Reflections of Elvington
Gary Parsons travels oop north for Yorkshire's main event of the year
Now established as one of the major shows of August in the UK, Elvington once again proved value for money for the thousands that turned up despite the threat of rain over the weekend of 21/22 August.
A week earlier than normal to avoid the Bank Holiday traffic on the A64 heading to Scarborough, the unseasonal monsoon conditions affecting the country managed to largely miss the event, with just a few showers on Saturday spoiling the generally fine conditions. Heavy rain the week before made many of the grass areas a no-go area, with the crowdline zig-zagging around some particularly boggy bits and no aircraft able to be parked off the concrete taxiways. Elvington is fortunate in having lots of concrete to play with, which was used to full effect with all car-parking contained on the old USAF fighter fifty-acre hardstand and the flying participants flight-line positioned near the crowd utilising the wide taxiways on the eastern side of the airfield. This provided many enthusiasts and photographers the welcome opportunity to get up close to the taxiing aircraft, something that isn't possible at many other shows - top marks to the organisers in moving the flightline from its original position on the end of the runway.
The airshow is organised by Elvington Events Ltd., in association with the site owner Elvington Park Ltd., and the Yorkshire Air Museum, giving the public to the opportunity the chance to visit the museum as well as take in the air display. A few museum exhibits were dragged across the concrete to the airshow area, but sadly the advertised Halifax/Lancaster/B-17 opportunity was missed as the Halifax remained firmly ensconced in the museum's hangar, probably as a result of the wet conditions recently experienced and the need to maximise the use of concrete for car parking. It somewhat took the edge off the show's tagline as the 'Classic Bomber Meet', but taken as a general airshow it didn't disappoint, with a good selection of warbirds and modern heavy metal in the four-hour flying programme.
RAF support was excellent, with full displays from the Tucano, Hawk, Harrier GR7A and Tornado F3, as well as the ubiquitous Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The Harrier was notable in being one of the first outings for the updated GR7A variant, Chris Margiotta able to use the extra urge provided by the uprated Pegasus engine. No different visually, but the increased power being obvious as the Harrier was effortless in its climb-out and acceleration to flying speed. First seen at Eastbourne, the aircraft was borrowed from 3(F) Squadron, which is due to leave for Afghanistan very soon. RAF Valley sent two 30th anniversary-painted Hawks, making for a double-take on the static line. One of the better RAF paint-jobs of recent years, 4 FTS should be applauded for making it happen!
Civilian acts formed the bulk of the programme, with some fiery pyrotechnics added to Phil Shaw's Skyraider display - not just an attempt to clear the standing water in the field, as Saturday's pyros had to be abandoned as the rain knocked them all out! Many of the acts were familiar to the regular airshow-goer, but one certainly wasn't, even though it wasn't allowed to take to the air - namely Adrian Tempest's still-active Victor K2 'Lusty Lindy', which performed high-speed taxi runs to commence each day's flying programme. Along with Bruntingthorpe's 'Teasin' Tina', she represents the last of her breed, but is still lovingly cared for by the volunteer team. Her parachute was streamed at 130 knots, making a magnificent sight as the mighty canvas stretched out behind - there can't be a bigger one in use (well, maybe a B-52H?). The group are appreciative of the support it gets from oil company Shell, which donates time-expired fuel that it can't sell commercially - perfectly safe for use to taxi the Victor, which can eat up to 2,000 lbs of fuel each run.
Another old lady making an appearance on Sunday was the 'Rasta Cat' Catalina operated by Plane Sailing ltd. Denied an appearance on Saturday due to minor technical gremlins, it was quite at home in the water-logged conditions - it was joked that it could have landed on the grass wheels-up, it was that wet! However, the wet grass meant that it couldn't park near the crowd and enable walk-throughs of the aircraft, an unfortunate loss of much-needed revenue for the team. The same fate befell B-17 Sally B, which had to sit at arm's length away from the crowd, denying the opportunity for heads to be poked inside the door. Despite this both aircraft gave a full flying display, Sally B once again sporting the fake smoke from number two engine not seen for a while.
Overall Elvington represents good value for money, with an excellent flying programme and the chance to 'get up close' with the active aircraft. The sun is behind you all day - if the weather co-operates, of course! Its only let-down is access - just one gate to get out, with little in the way of traffic management. Patience is a virtue here, but if the organisers can find a second exit it would make a world of difference - if the show is to grow, as it seems it will, then this needs to be addressed sooner rather than late.