Making a splash at Lowestoft
Gary Stedman drops in at the Seafront Airshow, 1/2 August
It was probably inevitable that this year's Lowestoft Air Festival would be dominated by the one headline grabbing incident that occured during the Friday afternoon, although, thankfully without serious injury. This was unfortunate, as the festival had attracted what was arguably its most impressive line-up to date. All the old favourites were back, along with a few new gems.
As usual weatherwise, the event's two days were in complete contrast; Thursday started grey and wet, but failed to affect the flying greatly, although it hardly made the beach very appealing! Friday dawned as one of those days that you dream about, virtually cloudless, a great start to what was expected to be a excellent day's flying - where's that spanner?
included a two-ship Gnat display and the Kinloss based Nimrod demonstrating
that it is quite possible for a 'heavy' to remain crowd centre if rolled
past the vertical on the turns. Unfortunately, the Blue Eagles' four little
Gazelles looked a little too light-weight for the venue. Please, beg,
borrow or steal a Lynx again - dare we even ask for a Apache? Introduced
last year, the Spitfire Tigers freefall parachute team were back again,
and made the most of a unlimited ceiling.
First display item after the now customary lunch break (an idea that could perhaps be introduced elsewhere?) was the Red Arrows. Blessed, yet again with perfect conditions at Lowestoft they performed to their usual excellence. Further RAF support was provided by Tornado GR4, Hawk, BBMF as well as the unfortunate Harrier. Following last year's near cancellation, it was good to see 'Sally B' come through with flying colours. Long may she continue to do so. The colourful Stearmans of the Utterly Butterly Barnstorming team performed their usual wingwalking antics, and remain a crowd favourite, as do the Aerostars with their Yaks.
The crash of the Harrier during the early afternoon on the Friday (see sidebar) had, as one would expect, a considerable impact upon the rest of the afternoon's programme. To the credit of the Lowestoft Air Festival Commitee - and in common with the incidents at Waddington and RIAT - prior planning meant the effect was minimized as much as possible. The arrival of the 22 Squadron Sea King HAR3A from Wattisham to pick up Flt Lt Cann resulted in a curtailed debut from the Khalifa Jet Team's four Albatros L39s. Having their origins in the 'Team Apache' PC-7s well known on the UK circuit, the team was doubled to four aircraft just in time for Lowestoft.
Planned as the finale, the inevitable delays during the afternoon meant that the De Havilland Sea Vixen was brought forward in the running order due to its fuel state. A powerful sequence of fast runs, tight turns capped by a rolling, climbing departure in perfect conditions left the crowd spellbound. By far the most memorable display of the day.
Despite the rather predictable nature (and ignorance) of the news reports and headlines that followed Friday's show, the organizers can be congratulated for a job well done. The aftermath of the Harrier's crash was dealt with in a thorough and professional manner - a fact that was not lost on the largely non-aviation oriented crowd. The only real downer was the show programme - far greater care needs to be taken during picture selection and captioning as mistakes were in abundance this year.
Next year's event is planned for Thursday 31 July and Friday 1 August, and remember, it's free.