RAF Cosford Air Show 2009 Review
Sunday 14th June
Cosford seemingly suffers from weather of either the damp and grey variety, or the scorching hot. Taking its traditional spot in the display calendar of the second weekend of June, the 2009 show saw the latter, which was certainly a contributory factor to this year's swelling crowd which saw an approximate 80,000 people turn up to a 58,000 capacity event. The first of what is now only 3 remaining RAF 'At Home' days, it appears Cosford very much sticks to a tried and tested method of getting the punters in, focusing more on the 'Families Day Out' than a true, out and out RAF airshow. With this in mind, one would have to look hard for any major changes in the display line ups from year to year as Cosford sticks to a classic recipe that evidently gets the punters in. That's not to say this year's show didn't have its highlights though, more of which later.
reports for UKAR. Photography by the author, and
As it is, Cosford isn't ideally suited to hosting one of the RAF's big days and this can epitomised by the very nature of the airfield. Forming the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering, the base hosts predominantly ground based squadrons in basic engineering, as well at the PTI training for the RAF. Fixed wing assets solely consist of Vigilants and Tutors of the resident VGS, AEF and UAS. Given the length of Cosford's runway (just shy of 4,000ft), there's not a lot more that could operate from here; which of course has an impact on the display.
As such the static is well, slim. The RAF Museum located is opened up for the punters to have a look around, including the impressive Cold War museum, however, for the regular attendee, not a lot changes amongst these hangers over the years. Equally of note is the resident aircraft used by the DCAE for ground training, including the not so long ago airworthy Jaguar GR.3's of 6 Sqn. Once again though, the special 'spotty' Jaguar was the only one available for public viewing, with at least a dozen more compounded at the top end of the airfield. One can only wonder why this is the case, with the troubles encountered in trying to get external aircraft into the static, which this year consisted of the traditional RAF Merlin HC.3, RN Lynx HAS.3 and Jetstream T.2 amongst other smaller pieces. The rest of the showground consisted of your traditional family fare of Ice Cream vans, fairground rides and perfume at 'the lowest price around...' A family theme indeed.
But enough of the ground show, more on the flying. It's a sad realisation that the show lacks the fast jet 'oomph' compared to the likes of Waddington and Leuchars. Of course the lack of RAF Role Demo this year and the reduction in RAF solos attribute to this, but Cosford also seems to struggle to attract the foreign demos too. Hope was given earlier in the year when the RNLAF demo team confirmed their attendance on their website, only to remove it a short time later. A bitter blow for a show screaming for such an act. Whilst on the theme of cancellations, those on the day included Sally B, which seems to enjoy no luck these days, and the RNHF who were suffering from maintenance issues.
A welcome last minute replacement for the later turned out to be one of the stars, the Golden Apple F-86 Sabre. Tearing around the sky with plenty of gusto, leaving in its wake the familiar smokey trail, this display was most impressive, making it an even greater shame to to know she'll be heading Stateside at the end of the current season. Another star turn was also not expected, in the shape of the Belgian Air Component Sea King Mk. 48, providing a very welcome and rare SAR display which was well received by the sell-out crowd.
Of course, being one of the RAF At Home days, the home team was out in force... with what's left on the circuit, anyway! With the loss of the Role Demo, and then the Harrier so soon after confirmation, it's hard to remember when the RAF was so thin on demos, certainly at no point in my own lifetime. Solely representing the sharp end this year is the Typhoon from 29(R) Sqn, with new pilot Flight Lieutenant Scott Loughran showing what we've come to expect; namely a typically well polished routine with plenty of G and loud pedal action. The rest of the RAF contingent consisted mostly of the training elements, in the shape of the Tutor T.1, King Air 200 and Hawk T.1. JHC once again was represented with the Chinook HC.2, which for such a big aircraft, never fails to impress.
The rest of the flying was made up of a range of crowd-pleasing civilian items, following a similar vein to those of recent shows. Ranging from the wing-walking Team Guinot to the diminutive Silence Twister, with everything from warbirds and barnstorming in between.
And then to the main event, Vulcan XH558 is back. Flying direct from Brize Norton the Delta Lady created an awestruck hush in the crowd, many of the crowd present having not witnessed her before. This years display is similar to last years, with just a hint of extra aggression. Those wanting to hear her 'howl' on takeoff weren't disappointed either, with her final climb out letting rip with one of aviations most ubiquitous sounds. One hopes the gremlins are now all but banished.
And so to conclude. As mentioned, a record crowd was inevitable with the glorious weather and what is now being coined as the 'Vulcan Effect'. Despite the fact that the display list seems remarkably similar to previous years, one has to consider the reasons for this. As the old adage goes, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Cosford has no reason to change a sucessful format; with bumper crowds in 2008 and numbers so vast this year that gates were shut shortly after midday, this RAF At Home day will continue to be one of the best family outings going for as long as this continues to be the case.