With 2019 soon upon us, I felt now was the best chance to put together a list of my personal airshow top 5 from the 2018 season. We were certainly spoiled for choice both in quality of flying and the generally perfect weather that endured for much of the summer. My list for the 2018 season is as follows:
- La Ferté-Alais
The annual airshow at La Ferté-Alais in France is well engrained into airshow folklore by this point and there is probably little I can write here to add to that. All I would say is that after a bit of a false start for myself in 2016 (poor weather and only one day in attendance) 2018 really gave me that La Ferté magic.
From the extensive flightline walk to the frankly unrivalled diversity in the flying. Where else are you going to go from A Spad XII to a Rafale solo display with a formation pass linking the two together? It really is a superb venue and as complete an airshow as you could hope to see
2. Shuttleworth Collection Military Pageant
It goes without saying that year on year, Old Warden and the Shuttleworth Collection are always going to make an appearance in this list at least once. This year there were certainly plenty of great shows, with the opening three events in particular being special. For me, the Military Pageant was on another level. Of the UK events I attended this year it most certainly gave the best all round experience.
I have already provided my thoughts in detail on the wonderful extended WW1 sequence and wide array of visiting types which were the centre of this show. On top of that we also witnessed the return of the P-47 to Old Warden, with a graceful aerobatic display, the return of the collection’s Gladiator as part of a mass departure of heavies early in the show and a classic high energy Hurricane solo from Keith Skilling, unheard of outside of Duxford in recent years. A really special event that showcased some of the best available acts and flying the UK has to offer
3. Flying Legends
Another regular event to feature in this list, Legends 2018 was special for a number of reasons. First and foremost I spent seven very enjoyable days at Duxford for the event, with each day offering something of interest. Legends is always much more than the two day event, though this year was full of entertaining acts such as the Battle of Britain Film sequence which saw four Buchons pitted against Spitfires EP120, MH434 and AR213, all of which also took part in the filming.
There was a stunning Sea Fury/Fury pairs display from Richard Grace and Nick Grey and we saw the welcome return of Mustang Miss Velma, now resplendent as “Contrary Mary”. The Flying Bulls were out in force and this show saw the public unveiling of the Fighter Collection’s Fiat CR42, one of the most highly anticipated rebuilds out there. There was also plenty of other debuts/returns such as Spitfire JG851 and PL983 to name but two, certainly a vintage yea
4. Cosby Victory Show
Very much a case of “third times a charm” after two unsuccessful trips in 2012 and 2017, Cosby finally delivered for me and in a big way. I’ve always loved farm strip airshows, ever since the days of the regular event at Woodchurch. There is something special about an event that is clearly so temporary. Just the idea of being onsite watching aircraft operate is such a unique opportunity that it is always going to be a good day out. However, Cosby has had its problems over the years with awkward display lines (2012) or display permissions being removed at the last minute (2017) this year saw both of those issues overcome. The show boasted an impressive warbird line up making use of many of the Sywell based warbirds along with some locally based classics.
The new display line gave Cosby a wonderful curved display profile which meant that each display was a stream of impressive topside passes. This combined with mixed formations, tail chases and aerobatics made for a great couple of hours flying. There was also the real draw of watching warbirds operate out of a small grass strip. The sight of a Thunderbolt and Dakota operating out of Cosby is certainly one to remember.
Another highlight of the year and an entirely new venue for me. While I have been to the RAF museum on the site before this was the first time at the airshow. The show this year was unquestionably the premier RAF100 event I attended with a wonderful attention to detail not just in the flying but also in the extensive static display.
The static display not only made use of the RAF museum assets but also featured a number of types either flown or roaded in that had particular significance to the RAF. The flying itself took on a chronological order starting with the Great War Display Team. Modern foreign participants were interspersed at relevant points in history, such as the pairing of Hurricane and Polish MIG 29. This also marked the first away day appearance for the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Fury and, as it turned out, the aircraft’s only public appearance this year.
2018 was a remarkable season that generally saw perfect weather at most of the key dates in the calendar. One show that did suffer from the weather however was Little Gransden. I can confidently say that without a doubt had the weather played ball this show would have been very high on this list as it had put together a remarkable selection of participants.
A Bumper Year
I can’t remember an airshow season for quite a while that has had such a good combination of firsts, welcome returns and great weather. These top 5 shows show the breadth and depth of airshows in the UK and Europe during what certainly appears to be a golden age, long may it continue!