Rougham Air Show 2008 Review
Sunday 17th August
During World War II Rougham was home to the 94th Bomb Group of the USAAF, flying B-17s in daylight raids over Germany. Today there is a memorial to the airmen that flew from there and the old control tower has been renovated back to its wartime condition by the Rougham Tower Association. It is also home to an annual airshow that must rank as one of the most enjoyable of the 'smaller' shows on the airshow calendar. Now in its 11th year, previous shows have been graced by such relative rarities as the Saab Safir, Fiat G-46, Piston Provost and T-28 Trojan as well as some serious heavy metal in the form of various Spitfires and Mustangs, Hangar 11's P-40, Peter Vacher's Mk I Hurricane and most appropriately, the B-17 'Sally B'. The RAF also provides good support with the BBMF, Hawk, Tutor and even a Harrier appearing in recent years.
reports for UK Airshow Review. All photography by the author.
It was therefore surprising that this year there seemed to be a distinct lack of information available on the show; the airfield website had nothing about the show beyond the date and the usually reliable airshow websites had very little information on the participants. Given the lack of information on what I could expect at the show and with a morning that dawned with the weather looking rather bleak, as has been the case with so many shows this year, I was seriously wondering if it was going to be worth making the trip. However, I decided to put my worries to the back of my mind and do my bit supporting the smaller end of UK airshow events.
After a 90 minute trip I arrived at the airfield, paid my very reasonable £15 entry fee along with buying a programme (a great idea by the way; selling the programme at the gate - why don't more shows do this?) and carefully negotiated my way across the distinctly wet and muddy car park. Once parked up I scanned the programme to see what was flying and was pleased to see that the afternoon promised a flying display that was well up to the standards of previous years. A quick survey of the flightline also promised a couple of unlisted items as well. With the weather looking pretty good too it was shaping up to be another good afternoon of flying at Rougham.
The display started promptly at 1pm with the Stearman Trio, led by Gerry Honey. Regulars at Rougham and other East Anglian shows, the aircraft flew a tight three-ship before breaking to perform some opposition manoeuvres and finally a tailchase, giving the crowd a lovely topside pass from each aircraft. Rougham is one of those great airshow venues with a dog leg display line allowing the pilots to perform at least one pass giving the photographers a great topside shot as well as giving the crowd an opportunity to get up close and personal with the aircraft & pilots on the ground. Next up was Bob Grimshaw in the Fournier Motor Glider. This was a display I've not seen before and Bob impressed in the small aircraft; I particularly enjoyed him giving us a wave as he pulled the glider around the bend! The seldom seen Pilatus P-2 was next into the air, giving a nice, if a bit too high for this photographer, aerobatic display. The next display highlighted the variation in the afternoon's display with an energetic display by a Piper Arrow; where else do you get to see a GA type not only performing at a show, but also doing so very ably?
John Fairey was next up in another rarely seen classic; the Piston Provost. As befitting a veteran display performer like John, he gave a polished display in the sunshine with a gorgeous backdrop of broken clouds. It was then time to slow things down a little with a scale SE5A replica and a Junkers CL1 look alike of the Great War Display Team before Guy Westgate arrived in the Swift Glider. Despite a flash fire on one of the wingtip canisters during the display Guy performed his usual gravity defying aerobatics in the glider before landing at the end of the runway ready for a swift turnaround to depart for his next display of the day. As Guy departed, Rob Howarth came roaring in to display in the Pitts Model 12 'Macho Stinker', having got airborne a little earlier. The Pitts 12 was the last design from Curtis Pitts and is powered by a powerful 360 HP Russian built radial engine. The high performance biplane is the only example in the UK and is new to the display circuit this year. Rob flew an energetic, and extremely noisy, aerobatic display in the Pitts and the display looks capable of being a worthy successor to those of Will Curtis & Denny Dobson, both of whom have previously graced Rougham.
