Considering how difficult 2016 look set to be back in April this year, with uncertainty in relation to the CAA’s new display line distances and increased fees for event organisers. Thankfully after a rocky start in the first couple of shows of the season things started to become more familiar and before long there were plenty of classic airshow moments taking place as has been covered on this site over the last few months. The selection of shows below are my personal highlights of 2016 as we reach the end of year and start looking forward to what 2017 might have to offer.
A clear highlight of 2016, though not without some tough competition, was the Shuttleworth Fly Navy show. It really was a line up with something for everyone and an enthusiasts dream. Incredibly we also got the weather as well! The Sea Vixen provided a spectacular start before the Seafire III and Collection Sea Hurricane each provided wonderful solo performances. The Royal Navy Historic Flight brought their Swordfish and the show saw the return of the Bristol Scout. Fly Navy also saw once of the largest away days for the Fighter Collection for some time. The Duxford based team closed the show in fine style with a three ship display from the Bearcat, Wildcat and Corsair along with an appearance from their Hawker Nimrod. With all of these varied visitors joining an already stellar line up of collection aircraft coupled with glorious weather this show was never going to be anywhere but top of this list.
With all the concerns regarding display lines at Duxford and the closure of the tank bank there were some serious doubts in my mind about Legends 16, I needn’t have worried though as it proved to be another vintage year. Richard Grace’s displays in the Hawker Fury will go down in airshow folklore for years to come I have no doubt. Other highlights included Nick Grey leading a gaggle of Merlin Spitfires through tailchase vertical aeros and a pair of Buchons being pursued by a pair of Gloster Gladiators, pure airshow magic.
After years of the plans never quite working out 2016 saw me finally make it to La Ferte-Alais a world renowned show mixing warbirds, vintage types and modern fighters. I was only able to attend one day of the show but what an incredible show. The show featured some of the best warbird solo displays you could hope to see as well as a stunning final act from the French Navy not to mention a stunning water bomber demo. The pearl harbour and Vietnam sequences were also incredibly well done. The only shame was that a number of star acts were unable to attend due to weather and the incredible WW1 line up on the ground was unable to take to the skies.
With the arrival of the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust’s fleet of aircraft during 2015 Stow Maries increased the number of Flying Events during 2016 with each event featuring a short flying display. I attended a number of events in June and July all of which saw incredible flying. The opportunity to see Rotary and vintage engines being prepared and started at such close quarters before each aircraft performed a graceful solo display was incredible. There were also notable visiting performances from the Stampe Trio and BAE System’s Avro XIX. Stow Maries is a real hidden gem of the UK display scene and I look forward to the 2017 series of events.
A long overdue return to this idyllic Cambridgeshire airfield for me in August for the annual Children in Need airshow. Gransden has always had a great reputation for close flying and a relaxed atmosphere. This year certainly saw that reputation come true with Peter Holloway’s display in the Ryan STA being particularly memorable as well as Dave Harvey’s performance in Hurricane R4118. The show usually attracts some rarely seen machines as well, this year saw a Vietnam trio of Auster, Bird Dog and Navion performing a graceful formation display. There was plenty of impressive aerobatics on show with the home team being presented by the Global Stars and Mark Jeffries.
The UK Airshow circuit has shrunk in the last few years, there is no denying that, in terms of venues my 2016 was not particularly varied, which is why this list could have easily included a number of Old Warden entries and the September show at Duxford could have easily taken a spot as well. A notable highlight of the season not covered above was the Shuttleworth Race Day show in October, an incredible well thought out display with some truly incredible flying bringing the 2016 airshow season to a spectacular close.