Dave Eade/DEltafoto reports from Rougham's biggest event of the year. Pictures by the author and Roger Cook/Pynelea Photo Bureau
It was on 21 August that our Nation chose to remember those that fell during the Far East conflict in the Second World War. It was natural that an airshow featuring aircraft whose history stretches back to those days would hold the attention of the crowd, and this was the day organisers of the Rougham Air Show held their annual extravaganza. The Gods were with them as a bright sunny afternoon followed what looked like a very low cloudbase morning, when a few of the early performers were limited, but most were able to give their full show.
The day started with the Freedom of Bury St Edmunds being granted, in front of the impeccable Hurricane, to local veterans of the conflict. As a Second World War airfield, Rougham was the home of the 94th Bomb Group, USAAF from 1942 to 1945 flying the B-17 Fortress aircraft to the heartland of Germany from June 1943. Therefore high on the excellent flying display programme was B-17G 'Sally B' from Duxford - this aircraft seems to have taken on an even greater prominence this year with the European Regulation problems that the insurers have chosen to place on her. The sweet drone of the four Wright Cyclones over this East Anglian 'fortress' brought a lump to many throats.
From the same era, and equally at home, was the OFMC's P-51D 'Ferocious Frankie'. Giving one of the best Mustang displays that your scribe has seen in a long time, the crowd was certainly able to get close-up and personal with this E-type of fighters. Like Old Warden, Rougham has a dog-leg crowdline, which means that most aircraft are on the turn throughout their passes. Photography becomes easier with the top-side pass the norm. Static displays are also well positioned to allow the crowd to watch arrivals, start-ups and taxiing with ease. An added bonus is that pilots, so often lost to the spectator, can be seen and appreciated with more than one round of applause being heard.
The Second World War era continued to be celebrated with the Me-108 (how low can you go?), Hurricane and the BBMF Dakota and Spitfire (whose display seemed to be very limited as far as distance was concerned).
Trainers were also featured in two very different styles - the Stearman team from Old Buckenham (with star-commentator Martin Shaw) and a four-ship Chipmunk team bringing back memories of the 'Blue Chip' and 'Grey Owl' teams of the Seventies. Both Stearmen and Chips performed with panache, especially with the low-power available on the Chipmunk. A quick look at the era of the Great War came with the dogfight of the SE5a replica and the Junkers CL1 replica who, as always in the films, was sent smoking to his end.
Each year, it has been Rougham's aim to increase the image of its annual display. This has been helped greatly by the addition of some of the RAF's performers and this year we were to be treated to the Tutor, Hawk and Harrier. As far as the Harrier was concerned it turned out to be not his day when, having had to use the spare aircraft as the display one went 'tech', this aircraft also had problems on the way from Cambridge resulting in the decision by 'Roy' Rogers to limit his participation to one pass. Having been forced to perform his low display due to cloud, Dave Harvey in the 100 Squadron Hawk returned late in the display, now bathed in sunshine, to repeat his show (full this time) and make up for the loss of the Harrier. Great team spirit this - Thanks RAF! Compliments should also go to Chris Parkinson in the Tutor, one of the lucky performers who can always do a full show, even with a five-hundred foot cloudbase - and good show it was too.
Apparently for the third time that day Denny Dobson, with the aid of some suicidal helpers, proceeded to try to tear the roots out of his Extra 300 with an excellent aerobatic sequence which included both limbo and tape cutting to excite the faint-hearted. Never anything but enthralling - just don't ever ask me to fly with him!
It was left to the Utterly Butterly Team (possibly the most featured team on Air-Scene UK in 2005) and Plane Sailings' Catalina to bring the show to its climax - both ideally suited to this size of airfield. In fact, it must be said the whole programme was well thought out, brilliantly performed and an absolute pleasure to watch. So different from the heavy metal shows (where else do you see a Saab Safir display?), the village fete atmosphere enjoyed by the usual large (and appreciative) crowd makes a refreshing change and Air-Scene UK salutes and thanks Peter Eager and his team at Rougham for their efforts and hospitality again in 2005.