Biggin Hill International Air Fair 2007 Review
Saturday 2nd June - Sunday 3rd June
A scorching weekend in early June greeted the two day 2007 Biggin Hill International Air Fair. With welcome changes made to the show layout, a packed crowd of close to 100,000 people not only enjoyed the excellent weather over both days but were also treated to a well constructed and varied flying programme.
reports from the 2007 Biggin Hill International Air Fair. Additional photography from , and .
Given Biggin's legendary status as an RAF fighter airfield, it was fitting that Spitfires should open and close the flying display. The lead example being a blue PR XIX from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, her Griffon 66 engine unceremoniously drowned out by the afterburner exuded by a Typhoon F2 from 29(R) Squadron. All was forgiven, however, as the pair majestically crossed the airfield in formation, with the Typhoon breaking off to perform its solo routine.
In complete contrast to the power and noise of the RAF's latest fighter was the two stroke pop of the Great War Display Team. Thundering around the skies in their airborne steeds, the 'hun' in their Junkers CL1s and Fokker DR1 were sent packing by the Royal Flying Corps in their SE5a, Sopwith Triplane and Nieuport replicas. Another dogfight ensued later on as the Me-109J Bouchon flown by Cliff Spink was engaged by the Kent and Grace Spifires - how unfair!
Earning a round of applause from the watching masses was the Swift Aerobatic Display Team. Consisting of an S-1 Swift glider and Extra 300 tow plane, the bulk of the display is flown with the glider still attached to the tug. Following the Extra though a series of aileron rolls, tight turns, wing overs and zoom climbs, the Swift is then discarded in order to perform its own polished routine. It's an amazing sight to see Guy Westgate in the S-1 inverted over the Extra - it's even more incredible considering that his day job is flying 747 airliners!
More Extras and more aerobatics from the Sywell based Blades aerobatic team gave way to the howl of the Hunter Mk58A G-PSST 'Miss Demeanour' from Heritage Aviation. Always a pleasure to see Jonathon Whaley show off the splendid colour scheme on the Hunter which resides at Bournmouth Airport alongside the Sea Vixen, which has been sorely missed on the 2007 display circuit.
Rotors turning on the far side of the airfield signalled the start of a busy weekend for the RAF Chinook Display Team. Making their first of no less than three (!) appearances in the flying programme, they took off as the jump ship of The Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment's Parachute display team - The Tigers. A FADEC engine problem cut short the appearance of the solo Chinook display on the Saturday but hard working ground engineers patched her up ready for inclusion in Sunday's procedings.
Continuing the rotary theme was a welcome display by a Merlin HM.1 from 824 NAS based at RNAS Culdrose. Even though carrying a lot more internal weight than its RAF cousin, the Royal Navy showed off the excellent straight line speed of this three engined anti-submarine helicopter with a number of fast passes and some pretty fancy handling.
The RAF has always given full support to the Biggin Hill Airshow and 2007 was no exception. Having already seen the Typhoon, it was the basic, primary and advanced trainer aircraft that now took centre stage. Displaying the highest degree of airmanship, the Tutor, Tucano and Hawk displays were immaculately flown. The only downside being the small size of the Tutor making it difficult to see from crowd centre and virtually invisible from the far ends of the crowd line bar the take-off and landing. The addition of a smoke generator for the Tutor would give the display a lot more punch and show off its excellent handling to a wider audience.
Time to reflect on the past as the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was celebrated at Biggin with a charismatic display by the Lancaster and a unique BBMF fighter tail chase routine. Having formed here at Biggin Hill in 1957, the original four founding aircraft flew together in the Kent skies once more - the Hurricane leading three ex-PRU Spitfires in a superbly choreographed display. Two of the PR. XIX Spitfires (PS915 & PM631) were BBMF owned examples whilst the other (PS853) was sold to Rolls-Royce in 1994 in order to pay for the rebuild of Hurricane LF363 which suffered severe damage during a landing accident at RAF Wittering in 1991. It was great to see them flying together again.
Making a welcome return to Biggin Hill after missing last years show due an overseas tour, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows filled the sky with their trademark coloured smoke before making way to pyrotechnics of a different kind courtesy of Sqn Ldr Andy Pawsey and the RAF Events Team. Biggin was chosen as the venue to showcase the new RAF Role Demo display which is designed to give the public a capability insight into the modern RAF rather than a diluted image of purely solo aerobatics.
The demo certainly grabs the attention, from the afterburner take-off of two Tornado F3s from the RAF Leuchars Wing, to a pairs departure of 100 Squadron Hawk T1s from RAF Leeming; joining overhead to control the ensuing melee was an E-3D Sentry from RAF Waddington. With a tactical scenario of securing an occupied airfield, firstly the Chinook drops off an advance assault party but stiff resistance from the 'enemy' means that an increased ground presence is required. Unfortunately the pair of nasty black Hawks from earlier turn up to spoil the party but these are chased off by the Tornado fighters under the control of the orbiting AWACS. This leaves the way clear for a C-130J Hercules to arrive with reinforcements but things are still not going too swimmingly with the gound offensive, so bigger bangs are required. Cue the FAC controller and a pair of Tornado GR4s from XIII Squadron at RAF Marham to make sure the pyrotechnic crew earn their pay. The heat and noise from the ensuing explosion was incredible - the crowd loved every moment. A large round of applause echoing around the airfield as all the Role Demo participants flew past in salute. Another victory to the RAF!
With the crowd's hearing gradually returning to normality it was time for something more sedate in the form of the North Weald Hangar 11 P-40M Kittyhawk, Duxford based B-17G 'Sally B' (which incidentally made her debut at the 1975 Biggin Hill Air Fair) and P-51D Mustang 'Ferocious Frankie'. The flypast by the Flying Fortress with two smoking engines being particularly poinient in the early evening sunshine.
A solo Blue Eagles Lynx represented the Army Air Corps performing more back flips than you could shake a stick at. The RAF Chinook also taking to the air for the final time to showcase its solo routine - time for a well earned beer chaps!
After some advertising in the sky courtesy of the Oasis Hong Kong 747 and Team Guinot, it was down to the piston duo of the Royal Navy Historic Flight Sea Fury and the 'Spirit of Kent' Spitfire to close the show; John Romain flying a superb routine in the Mk IX Spitfire TA805 ending with a classic zoom climb and victory roll. The perfect end to a great day's entertainment.
The 2007 Air Fair was a massive success. The excellent positioning of the participating aircraft nearer to the public, plus an increase in the length of the crowd line allowed better visibility of the varied and well thought out air display.
The Biggin Hill International Air Fair 2008 to be held on 7th & 8th June 2008 will have a tough act to follow.