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Air Atlantique's Fifties Airshow

Coventry Airport, 12/13 August

Ian Doyle provides a short insight on the magnificent Coventry Airshow and gets a few things off his chest with regard to "that damn summer!"

"Not so much an Airshow  review as a statement on that awful British Summer of 2000!"

It would be an understatement to say that the Year 2000 UK airshow season was blessed with good weather. The season started in the UK somewhat optimistically of course with glorious sunshine, and temperatures well into the 80s as the first major event of the season, the open day at DERA Fleetlands, got under way. However, even as I left in the late afternoon the clouds began to build up and by the time that the M40 was reached on the long drive home, the heavens opened and it started bucketing down. I couldn't help thinking that this might be the shape of things to come!

Suffice to say it was still bucketing down at Mildenhall a week later, but as most readers will be aware, it got much worse as a force nine blew in that an Icelandic trawler would have been proud of!

A few days later and I almost required the need for counselling, as a very early departure and round trip exceeding some 500 miles to RAF Coltishall proved equally fruitless as I peered through the lens at the visitors in the surrounding gloom.

The heavy rain had almost abated to low cloud and drizzle by the time I visited Waddington in late July, oh what joy! It was, however, to be a short respite...

... despair almost set in as RIAT approached but salvation was at hand, almost! The three days preceding the Cottesmore show were indeed glorious, quite magnificent, but it was to be short-lived. By Saturday the now traditional, cold, damp, cloudy weather had returned but worse was to come, as by Sunday a chill easterly wind meant a drop in temperature of about thirty degrees, members of emergency services who might normally be treating sunburn and other associated conditions found themselves in the midst of a major outbreak of hypothermia. 

My depression was almost complete by August as the Airshow season was drawing to a climax, and save for a few rapid rounds of film expensed at RIAT the camera was almost back in the bag for another season...but not quite.
As somebody whose interest is primarily military, a trip to the Air Atlantique fifties-style Airshow at Coventry  was approached with something of an open mind, but the prospect of superb weather "at last" and the potentially excellent mix of older prop airliners and classic fighters might just make for a reasonable day out, not least because it provided the opportunity to withhold putting the camera in hibernation for a few weeks.

Did I say reasonable? This was awesome!
The weather forecasters were for once true to their word, and on the Saturday at least, Coventry was bathed in glorious summer sunshine with temperatures more typical of the norm. Access was quite excellent, affording the opportunity for some classic shots from any angle. Although there had been precious few opportunities to get the camera out during high summer, Coventry it seemed, might just save the day.

Saturday was billed as 'Practice Day', but in reality proved just as good, if not better, than Sunday, when the official show was due to take place. Having arrived at just after 10:00 I was initially wondering how on earth to kill time before the action started at 13:00, but my worries proved unfounded as a quick word with a member of the Air Atlantique media relations secured a press pass, offering the opportunity to wander unescorted across the various aprons - this was certainly more like it!

My initial worries about wandering around aimlessly proved fruitless, as the three hours passed in a flash. This was dreamland, the opportunity to shoot the active pan with no less than eight DC3s, a DC6, a Convair 580, an Electra, the only flying Nord Noratlas, Vampires, Hunters, just to name a few, was unexpected, but a very welcome change. A number of participants had arrived the day before, most notably the Noratlas, but during the morning most of the flying display aircraft arrived and taxied onto their allocated stand. Having used up about five rolls of Kodachrome in the morning, a change of location was required for the actual flying display. A quick trip to the bar for a cool beer rather than the hot Bovril I had been accustomed to this year, and the afternoon was spent lazing by the fence as each type was put through its paces, for once there was not an F16 in sight or any other type of 'burner.
The highlights? Too numerous to mention. The display was superb, the like of which we are unlikely to see in this country again for some considerable time. Sadly, as Sunday dawned the sun, which had proved so elusive throughout the summer, disappeared once again to be replaced by low overcast conditions which was a real shame for those attending the 'Official' show. However, for this punter at least, the shots were in the bag.

The organisers Air Atlantique are to be congratulated on their enthusiasm in bringing together such a varied and rich array of vintage aviation in such a unique spectacular. Coventry was by any measure one of the shows of 2000.


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