Old Buckenham Air Show 2005 Review
Sunday 26th June
When aviation enthusiasts decided to reclaim parts of an abandoned USAAF World War Two bomber base, few could have envisaged just how successful their quest would become. Old Buckenham, near Attleborough in Norfolk is now a thriving general and historic aviation centre, home to everything from Boeing Stearman biplanes to parachute display teams, and since it's rebirth as an active airfield in 1998, 'Old Buck' has hosted an ever popular annual air show. 2005 marked the show's seventh anniversary.
reports on the action for UKAR. All photos by the author.
Kylie Minogue, Tom Cruise and Steve McQueen. All iconic, nay beautiful people, but all rather lacking in inches. Proof then, that small is beautiful. And that's certainly true of the Old Buckenham Airshow - held on Sunday June 26th.
A flying visit from an aviation legend was a bonus for punters who arrived early. Ken Wallis is to the autogyro what Emerson, Lake and Palmer were to prog rock - he's the daddy. Now well into his eighties, Ken must surely qualify as one of the oldest men still flying in Britain today. The autogyro he brought to Old Buckenham was one of his amazing collection of nineteen such aircraft - among them "Little Nellie" which he provided and flew in many scenes in the James Bond movie "You Only Live Twice".
The morning session was very busy. Myriad general aviation arrivals were interspersed with the display aircraft. Unusual types seen arriving included a Hungarian registered Yak-18 and several Yak-52s. A Piston Provost arrived courtesy of Andy Edmondson - who, due to a couple of cancellations, found himself shoe-horned into the flying display!
If there's one criticism of Old Buckenham, then it's the lack of variety shown over the years. A large chunk of the displaying aircraft are the same year on year. Old Buckenham is a show which seems somewhat set in its ways - it works, so why change it? It'd be great to see this show grow and develop into something more than a celebration of general aviation. Warbird collectors Maurice Hammond, Rob Davies and Peter Teichman are all long-standing supporters of the show and should be encouraged by the organisers to bring more of their personal air forces to the show. The display of Sally B was a spectacle and a real plus in 2004, but there was no "star" item this year. Don't be afraid to "grow the show" should be the message the organisers take from 2005.
Kennet Aviation's Douglas Skyraider was due to open the show at 2pm but went "tech" - so pilot John Beattie brought Kennet's Jet Provost Mk.5 instead. A jet at Old Buck! They'll be giving women the vote next! Beattie's display was a good one - albeit not as good as Andy Gent's routine at Kemble the week before. A real treat to see and hear a jet at a show otherwise exclusively the domain of props.
Aerobatics came from Britain's two premier solo display pilots - Will Curtis in the Honda Dream Team Sukhoi Su-26, and Denny Dobson's Extra 300. Both were typically outstanding. Curtis flies a display based on the power of his Sukhoi, while Dobson's is more barnstorming. Limbo flying and ribbon cutting.
There was more barnstorming from the Turbulents of the Tiger Club display team. The oldest civilian team in the world, they specialise in balloon bursting, flour bombing and tight formation flying - in aircraft powered by little more than a rubber band!
Back for the second time in three years was Gennady Elfimov in the Yak-52. Based at Halfpenny Green in the Black Country, Elfimov knows the Russian trainer like few other pilots. His display was crisp and impressive - topped off by an unconventional approach to land. Pull up into a loop, drop the gear and flaps and touch down as you pull out of the loop.
Other solo displays came from the Piston Provost, Chris Harper in the kit-plane Rutan Berkut, Justin Gorman in the Vans RV-4, ex-Red Arrows pilot Ian Smith in the Christen Eagle II and Al Coutts in the Pitts Special.
A three ship of Boeing Stearmen was an undoubted highlight. Flown by Gerry Honey, Dave Bagshaw and Bruce Monk, this was a tight formation routine, with the rasping radial engines making a tremendous din in the South Norfolk skies.
Rounding off the powered flying was the eagerly awaited duo of P-51D Mustangs. "Janie" and "Big Beautiful Doll" owned and flown by Maurice Hammond and Rob Davies respectively put on a glorious show - just a shame for the photographers that these, and all the day's displays took place against a surly backdrop of grey gloom. The Mustangs opened with a series of paired flypasts before breaking off into individual routines. "Janie" was the more energetically flown - but both could justifiably claim to be the stars (and stripes) of Old Buckenham 2005.
The show finished with a demonstration by the Old Buckenham-based UK Parachute Display Team - who haven't been clobbered by the same health and safety rules that have got to the RAF Falcons. The UK team jump with display smoke, and refreshingly the crowd stuck around to watch the final item rather than head for the car park. They were rewarded with some precision jumping.
Old Buck 2005 was a good show - but it remains a show which doesn't stretch itself. At £12 (proceeds to the East Anglian Air Ambulance) the admission was reasonable, but the organisers need to start varying the display programme before the event stagnates. Punters will only come back to watch the same aircraft so many times - don't be afraid to "let the show grow".