Alongside the airshow moments and season highlights, many of which come from the same shows, I wanted to put together my top 5 most memorable shows of the year. It is a tricky decision to make and as you can see I have included both Duxford and Shuttleworth twice. This is purely because they were simply the shows that remain prominent in my mind as we go into 2016. Tomorrow will see my top 10 moments of the year.
Don’t forget you can still vote for your airshow moments of the year by following this link – I’ll put up the results on Christmas Eve!
1. Shuttleworth Best of British
I’ve written about this show a few times now and I still can’t get over how good it was. Under any normal circumstances for any venue the inclusion of a Sopwith Snipe and Albatros would make it a legendary show. This show not only had that pair but also a solo Gnat display, IWM’s Spitfire Mk I and the first appearance of 4 Miles Magisters in decades. This is even without mentioning the wonderful pairing of the DH88 Comet and Dragonfly. The static display saw plenty to admire as well, with the Sopwith Dove and Camel joining the airworthy Sopwiths on display.
I’ve only really mentioned visitors above but many of the collection’s aircraft displayed as well, including a memorable display from the Sea Hurricane.
But what pushes this show into a league of its own was the finale, seeing all the based airworthy First World War aircraft take to the sky at Sunset. The atmosphere and thoughts this evoked of how the aircraft would have been during those dark days was nothing short of spectacular. It would have taken some show to eclipse this event in my mind.
2. Flying Legends
What else can be said about this show after all these years, Flying Legends has long been known as one of the premier warbird shows in the world. This year saw one of the strongest line ups in a number of years.
The 2015 programme saw the debut of The Fighter Collection’s P-36, the Legends debut of 109G “Red 7” and the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Fury.
Highlights included the always impressive Spitfire tail chase opening up the show, the Gladiator pair and a stunning solo routine from the Flying Bulls P-38 against dramatic skies on the Sunday of the show.
No Legends is complete of course without the balbo finale, this year was another great instalment and Nick Grey showed us his incredible joker performance in the Gladiator again.
Another special year for Flying Legends and the Fighter Collection.
3. Duxford’s Battle Of Britain
Another entry for Duxford, this time their September show. With a Battle of Britain theme many were hoping Duxford would go above and beyond their anniversary show in 2010, they certainly delivered.
There was the breathtaking Spitfire finale, which has been covered many times already on this website, which was nothing short of incredible. Alongside this headline act there was also the graceful Mk I Spitfire Pair flown by Dan Freidkin and Paul Bonhomme which showed off the lines of the early Spitfires to great effect.
The show also saw a superb opening sequence featuring a Buchon pair and ME108 battling with a Hurricane and Spitfire Mk I.
Another unexpected highlight was the Battle of France pairing of Gladiator and Hawk 75 flying together in formation, what a rare and special moment!
The excellent weekend of flying was drawn to a close by six fighters from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight joined by the Red Arrows.
4. Shuttleworth Uncovered
The uncovered show represented a number of endings as well as a couple of bright moments for the future. The show was the final show of the airshow season and Old Warden’s season finale. It also marked the final public display from Avro Vulcan XH558.
The focus of the important final appearance from the Vulcan including a memorable formation pass with the Old Warden based Avro XIX.
The show also saw the debut appearance from the Bristol Scout replica which will go on to become a regular performer on the UK scene, alongside the exciting news that Hurricane Mk I R4118 will be based at Old Warden now as well as its display debut at the venue.
Alongside these star acts there was some superb flying, an excellent solo routine from the Kennet Aviation Seafire, the DH88 Comet and Mew Gull and of course the Edwardians.
The stunning line up combined with the close up access and relaxed atmosphere made for a fitting end to the season and some excellent signs for the future as well as a farewell to an old favourite.
5. Headcorn Battle Of Britain Airshow
2015 saw a remarkable evening airshow take place at Headcorn in Kent. This show saw many aircraft of the Battle arrive at the grass airfield in order to pay tribute to the men of the Battle over the fields where it would have been fought 75 years ago.
Early in the afternoon spectators saw a four ship of BBMF fighters arrive and land on at Headcorn, something which had not happened before this year. There was also a rare BBMF Hurricane Pairs routine during the main display.
A wonderfully flown de Havilland sequence was also put together featuring 3 Tiger Moths, a Jackaroo and Rapide taking to the skies together.
In a dramatic last hour there was a display from the Bristol Blenheim and a stunning tail chase display from 3 Spitfires, a Battle of Britain veteran Hurricane and two Hispano Buchons.
This show brought an impressive line up of aircraft to a perfect venue and delivered one of the best set pieces I have seen for many years, complete with pyrotechnics on some very low strafing runs from the Buchon pair.
The above shows may not cover many venues, but those are the 5 that will stick in my mind whenever I look back at the 2015 season and captured so much variety throughout the year.
I wanted to give special mention to a couple of other shows outside my top 5 however.
Biggin Hill’s Festival of Flight in June saw a superb line up take to the skies, though weather meant that the planned appearance of the Blenheim, amongst others, couldn’t take place, the team on the ground managed to put together a superb display.
The Synchro 75 pair of Mk II Spitfire and Typhoon put in what is arguably their best routine of the year and we saw a stunning dogfight between ME109G and Spitfire XVI. The show was brought to a stunning close by a close formation Spitfire pairs display from Matador Pilots Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones.
Flywheel at Bicester certainly deserves a mention. While the flying was limited given the events motor racing focus, the event was truly impressive. The casual atmosphere combined with some of the country’s finest aircraft made for a truly memorable summers day. The emotive sight of the Blenheim returning to Bicester made for a great moment as well.
Lastly I feel the need to mention Dunsfold, I attended this event a week after witnessing the tragic events at Shoreham, which will no doubt be what many will remember the 2015 season for. It was a very strange atmosphere among the community in the week following Shoreham as everyone struggled to come to terms with what happned. Dunsfold managed to deliver a superb days flying and as Brian Smith and Steve Jones closed the show in the Spitfire and Mustang it reminded all of us I am sure of all that is good about this hobby we all love so dearly.
While 2015 will be remembered for the tragic events, it is important to remember just how much light there was throughout the year.