Abingdon Air and Country Show 2007 Review
Sunday 6th May
It's fast becoming to the air display calendar what the Community Shield is for the football season. Abingdon's Air and Country Show 2007 took place this year on May 6th, with the organisers hoping for another successful event and hopefully benefitting from more of the wonderful spring weather Britain had enjoyed for the month preceding the event. The show turned out to be another great one continuing the event's proud tradition, even if the weather decided to be a little changeable.
reports from Abingdon. Photography by .
Abingdon's reputation as a leisurely, fun curtain-raiser for the airshow season has been growing for a number of years now, so I decided it was high time I went and saw for myself what all the fuss was about.
One of two gripes of the day, and it's a minor one, concerns the lack of good signage for the event. The show wasn't signposted from the A34, and anyone not knowing the event was being held at Dalton Barracks may well have missed their exit. As I say it's a little moan, but a moan nonetheless!
Once on the airfield traffic was well marshalled into three lanes - one for advance ticket and pass holders and two for the public. Admission was a wholly reasonable £8 for adults, and a well-produced (if thin) programme a further pound. Prices which throw into stark contrast the charges being levied for the Spirit of Adventure event planned to be held at the same location just a couple of weeks later, which also plans to charge for parking, something the Abingdon organisers wisely decided against!
On the showground the other "moan" becomes evident - as reported with previous Abingdon shows, a woeful lack of toilets led to long queues throughout the day. Yes providing such facilities does cost money that eats into the budget of small events, but adequate toilet facilities are something which every airshow really needs to get right. People don't want to be queuing cross-legged, bladders bursting during the flying display they've paid to watch.
Being such a small and low-key event the static park was pretty limited, but interesting nonetheless. Representing the modern RAF were examples of Puma, Merlin, Hawk and Tucano, while civilian owners provided a BAC Strikemaster, Jet Provost, de Havilland Chipmunk and Douglas DC-3 on display, among other light aircraft types, with Air Atlantique's wonderful Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer and Percival Prentice offering pleasure flights before and after the display. At least one of the "Twin Pin" flights featured Iron Maiden's plane-mad Bruce Dickinson (though one of the UKAR party memorably got him confused with perma-tanned Bargain Hunt star David Dickinson) in the cockpit!
Flying was due to get underway at 1:30pm, and mercifully the murky, threatening cloud vanished in time for Rob Davies in his stunning North American P-51D Mustang "Big Beautiful Doll" to get the show off to a terrific start, despite the strong crosswind which remained all day. Davies was one of several civilian pilots to incorporate American-style topside passes, so welcomed by photographers. I'd like the pilots to know such passes ARE appreciated!
And speaking of appreciation and pats-on-backs, we must say a big well done to the local Air Cadets who patrolled the crowdline on "FOD Plod" duty, collecting litter being blown from the crowd towards the runway. The Cadets get a lot of flak from us enthusiasts at some shows for blindly wandering into aim of our lenses just as the perfect shot looms into view, but not so at Abingdon. Every single time they walked past, they waited until we'd taken our shots before walking across our line of vision. It's a small thing, but massively appreciated. Our group made sure we thanked the youngsters for their thoughtfulness each time, because it's these small things and neat touches that can turn a good day into a great one.
The display continued with a succession of impressive displays. The Percival Pembroke went next and flew a tremendous tight display, with plenty of low passes, and the odd semi-topside too. Next we saw this season's RAF Tutor display, which suffered a little by being rather distant from the crowdline. Nonetheless it is a good display considering the little machine's limitations, as it is after all an elementary trainer. A special paint scheme might be a thought for future seasons though.
Centre stage was then taken by one of the star performers on the day, a rare singleton display from a Royal Navy Lynx. In many ways it was like watching half a Black Cats routine, but the Lynx helicopter's "chuck-around-ability" never ceases to impress. The display was concluded with some hovering manoeuvres close to the crowd line which went down extremely well.
Andy Cubin was next in one of Delta Jet's Hawker Hunters. On this occasion it was the striking blue-painted two seater XL577. "Cubes" is probably the country's (and possibly the world's) premier Hunter display pilot, and at Abingdon he didn't disappoint, opening an impressive routine with a fast knife-edge pass from crowd right. Like the Lynx, the Hunter was certainly one of the standout displays on the day.
Peter Teichmann is a lucky man. As well as the Spitfire PR.XI displayed here, he also owns a lovely Curtiss P-40 and P-51D Mustang "Jumpin' Jacques". Here he displayed the Spitfire brilliantly, again with several photo-friendly topsides, as well as the habitual "victory roll". No airshow would be complete without a Spitfire display, and Abingdon's was a fitting demonstration worthy of the type.
The RAF's basic trainer the Tucano displayed next, wearing a fine scheme to mark the 90th anniversary of 72 Squadron. For my money, maybe it was the smaller venue, but this year's Tucano demonstration is one of the best in recent years. Tight and spectacular, and topped off, as with last year with a spectacular loop and Khe-Sahn approach to finish. Well done!
With no Team Merlin flying display this year, it was left to the Chinook display crew to up the rotary "wow" factor with their ever-jaw-dropping routine. Quite how such a vast and at first glance unwieldy beast like the much-loved "Wokka" can be thrown around like that is really something quite amazing, with the big helicopter pivoting on its own axis in a series of spirals and turns. And of course the sound is quite unique.
The recently re-painted Messerschmitt Me108 took to the skies after the Chinook looking dapper in its new scheme. The display is always an enjoyable one, due in no small part to the long curving passes which show the aircraft's lines, and Messerschmitt family heritage, to maximum effect.
Denny Dobson's solo routine in his Extra 300 was next, though his regular barnstorming session of flying between limbo poles had to be scrubbed because of the fierce crosswind. Denny's recently announced a sponsorship deal with Goodyear, so hopefully his future on the display circuit is safe for the foreseeable future.
Concluding the show were two acts from the current MoD inventory - the RAF solo Hawk demonstration and the Army Air Corps Gazelle, in the enforced absence of the Blue Eagles team. Both displays were as always well flown, with the Gazelle in particular thrown around with aplomb in the greying and windy skies, concluding what was certainly a very enjoyable show to start the 2007 airshow season.
My first taste of Abingdon was a good one. With just a couple of very minor tweaks, UKAR hopes the organisers can build towards the 2008 show with confidence!