Glenn Beasley feels the heat on 11 June
The trials and tribulations of organising a big public air display are largely unknown to the general airshow-going public. The coordination of the various agencies involved, the efforts involved to put together an interesting and varied flying display and the organisation of the showground can all present their own difficulties. But what every airshow coordinator prays for the night before the show, is that the sun shines. At the RAF Cosford Airshow on 11 June, the weather didn't disappoint.
The roasting temperatures did however cause some distress to those not adequately prepared for the searing heat. Equally distressing for the photographer was the fact that the sun for the majority of the display faced directly onto the crowdline, but the weather was a distinct improvement to say the least on last year's cold, overcast conditions.
Cosford is one of those venues that, like Duxford, captures the imagination of enthusiasts with its varied collections of old airframes. There were some interesting layouts in terms of the static displays this year, with clusters of Jet Provosts and Jaguars being particularly noteworthy. Work on the new Cold War museum meant some areas of the site were out of bounds and contributed to the airfield looking very busy indeed.
The theme of the event this year was the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the Spitfire, the first prototype having taken to the skies on 5 March 1936. Two examples performed solo demonstrations during the flying display, Peter Teichman in his Spitfire MkII and Anthony Hodgson in a Spitfire Mk9. There was also the contribution from the BBMF's Spitfire for good measure.
Those who reserved their place on the crowdline early were treated to a flying display by a number of different model aircraft types before the Falcons dropped in at around midday. Borrowing the display Hercules for their drop due to operational commitments, the professionalism of the team was there for all to see as they hit their target with typical precision.
The Tornado GR4 got pulses racing amongst the now busy crowd. Watching the display and then comparing it to the Typhoon F2 later gave a good contrast regarding the maneuverability of the two types. It was pleasing to see the single-seat version of the RAF's prize asset against a perfect blue sky. The Harrier GR7 and Hawk also contributed to the fast jet noise.
Contrasting against the RAF's top guns were graceful acts such as Team Condor with their Fox glider. Displays like this really do look at their best against a clear blue sky and the Cosford crowd were very appreciative of the elegance and grace of the team. Another act to keep things quiet was the Grob Tutor T1. Despite not being the most dynamic performer on the airshow circuit, you have to admire the tight nature of the display, always in front of the crowd, holding the attention.
Delta Jets contributed with their Hunter T7, which looked perfect against the deep blue sky. Sadly the Folland Gnat was unable to join its stablemate due to technical difficulties. The RAF's C-130J followed with customary tanks and green smoke, after which the every popular Black Cats took centre stage.
A number of display teams were part of the display, the Lynx of the Army Air Corps Blue Eagles especially well received by the crowd for its now infamous 'backflip' maneuver. The four Extra 300s of The Blades from 2Excel are rapidly gaining much respect amongst airshow enthusiasts around the country for their professional display. Not that you would expect anything less from a team lead by a pilot of the experience of Andy Offer, a former Red Arrows leader!
The Chinook and Merlin again did battle for the Rotor Championship of the Skies. The sweet sound of the Merlin's blades is a stark contrast to the heavy thudding sound of the Chinook. Both machines have continued where they left off last year, entertaining the crowds wherever they appear. Certainly they have done much to inspire the younger audience into considering a career in the air force as helicopter crew.
Warbirds to grace the display included the P-51 Mustang 'Ferocious Frankie', a late replacement for the P-40 Kittyhawk. The display was as good and dynamic as at Biggin the week before, bringing an impromptu round of applause as 'Frankie' drifted into the distance. Anna Walker took the growling Harvard into the skies later in the afternoon, whilst Mark Jeffries displayed the immaculate Yak-11.
Returning to the UK airshow circuit and closing proceedings were the Red Arrows. Having recently returned from their Middle East tour, there was little sign of early season rustiness in the display, polished and professional as ever. Andy Robins (Red 10) is now the voice of the Reds, taking over from veteran announcer Steve Underwood whose voice had almost become as synonymous with the display as the Red jets themselves. Of course, many in the large crowd were unwilling to jump the queues to leave before they had seen their star attraction.
Cosford was what an airshow in mid-June should be, warm and sunny with plenty to see on both the ground and in the air. From the enthusiast's point of view, it was a shame there was to be no rarity in the flying programme, such as the New Zealand C-130 last year. It was also a shame that the show came a little too early in the year for the Canberra PR9 to display. However the show combined all elements of the UK airshow scene, the modern military, the classic jets, display teams and warbirds. But when you mix a flying display like this with perfect summer weather, you have an airshow recipe for success ready-made. The majority of the crowd went home entertained and enthralled and hopefully not nursing too many spots they had missed with the suncream.