RAF Cosford Air Show Report

Sunday 8th June 2014

Now one of only two officially sponsored Royal Air Force shows, Cosford has built a strong reputation for being family orientated whilst appealing to the enthusiast and the organisers seem to have struck the right balance. In the weeks preceding the 2014 RAF Cosford Air Show, speculation surrounding the identity of a surprise act, specifically aimed at the enthusiast with the aim of this year’s show a memorable one, was rife. Unfortunately this didn’t come to fruition, but it does highlight the somewhat capricious nature of organising an event such as this. It is probably best that we don’t know what might have been, but they needn't have worried anyway as the show turned out to be a bit of a classic jet-fest, making it memorable regardless.

Tim Croton reports from the Cosford Club having searched the back of his sofa, and other people’s for that matter, to scrape together the pennies to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the enclosure! Peter Reoch provides additional photographs.

The morning events included a display of large model aircraft and of particular note was a Vulcan bomber, which - with a 20ft wingspan no less - looked for all the world like the real thing once airborne.

There were numerous other activities to entertain the estimated 55,000-strong crowd including the appearance of Carol Vorderman and James May; it could be suggested that there’s simply too much to see and take-in within the three or so hours between gates opening and actual flying display. On that basis, advocates of making Cosford a two day event may well have a valid point?!

RAF Cosford is the home to a fleet of SEPECAT Jaguars that are today used for instructional training, and visitors to the show were treated to choreographed taxi runs from Jaguar T4 (in 6 Squadron markings) and Jaguar GR3 (painted to represent the 16 Squadron “Saint" display aircraft). The Jaguar demonstration has become a firm favourite with the Cosford crowd since it's introduction in 2012, as it is something unique that the show can offer and the venerable 'Jag' is an aircraft that many still have an affection for.

Another interesting ground display - and something that is likely to never be repeated - was the static display depicting the evolution of the iconic 'Jump Jet'. The line-up featured the prototype Kestrel FGA1 (from the RAF Museum), Harrier GR3, Sea Harrier FA2 (on loan from RNAS Culdrose) and Harrier GR9 (on loan from DSAE Sultan). It gave the public and enthusiasts alike an exceedingly rare photo opportunity and those involved should be commended for putting together such a diverse collection of airframes.

At mid-day the airshow started proper with the traditional parachute jump by the RAF Falcons Display Team, exiting the Cessna 208 Caravan. This was followed by the Breitling Wingwalkers, who are always a crowd favourite.

RAF Cosford's sole international participant in 2014 was the Belgian Air Force Red Devils. A four-ship of SF.260M aircraft, the team's routine consists of elegant rolls and loops along with an exciting solo element. Captain Pelletiere joined Sean Maffett in the commentary box to describe the routine and let it slip that the Belgians are somewhat suffering an identity crisis, officially known as the Belgian Air Component but when it suits they are very much the Belgian Air Force! All in all the Red Devils provided a pleasing display which was easy on the eye. A venue such as Cosford is very well adapted to these relatively small aircraft which can be somewhat “lost” at a larger show, however the F-16AM solo display would be very welcome next year!

Much anticipated, and without doubt the highlight for many people on the day, was Midair Squadron’s Canberra and Hunter duo. They entered from the right in a sweeping tight arc and returned as a two ship for a number of passes before the Hunter T7 separated to perform its impressive display, followed by the Canberra PR9 taking centre-stage to show what an elegant aircraft she is. A slow dirty pass was included in the solo repertoire which was followed by a turn of speed which saw the Canberra climb and bank in gutsy fashion with noise in aplomb.

The Canberra's appearance was part of Cosford's photo reconnaissance theme which ran both in the air and on the ground, with ground displays featuring Cold War era PR equipment alongside new equipment from Tactical Imagery Wing based at RAF Marham. Continuing this theme, Peter Teichman provided a superb display in his Spitfire PR11, again displaying his undoubted prowess when it comes to warbird flying. Unfortunately, his planned formation pass with the Canberra as part of that photo recon theme was canned, the slightly dubious reasoning given that the Canberra would have taken too long to slow down and formate with the Spitfire given the high-speed nature of it's final pass.

