the show, were the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team, and this served to emphasise just how changeable conditions were!
With the display flying completed, all that was left was for a number of the attending aircraft to depart for home, the C-17 kicking up quite a storm as it did so! And so the curtain came down on Kemble Air Day 2008. After hanging around for a while to let the crowds disperse and to give us the chance to wander down the flightline, we expedited the airfield with the minimum of fuss.
Early indications suggest that it was a record attendance for the show, and that the so-far elusive figure of 20,000 people through the turnstyles is getting very close indeed. If this standard can be maintained there's no reason why Kemble Air Day shouldn't continue to grow. It was particularly pleasing to see such a strong presence from Her Majesty's Royal Air Force, who really did themselves proud in the air and on the ground.
At very reasonable advanced rates of £18.50 per adult and £5 for a child, this simply has to rate as excellent value for money.
Roll on Fathers' Day 2009!