It was then time for us to search the sky for the first visiting act of the afternoon and also the first RAF contribution to the display. Sure enough, bang on time, the unmistakable sight and sound of the BBMF Lancaster appeared over the tree line to crowd right. A BBMF appearance at these smaller events is usually a highlight of the display and the Lancaster didn't disappoint. Appearing on her own this year we were treated to a number of flypasts from the big bomber with the pilot taking advantage of the dog leg to give us a rare topside view on not just one but all of the passes. Combined with the closeness of the display it was a great opportunity to see one of the legends of Wold War II being displayed with gusto. No sooner had the Lanc' departed than Peter Teichman arrived in his P-51 'Jumping Jacques' from Eastbourne, making a fast pass before landing. The airfield was then bounced by a rogue Messerschmitt 108 which, having followed the P-51 up from Eastbourne, no doubt thought it was safe. Little did the pilot, Dave Evans, know but Alister Kay was on the ground in the OFMC P-51 'Ferocious Frankie' ready to take off. After scrambling to intercept the invader the result was never in any doubt and after a brief dog fight the inevitable conclusion was soon reached as the Me. 108 disappeared beyond the horizon trailing smoke. With the 'enemy' successfully repelled, a feat no doubt made even more satisfying with the knowledge that the pilot was none other than a CAA inspector, Alister than proceeded to treat us to a scintillating display in the P-51. Whilst not quite up to the level of his display last year in MH434, it was still a breathtaking display of man & machine in perfect harmony, displaying the Mustang to its true potential before disappearing into the distance with a victory roll.
There was another short pause in proceedings while we awaited the arrival of the RAF's next contribution to the display. As ever, arriving bang on their allocated time, ten (rather than the usual nine) red Hawks of the RAF Display Team, The Red Arrows, arrived from crowd rear for a single flypast. Whilst many people were disappointed that there was only the one flypast the organisers should be applauded for even making this happen as well as arranging for a special ten-ship flypast rather than the usual nine! Next up was another travelling RAF display, this time the SAR Sea King from Wattisham. Showing the determination that performers make to get to Rougham the crew had been working hard all morning to get the aircraft serviceable after she went tech at Clacton. It was then the turn of another local lad, Nigel Wilson, in the Yak-52 before a familiar shape took centre stage; the Spitfire. Having been patiently holding in the distance for quite a while the Mk IX Spitfire of the BBMF, MK356, came in to display, showing off the distinctive new silver markings of an aircraft of No. 601 Squadron based in Italy in 1944. It's great to see a different finish on a Spitfire and the BBMF should be congratulated for their policy of regularly changing the squadron markings on their aircraft. It was a real shame that the sun decided to disappear totally for this display as I'm sure she would have looked spectacular with the sun glinting off of her silver surfaces.
Another newcomer (to me at least) next and another example of the variety of acts that Rougham attracts; John Elliot in the MT-03 Autogyro. I can't remember the last time I saw an autogyro at a display so this was a welcome surprise, especially as it was such a spritely performance including a 'no hands' pass, a manoeuvre so favoured by the leading exponent of the autogyro, Ken Wallis. The RAF Tutor display then arrived in a two-ship formation before making a very photogenic break to land. We then had another Mustang display, this time from Peter Teichman. Peter must be one of the hardest working performers in the UK, regularly taking at least one of his stable of warbirds to shows up and down the country. Having arrived earlier in the afternoon after four days of displays at Eastbourne he proceeded to treat the crowd to a characteristically polished display in 'Jumping Jacques' in the afternoon sunshine.
Penultimate act of the afternoon was a paired display from Team Guinot in their distinctively painted Stearman. The wingwalkers are a favourite on the airshow scene (for many reasons!) and whilst I prefer the five-ship display for pure spectacle, the duo put on a display making the most of the proximity of the display line to the crowd. It was then down to the RAF and Flt Lt Andy Preece to close the show in the Grob Tutor. Whilst not the most powerful of aircraft around Andy performed a routine up to his usual high standards; superbly demonstrating the RAF's elementary trainer and even giving us a couple of nice, close top side passes to round off the show.
And so in conclusion it proved to be another great show from the organisers at Rougham with a varied and interesting flying display and some unusual performers and great displays. Let's hope that the encroaching development of houses and proposed by-pass don't end up consigning yet another show to the history books.