Abingdon Air & Country Show Report
Sunday 2nd May 2010
One of the traditional airshow season starters, the Abingdon Air and Country show is now in its 11th year. Taking place annually on the May Day bank holiday weekend, this year's show boasted arguably the best line up in the shows history, only for an unforeseeable decision outside of the organiser's control threaten to jeopardise the show.
braved the elements to bring this report. Photos by the author and .
On the Friday before the show it was announced that Defence Estates, who own the airfield, had not signed off the licence to allow fixed wing aircraft to operate out of Abingdon. As a result the static display would consist only of helicopters and all display items would have to operate out of other airfields. While Defence Estates must have their reasons for this, the timing and bureaucracy is questionable. The show's date has been set in stone for over twelve months and does after all, donate all profits to the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust. Inevitably, this poorly timed decision will have reduced the number of paying punters through the gates and ultimately decreased the amount the show could donate to a very worthy charity.
"The all-volunteer committee would like to apologise for any disappointments caused by the restrictions on runway use and would like to thank everybody (helpers, displaying air and groundcrews, the visiting public and anybody else) for their support in this the most difficult year so far encountered by the Abingdon Air and Country Charity Show."
Volunteer, Abingdon Air & Country Show
To further rub salt in the wound, the weather forecast will have also put many people off from attending with icy winds and showers throughout the day. However, the flying display had a number of gems, including an unbelievable coup by the organisers to secure the Dutch F-16 display for the first time. Highlights included Paddy Green’s C-47 Dakota ‘Drag-em-oot’, two passes from an RAF 101 Squadron Vickers VC10, a single pass from an RAF Boeing C-17 from 99 Squadron, the photographically friendly VPG Vampire T11 display piloted by Matt Hampton, Delta Jets black Hunter T7 from nearby Kemble, 'the RAF Tucano, debuting in its wartime Spitfire camouflage scheme, flown by Flt Lt Tom Bould and Flt Lt Tom Saunders' RAF Hawk T1 display. Although still high and distant due to the restrictions placed on the routine, this years display has added much-needed variety. The stunning Dutch F-16 display flown by Capt Tobias "Hitec" Schutte, concluded the show.
Also displaying was the T-28 Fennec from Duxford, the Swift Aerobatic Team (who were forbidden from releasing their S-1 Swift Glider due to Defence Estates decision), RAF Tutor flown by Fly Lt Bill Ramsey and the Twister duo team piloted by Peter Wells and Guy Westgate. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire and Hurricane, Jet Provost and Harvard were all flying cancellations on the day. The static display highlights included the RAF’s Team Merlin with a Merlin Mk3, an RAF Puma from 230 Squadron, a US Army SHAPE UH-60 Black Hawk and a civilian owned OV-10 Bronco - the only fixed wing aircraft on static display, not including the Abingdon based No 612 VGS aircraft. The Bronco was said to have been allowed in because it was a guest of the VGS at Abingdon.
Despite the adverse circumstances the show faced, it was an enjoyable day out. The organiser Neil Porter and his team rightly deserve praise for making the most of the Defence Estates situation by extending the flying display and encouraging original static items, such as the C-17, to appear in the flying display - not to mention attracting such a sought after display item such as the Dutch F-16.
Next years show is scheduled for Sunday 1st May 2011. Can someone please turn the heating up?
Comment, reaction and opinion from members on our active forums:
"Stars of the show were all the pilots who put on polished displays and warmed us all up, especially the RAF for their tremendous support of the show. Of particular note was the carbon neutral footprint of the VC10 when it opened the throttles on the engines - great to see and I'll miss that sight when the VC10's retire."
"Organisers should be proud of still putting on a near full display in atrocious conditions, I could really see Abingdon is definitely beginning to become more than the 'Air and Country Show!' Like I said to one of the marshallers (who, by the way, were all very lively and friendly) when I was leaving, Abingdon organiers did the best they could and it pulled off! I'll be definitely back next year!"
"A special thanks to the Black Hawk guys, their attitude was frankly amazing, giving us a good 30 minutes of talk time, covering aspects from mission stories to technical detail, and even persuading us to have a sit in the pilots seat! The 4-star General who has that vehicle as his personal ride is a very lucky fella to have such a good crew."
"I take my hat off to to Neil and the rest of the organisers. To keep the show on the road despite Mother Nature's worst and MOD Estates must have taken a Herculean effort and I was very grateful they did."