Warbird Tails Looking Back – Abingdon

Another Wednesday, another look back. This weekend coming would have marked the 2020 edition of the Abingdon Air and County Fayre. This year was set to have a different feel with a heavier emphasis on the fly-in though still had planned displays from a number of aircraft including a rare appearance from Historic Helicopters Westland Wessex.

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All is not lost for Abingdon this year however, as it has only been postponed to the August Bank Holiday Monday. Here is hoping that the event can take place in some shape of form if not 2021!

As covered in previous weeks, these posts are about celebrating previous years and memories and not dwelling on this year too much.

Abingdon has been a constant presence on the calendar for years now and often shares the role of season opener together with the Shuttleworth Collection. An old RAF base just outside of Oxford, Abingdon has a great feel to it. The show layout, both pre and post 2017 (when the crowd area swapped sides) has a wonderful combination of bigger RAF shows and the informal farm strip shows of the 90s/early 2000s. As the name suggests, the County Fayre element of this show offers something for everyone and plenty to keep crowds entertained during the morning of the show.

The fly-in element also brings a great variety of aircraft with 2017’s show bringing rarities such as Will Greenwood’s Yak-3 and the Shipping and Airlines fleet, including their immaculate DH Dragonfly.

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The show has always managed to grab a unique act of two as well. Being early in the season has its disadvantages as many aircraft aren’t out of winter maintenance/military DAs are not often completed. However this never seems to have affected Abingdon.

I first attended back in 2014 and remember a thrilling display from Peter Teichman in his MK XI Spitfire as well as a memorable routine from Peter Holloway in his Storch (from memory a last minute replacement for another aircraft which was weathered in elsewhere).

The absolute highlight of 2014 though was the superb debut of the Midair Squadron Canberra PR9. A beautiful machine that had a frustratingly short airshow career.

2015 was certainly not blessed with great weather but still provided some top airshow memories (even if a lot of them were how much it rained!). This was the first time I’d seen the long term Duxford resident Bronco fly at an airshow, which was fantastic and featured an even then rare appearance from the Gnat display team.

The high point of the 2015 show came after a huge thunderstorm during which most in attendance returned to their cars. After holding in the local area for at least half an hour, those who had battled through the rain were treated to the debut display from the wonderful Battle Of Britain 75 synchro routine from the BBMF and Typhoon display team. This was also the first appearance from the camouflage Typhoon. This routine really was great and its such a shame they performed at relatively few shows in that year.

Another treat for the post storm attendees was one of the final airshow performances from Classic Air Force’s Gloster Meteor NF11. Though the fighter was not formally retired until early 2019, it performed at only a handful of shows following the 2015 season. Jon Corley flew a graceful routine in this classic fighter and its fortunate that this was already at a stage when a Meteor display was something to cherish.

My third and as its stands final Abingdon (that would have been added to this weekend!) was 2017. This show was the first instalment with the adjusted display line/crowd line following regulation changes, to enable full displays to still take place. The show moved to MAA rather than CAA regulations in 2017 as well. The line up was simply fantastic for this year and I remember the great anticipation. From memory the Sea Vixen was on the list initially as was the planned UK debut for the Belgium based CAC Boomerang replica.

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As eluded to earlier in this post, the Sea Vixen didn’t make the show owing to extended maintenance and Display Authorisation challenges saw the Boomerang replaced by the Yak-3U from the same operator. The Yak was still a UK debut and flown in a very different style to UK warbirds. This routine was very memorable with towering wingovers and vertical rolls.

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Another great debut in 2017 was the Great War Display Team’s Avro 504 replica. It was a shame that this only managed a few passes before an engine issue led to an early landing. It still was a real highlight to see this wonderful team expand during the anniversary period. It was also great planning by the show organisers to still fit this display in following an hours break in the program following another incident.

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The North Weald based Huey was another rarity displayed in 2017 as well as the Antonov AN-2, both scarcely performing acts. On the ground, Abingdon managed the impressive coup of securing the rarer of the Martin Baker Meteor T7s for static display.

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Another notable warbird performance was the first appearance of the Duxford based T-28 Trojan since a repaint to a wonderful USAF colour scheme.

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I’ve no doubt missed plenty from the 2017 show (not helped by having to leave early as the show ran on much longer than planned due to the break).

I missed 2018 and ’19 as I was attending shows elsewhere but everything I have seen from those shows suggest further memorable outings. 2018 saw the show get another airshow debut with the two seat Buchon “Red 11” performing alongside the Grace Spitfire. A unique pairing of “twin-sticks”. It was another Sywell based warbird that looked the highlight at the 2019 show with P-47D Thunderbolt Nellie B putting on a great show. 2019 also saw yet another UK debut at the show with the long awaited first appearance from the Duxford based North American Yale (shot below from Little Gransden later in the season).

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A brief and only recent history of the great shows at Abingdon for you all there then. Hopefully we can all look forward to going back to Abingdon later in the year, if not in 2021!

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