The BBMF were represented by their wonderful Hurricane Mk IIc PZ865 and Griffon powered PRXIX Spitfire PS915 along with the C-47 Dakota. The Dak’ in recent years has been a regular visitor to Cosford, undertaking flypast duties at the various events held at the RAFM during the Spring and Summer months. On this occasion Cosford became its home for the weekend and the crowd were treated to an impressive take-off. The one notable absentee to this year’s show was the BBMF Lancaster which was on D-Day commemoration duty over in France.

Another historic commemorative act in the flying display was the Great War Display Team, marking 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War. The Great War Display Team are always good value and having nine replica WWI aircraft in the sky at once makes for an interesting demonstration, with tail chases a plenty. One of the more informative commentaries by Stephen Slater accompanied the aerial action.

Cosford got lucky with the weather. Considering the awful conditions on the previous day, the RAF Typhoon suffered the worst of the Sunday weather, displaying during a short rain shower. The RAF Typhoon FGR4 entered stage left with a thunderous pass, but the routine flown by Flt Lt Rees appeared to be quite distant from the crowd line and the distinct lack of any meaningful top side passes proved rather disappointing for the photographers present. The Typhoon remains a firm favourite for most visitors though, especially at a venue like Cosford where it was the only afterburning participant yet again.

Celebrating their 50th display season, the Red Arrows cruised in from behind the crowd with smoke on and were greeted by rapturous applause from the appreciative audience. As to be expected, it was a thoroughly precise and polished performance with many of the set-pieces remaining unchanged from last season. The special tails certainly add a new dimension to the look of the display and as the popularity of the Reds remains undiminished; there is a tangible sense of national pride whenever and wherever the Red Arrows are performing.

The Vulcan rolled in for her first public display of 2014 and members of the public that had not previously witnessed her graceful outline were visibly awestruck. Despite criticisms levelled at VTTS, it’s still a much welcome and impressive sight irrespective of the somewhat sedate/tame displays cited by many enthusiasts. The recently completed wing modification had given rise to the hope that XH558 would be flown more vigorously but considering this was her first display of the season only time will tell. The crowd were treated to a couple of howls and ended with a high wing-over, and in all it was one of the more 'exciting' displays from XH558 we have seen recently. The “Vulcan effect” is still much in evidence as it appeared that a large number of people departed the show ground once her performance had been completed.

The Army Air Corps Apache display has been revamped for this summer's events, featuring pyrotechnics to augment the airshow routine, but truth be told it didn't seem to add very much. Unlike the Tornado role demo, the bangs and flashes were unpredictable and seemed to diminish showcasing the agility of the helicopter. In saying this however, the explosions certainly made people jump, and they will certainly make for some interesting photos!

Other display highlights worthy of a mention included the Venom FB50 from Classic Air Force. Operating from CAF's engineering base at Coventry the classic jet was a late replacement and was flown beautifully by John Dodd.

The crowd at Cosford were also treated to a flypast from a Voyager KC3, the largest aircraft ever operated by the Royal Air Force. Unfortunately, the C-17 Globemaster that was also due to participate was forced to cancel in the week preceding the show due to operational commitments.

Richard Goodwin in his Pitts Special provided the crowd with a wonderful aerobatic display with more rolls, flicks and stalled turns than thought humanly possible! By contrast, GliderFX gave a very serene display accentuated with smoke winders on each wing tip. Ian Gallacher landed the MDM Fox with pin-point accuracy and came to a stop in front of the hospitality marquees as intended.

All in all the show was a success and Cosford certainly ticked all the right boxes. Traffic management, which has notoriously proved to be Cosford's Achilles heel in previous years, was better although there is still room for improvement. Cosford uses what it has on site to their full advantage, and the improvement in ground displays over the past few years has been impressive. We just hope the 'Spotty Jag' is placed in a better location for static photos next year...

"With an attendance estimated at 55,000 and a much improved traffic plan the 2014 RAF Cosford Air Show was a huge success. We were particularly lucky to have good weather sandwiched between two very wet and stormy days. The varied flying display and wide range of ground attractions made for a great day out for both enthusiasts and families with plenty of things to interest all ages and we have had a great deal of positive feedback."

Amanda Butcher,
Airshow Director

Looking forward to 2015, there are a number of changes to the show's orgainising team, most noticeably to UKAR Members will be the retirement of MACr Chas McHugh. Better known to many UKARians as 'D200', Chas has provided forum members with a wealth of information and a degree of insight as to what actually goes on behind the scenes at the airshow office and everyone at UKAR wishes Chas a very happy retirement!