Chris Chambers of Warplane reports from Elvington's Great Yorkshire Airshow, 24/25 August
The public has witnessed a giant and dramatic change at airshows over the last few years - a large decrease in the number of displays, more stringent safety and security measures, combined with a rip-off culture, has become prevalent amongst some of the larger shows. Therefore, it is quite rewarding when what is billed as the largest air display in northern England can be described as 'cosy'. Although security was discreetly evident and safety guidelines strictly adhered to, there was a familiar feeling about the Yorkshire Air Show, one which many veterans will fondly recall from the shows of yesteryear, long before windbreaks and step ladders became the must-have airshow accessory.
With a low entry price, Elvington's airshow is ideally suited to attracting families, who form most of the visitors at events such as this - therefore it's not surprising that the entertainment was specifically tailored to a 'family day out'. The lack of static aircraft was more than made up for by the opening of the adjacent Yorkshire Air Museum, whose variety of aircraft types long since withdrawn from service were all available for inspection. Enthusiasts were far from disappointed - even with a shorter flying programme than previous years it still managed to last just over four hours, which, when combined with the fast taxi runs from Victor and Buccaneer, stretched the show to almost five hours.
The informal nature of the display at Elvington allows a great degree of flexibility in the flying programme, something which was clearly evident during the aircrew briefing each morning, the latest flying list being amended several times as display pilots changed timings, provision was made for possible delays in arrivals or additional aircraft were planned into the programme. The downside of such flexibility, of course, comes from the flying display programme being produced several weeks in advance - on the days of the show, the actual programme bore little resemblance to what was planned, but on the plus side such alterations can work to the crowd's favour - one such example was this year's pairing of the Sea Vixen with the Heritage Pair Vampire.
A very well
received change to this year's show from previous events was the relocation
of the flight line - instead of using an unused portion of the runway,
the flying display aircraft were parked along the edge of the large apron,
much closer to the barriers, allowing for better photography and a chance
for the aircrew to stand and chat to the crowd. The change around also
allowed more take off and landings to be timed to crowd centre.
It was good to see the RAF represented so well, with displays provided by a 16(R) Squadron Jaguar whilst Flt Lt John Nixon and Flt Lt Stu Oliver hauled around their 15(R) Squadron Tornado GR4 in what was the noisiest display of the day. Making the short hop from nearby Linton-on-Ouse was Flt Lt Martin Day in the Tucano whilst from a little further up the A1 came a pair of 100 Squadron Hawks. The BBMF were also present over the weekend with flying displays from Spitfire MK LFIXe, Dakota and Hurricane MKIIc. Rotary representation came from a Sea King from RAF Leconfield - for once the aircraft managed to perform displays both days without being called away to an emergency!
Last but not least were the Red Arrows, but this year's airshow was a not a good one for them. Planned to open the show both days, their display on Sunday was curtailed following the first flypast when the team noticed a micro-light had strayed into the display area. As the nine Hawks pulled clear and flew south to hold there were four other incursions in quick succession causing the team to cancel the rest of their display. The restricted area is detailed in advance via NOTAM and dictates a sterile area five miles from the display centre and up to 8,000 ft. Sunday's curtailment was only the second time in two years the team has had to cancel a display for such reasons - the MoD always endeavours to pursue legal proceedings against the offending pilots. Thankfully no such incursions took place on Monday, but due to serviceability issues the team were forced to display with just eight aircraft.
A wise move from the organisers was to change Monday's flying display times to start one hour earlier, the thinking behind the move to help visitors avoid the notorious Bank Holiday traffic along the busy A64 Leeds to Scarborough road. With another great show this year, we can only wait and see what the tenth Yorkshire Air Show will bring in 2004, which is a week earlier (21/22 August) to miss that Bank Holiday chaos!
to Ken Cothliffe for his assistance in compiling this report.