Rougham Air Display 2009 Review
Saturday 15th August - Sunday 16th August
Now in its 12th year, the Rougham Air Display and Classic Car Show was held over the weekend of August 15th and 16th. Rougham is one of the smaller venues on the display calendar but always manages to attract a good variety of acts and is a great day out for families and enthusiasts alike. This year everything from World War One fighters to classic jets graced the sunny Suffolk skies.
reports for UK Airshow Review, with additional photography by
It should be pointed out that Saturday only had 5 flying items, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and Dakota, RAF Hawk, an M3 gyrocopter and a Laser 200. As usual the majority of the flying took place on the Sunday. The gates opened on Sunday morning at 9.30 with the admission price being a very reasonable £13 per adult, £9 for concessions and the under twelve's getting in for free. The programme was an additional £2, also very reasonable. With the flying display due to start at 12:15 there was plenty of time to look around the various stalls, classic cars, motorbikes, tractors and traction engines that had gathered for the event. The far end of the airfield and part of the display line had been set aside for vehicles from the Second World War era. The owners of these vehicles, and several re-enactors, had soon set up 'camp'. This gave a small glimpse of how the airfield may have looked during wartime operations. The warbirds participating in the display had all been parked in this part of the airfield allowing them to be 'guarded'. During the Second World War Rougham was home to the USAAF 94th bomb group, flying B-17 Flying Fortresses on daylight raids over Germany. Today the control tower, which has been magnificently restored to its original condition by the Rougham Tower Association stands next to a memorial to the aircrew that flew from the airfield. The flying started slightly earlier than advertised when a Chipmunk, which was not listed in the display programme, appeared over the airfield and put on a spirited display in clear blue skies. Fortunately the sun was to continue to shine for the rest of the day, a most welcome sight!
A Piper Arrow II flown by Martin West was the second, and somewhat rare, display item, intended as an example of 'everyday' flying. You don't normally, though, see such aircraft making steep wing-overs, and low speed gear up, flaps down low passes. Highly unusual. Rougham regular Bob Grimstead was up next in his Fournier RF4 motor glider and put on his usual graceful display, trailing smoke, and a streamer from the port wing. A change of pace followed with David Jenkins putting on a fine aerobatics display in his Laser 200. The display line at Rougham has a dogleg, the display line is 90 degrees to the runway, and David used this to good effect treating the crowd and photographers to a number of topside passes. The variety of display items Rougham attracts was illustrated with the next four flying items. A formation of three Boeing Stearmans from Old Buckenham was followed by a pair each of SE5a and Junkers CL1 replicas from the Great War Display Team, re-enacting dogfights from the First World War. John Elliott came next in his MT03 autogyro. This is one of the more unusual items on the display circuit and John's excellent display included a pass with both hands off the control column! The last display in this segment was another Aerobatic display with Peter Lawton flying his home built Vans RV8. There was then a brief pause in the display allowing the chance to grab a drink or ice cream; it was a very warm afternoon by this point!
At 13:55 Tom Maloney disturbed the peace in a Strikemaster. This is the first time I'd seen a jet display at Rougham and it made quite an impact at a relatively small venue. Then came the Old Flying Machine Company duo, Alistair Kay flying P-51D Ferocious Frankie with Brian Smith flying Spitfire IX MH434. This can only be described as a scintillating routine, a series of formation flypasts, tail chases, several topside passes and low level high speed passes. The routine went down a storm with the crowd. The pair then disappeared into the distance to formate with the next item.
Before long the distinctive shape of B-17G Flying Fortress Sally B appeared over the trees at the end of the runway flanked on either side by the Spitfire and Mustang. After one pass the pair of fighters broke to land leaving Sally B to make a very welcome return to the display circuit. The grand old lady has been plagued by technical problems since May last year, suffering no fewer than three engine failures. It's a great credit to Elly Sallingboe, the volunteers who work on the B-17 and countless supporters that Sally B is airworthy once again. The sight of her back in the air was greatly appreciated by the crowd. Howard Cook displayed next in the Historic Aircraft Collection's Hurricane XIIa before heading back to Duxford. It had been hoped that Peter Teichman's 'Hurribomber' would arrive before Howard displayed. This would then have been the first time since World War Two that a pair of Hurricanes had been on the ground at the same time at Rougham. Sadly this was not possible due to Peter's display commitments.
The next display segment was titled 'Breakout'. This made use of the military vehicles and re-enactors on the ground as well as airborne assets. Leah Hammond flew the Auster V in the air observation role, with Jeanne Frazer following as forward air controller in a L4 cub. With their missions complete the pair landed, leaving the airfield free for Alistair Kay to get airborne again in Ferocious Frankie. Another breath taking display followed as Alistair flew a number of strafing passes complete with pyrotechnics on the ground. Then a Messerschmitt Bf108 flew an airfield attack routine. Again pyrotechnics were used to enhance the display, including flak to try and shoot the bandit down!
The familiar sight of the Avro Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight came next. Always a star of the show wherever she flies the crew treated the crowd to their usual display routine. A complete change of pace followed as the Gnat pair arrived to start their display. Their signature "heart" formation went down very well, especially as Heart FM was the title sponsor for the show. We had been promised a couple of surprise items during the day as the air boss was trying to talk aircraft that were transiting to other displays into performing at Rougham, and the F-86A Sabre was one such item. Again it was quite striking to see a jet displaying at such close quarters and with the Sabre apparently heading stateside later this year this was sadly the last chance to see it fly at this venue. The display was now heading towards its finale and another Rougham regular, Nigel Willson, put on a lively show in his Yak 52. Brian Smith then flew another spectacular display in Spitfire IX MH434. This included a low level pass, canopy open with Brian waving to the crowd. Spell binding.
The penultimate aircraft was Peter Teichman in his Hurricane IIB, the last of the so-called 'Hurribombers'. For me this was the highlight of the display. The 'Hurribomber' is a stunning looking aircraft and is one of the best looking warbirds flying in this country. Peter flew his usual graceful display in the warm evening sunshine before coming in to land, giving people the chance to grab a close up look of this beautifully restored aircraft. The final item was another act grabbed by the air boss, the Swift Aerobatic display team. Guy Westgate showed why he is eight times National Glider Aerobatic Champion with an awe-inspiring display in his glider, which earned a rapturous round of applause from the crowd.
In conclusion this year's Rougham show was possibly the best to date. It represented a great value day out for all. The crowd of 12,000 were treated to a superb flying display in near perfect weather. The shows organisers can feel very proud of their hard work. Let's hope 2010 is better still!