Show with a Shaw-footing
Dave Eade looks at Rougham's biggest event of the year
It was at an earlier event in the Rougham calendar that I was warned not to miss the airshow held over the weekend of 16/17 August. Starting some years ago as a glorified fly-in, this show has, with great care and consideration, grown year by year to the extent that, this year, participation by the RAF was order of the day. Spread over two days, the first being devoted to arrivals, pleasure flights and ground events, all bodes well for the future if the Sunday crowd is anything to go on.
On arrival, a quick glance around the stalls and ground exhibits revealed many of the stall-holders normally seen gracing the larger air events in the UK. Book stalls, Flypast and our friends from the Bury Model Flying Club were all to be found.
Part of any display however small, are the rescue services. It was with the 'amateur' crews of the GER.EQX Fire and Rescue group that Air-Scene UK spent the day, being granted access to the pilots' enclosure, briefing and control tower facility that all become part of the business of running an airshow. Fortunately the firecrews were mainly being tasked by control to prevent spectators not wishing to pay admission from taking up residence on finals to Runway 09!
Rougham, like Old Warden, has a lay-out best described as a dog-leg, where the crowd can watch the flying and view the static at the intersection of the two runways. This creates interest as spectators can watch the whole display from start-up to switch-off with ease. Lined-up by the show start time were three Stearmans of the Volvo Stearman Formation Team, two SE5A replicas, the mighty beast that is Tony Haig-Thomas's Avenger and the diminutive Cassutt Racer. Joining them during the afternoon were Ian Proudfoot's lovely Piper Cub, the Team Alpine SU-26 with accompanying Pitts and the beautiful Spitfire Vb. Final place on the stage went to the ever-popular Blenheim of the Aircraft Restoration Group.
After a morning spent watching arrivals from all over East Anglia and pilots' briefing over, it was time for the fliers to take to the sky. Under the ever-watchful eyes of Air-Display Director (and Airfield Manager) Duncan Skeets and Frankie in Control, the participants did their thing! First to take the stage was item number one from the RAF in the form of Flt Lt Martin Day in the Tucano. Sadly a little far from the crowd on this occasion, your scribe has been converted to the Tucano display since watching one at close quarters at RIAT 2001. The pilots presenting this aircraft over the years have consistently maintained a really high level of excellence and display from 'rolling' to 'roll-out'.
An unusual pairing then were the Jungmann and Stampe flown by Anna Walker and Carolyn Grace, for once forsaking her familiar two-seat Spit to display something a little more sedate. Next up were the Yaks of the Aerostars - often up-staged at the large shows by the military teams, Rougham proved an ideal choice of venue. Formation keeping is superb in this team and the smoke effects along with the various colour schemes of the airframes all combined to make a great spectacle.
An interesting WWI scenario was then enacted by the SE5As before the crowd waited - and waited - for Flt Lt Mike Hayes in the Jaguar GR3. You know, you've been there, watching runway right and left for the familiar trail of smoke - well, caught again we were as, at the minimum allowed height of 250 feet (yeah!) and from behind - burners blazing - in true mud-mover style Mike targeted Rougham. One pass - but boy did he grab your attention and NOBODY photographed it, seeing it was a bonus! When Mike Hayes called Control to see if that was okay the reply was totally unprintable - but very apt.
The BBMF Spitfire was next on the scene, calming things down somewhat, followed in turn by the mighty Avenger, Cassutt Racer and Piper Cub. A great display by the Su-26 of Will Curtis gave prelude to what was to be an historical event. John Romain took the beautiful Blenheim to the skies for what was to prove its last display for some time. Damaged the next day at Duxford in a landing accident, the painstaking work put into getting these magnificent relics back into the sky where they belong was never surpassed in the quality that was the Blenheim. Whatever happens to the airframe, it must be hoped that damage can be put right and it can take its place once more in the skies over East Anglia.
Rougham has, over the past few years made its name synonymous with Stearmans. It was no surprise then to see an excellent performance by the Volvo team flying three beautiful examples of this type. Proud owner of one is actor Martin Shaw who, with the lovely Vicki, flew in during the morning to renew friendships and commentate on the display.
A spokesman for the organisers at Rougham had told Air-Scene UK earlier in the day of how the displays by the RAF had been threatened at the last moment by the bureaucrats. The powers that be had objected to the fast jet inclusion because of local housing (and that was before the Jaguar!). Some concern was felt, then, as to whether the final RAF item would take place. Not to be out done, however, the Tornado F3 of Flt Lts 'Fluff' Freeman and Steve Kilvington appeared right on cue. As if taking care not to upset the neighbours the Tornado (ZE889/XI) was kept low and slow for an elongated display that kept the crowd on its toes.
Final spot went to Charlie Brown in the Spitfire Vb from Duxford. Always an excellent performer Charlie, like many at Duxford, seems to know exactly what the crowd want and gave it to them.
perfect weather, Rougham can look back on this show with some pride. Aware
at the outset when we spoke in May that it was one step at a time in enlarging
this display it seems that the ambition they have of making it a major
show on the UK scene is only a few years away. We wish them well.