Warbird Tails Top 10 Airshow Moments 2015

Over the advent period I have been posting up an Airshow Moment on each day from what was a season full of highlights. Out of those 20 I posted, I have outlined the following below as my personal top 10 of the year.

  1. Bristol Blenheim

2015 saw a number of new acts make their first appearance on the scene, the return of the Bristol Blenheim was one such treat. This season marked the first for the aircraft in over 10 years as well as the first time a Mk I Blenheim had been seen in the skies for decades. Following the return to flight in December 2014, John Romain went on to perform countless spectacular displays up and down the country, getting plenty of exposure for this elegant design.

I think many of us had forgotten just how quick the Blenheim is during the time it was away and with some excellent sweeping and up close displays at some stunning venues over the season, the Blenheim’s return simply has to be the highlight of 2015.

Notable appearances included the debut display at Duxford in May alongside a pair of Mk I Spitfire’s, a memorable return to a wartime Blenheim Base – at the Flywheel event at Bicester and an excellent Old Warden Debut. As it stands the Blenheim is set to return to Shuttlewortth for their season opener display and I cannot wait.

2. WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust Snipe and Albatros

2014 saw a new operator emerge on the scene with some very promising plans, the WW1 aviation heritage trust was put together to create a flying squadron of WW1 types to display in the UK and tell the story of early aviation for years to come. Last year saw the stunning pair of Be2s shipped over from New Zealand, both of which made a number of appearances in 2014.

Early this year it was announced that the Trust planned to bring over an Albatros D.Va and Sopwith Snipe. This was an amazing prospect as there had not been a Sopwith Snipe flying in the UK since the 1920s and the RAF Museum’s Albatros had all too short a flying career in the latter half of 2012.

It was the Shuttleworth’s Best of British show in July that saw these two First World War Scouts display for the first time, and they did so as part of a spectacular twilight finale. The Albatros was displayed gracefully by Keith Skilling, soaking up the last sun rays of the day. The show was closed by Gene DeMarco putting in a stunning display in the Snipe in the fast fading light before taxiing in to the flightline. Seeing these two superb First World War Replicas was an undoubted highlight.

The Snipe and Albatros performed at a further Old Warden show before moving down to Stow Maries to join one of the Trust’s Be2s. As it stands the Snipe is currently on display in the P.A.Wood car showroom in essex. It is hoped that someone will purchase the aircraft on behalf of the trust, allowing them to display for years to come and carry on telling the important story.

3. Duxford’s Spitfire Spectacular 

I don’t think I can add much about this display that hasn’t already been said, it was probably the greatest warbird set piece I have ever been fortunate enough to watch unfold. Brian Smith led a group of 17 Spitfires (15 Spitfires and 2 Seafires), ranging from Mk. Is through to late model Griffon powered machines, through a truly jaw dropping routine.

All of the aircraft formed up into a big wing formation for a few passes over the field before they all peeled off into a beautiful tail-chase sequence, countless passes with Spitfires everywhere you looked, the noise was fantastic. Even above all this tail chasing there was the rare sight of a vic of three Spitfires looping over the top, magic!

This classic routine was closed off by Brian Smith delivering a polished solo in the lead machine, MH434. No better way to pay tribute to the Battle of Britain, perhaps with next years 80th Spifire anniversary, we may be treated to more of the same.

4. Curtiss Hawk Pair

I don’t think I would have believed you this time last year if you had told me we would be treated to a Pairs display from a Hawk 75 and a P-36, given the extreme rarity of the type. I was certainly shocked back in May when pictures appeared of the newly restored P-36C on the ramp at Chino. In this day and age it is always a refreshing change to see a restoration kept under wraps until the last minute. It was less of a surprise when it was announced that the owner was Stephen Grey, well known for his love of Curtiss Hawks.

Flying Legends has had some real special moments over the years, but for me the sight of two early Curtiss Hawks running low across the grass at Duxford has to be right up there, I look forward to hopefully seeing a repeat performance next year.

5. Vulcan Finale

Another much covered aspect of the 2015 airshow season was the final displays of Avro Vulcan Xh558.This cold war icon performed at countless displays over the season coming to a conclusion with the final appearance at Old Warden in October. I covered my thoughts on the final season here. It was a shame to se this graceful machine grounded.

6.109s at Duxford

The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain brought a number of interesting set pieces and spectacular displays to the UK scene. One of the stand out moments was the three ship of Messrschmit/109s which took place over the Flying Legends weekend at Duxford.The EADS Daimler Benz powered Buchon “Red 7” led the two UK based Buchon’s through a wonderful flowing formation aerobatic display before breaking off into a tail chase.

7. Synchro 75

With the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain set to be a key theme for 2015, the RAF put together a very special routine for the anniversary year.

As various anniversaries have passed over the years we have seen the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight fighters pair up with the Typhoons for a number of formation displays. This years routine took things up a gear.

Rather than a series of formation passes, this years display was an expertly choreographed synchro routine, complete with numerous opposition passes and synchronised rolls. The routine ended with an opposition pass; followed by a roaring zoom climb from the Typhoon and a graceful victory roll from the Spitfire.

For each of these displays the Spitfire was displayed by Anthony Parkinson and the Typhoon was flown by Ben Westoby-Brooks. A number of Spitfires were used from the BBMF fleet. Though the mound of choice was Battle veteran P7350, a number of displays were carried out using Mk XVI TE311 and Mk V AB910.

The Typhoon received a special paint scheme for the season as well, emerging from the paint shop in the spring in early war camouflage with squadron codes “GN-A”, the markings of a Hawker Hurricane of 249 Squadron.

The pairs first display wasn’t in ideal conditions, with heavy rain and poor visibility delaying their display slot at the Abingdon show in early May. After a long hold time the two aircraft were able to meet up and put on a stunning display.

8. Headcorn’s Battle of Britain

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.

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.

Alongside Duxford’s september display, this has to rank near the top of the Battle of Britain set pieces of recent times.

9. Bristol Scout

Along with the debut of the Snipe and Albatros, this year also saw another impressive WW1 replica make its first appearences. The Bristol Scout, built by the Bremner brothers has been eagerly anticipated by enthusiasts for years now and after a selection of static displays throughout the season the Scout finally carried out its first public display at the Shuttleworth October display.

10. Fury Debut

In a time where many feel the airshow scene is perhaps approaching a decline its encouraging to look back and realise just how many new aircraft there were this year, looking at this list its clear just how much New Blood has entered the scene. Though the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Fury flew back in 2012, the May show at Duxford saw this aircrafts first public dispaly.

What a display it was too! Displaying in a pairs routine with the Shuttleworth Gladiator, Charlie Brown later threw the Fury around the sky in a flowing aerobatics display. More of the same next year please!

2015 has seen a number of new aircraft join the airshow circuit, with one notable departure in the shape of XH558, I thoroughly enjoyed the above moments and look forward to 2016.

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