It’s no secret that classic jets at airshows have been in steady decline since the 2014/15, but it was still notable that those remaining classic jets we have enjoyed in recent years were absent throughout 2020.
Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron
Undoubtedly the biggest contributor of classic jets at UK airshows for the last 5 years, the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron has become a wonderful regular presence on the circuit. Often spending the summer in the UK with some or all of their fleet of jets, flying at numerous seaside shows as well as inland events such as Duxford and Dunsfold.
The squadron flew at UK airshows throughout the 2010s, initially with their wonderful close formation pairs aerobatics of de Havilland Vampires, a routine that even saw the Vampires painted in RAF markings for the RAF100 events in 2018. 2015 saw the UK Debut for their two seat MIG-15. This was the first time that a MIG had flown at a UK show since the Duxford based example flew in the 1990s. Since 2015 the MIG and Vampires have flown in each UK airshow season.
The Squadron also acquired a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star back in 2012, making its UK debut at Duxford that same year. After many years on the ground the T-33 returned to the UK for airshow in 2019. It was great to have a T-33 flying again and, being a straightening jet, it was able to carry out aerobatics whilst flying mock dogfights with the MIG.
Gnat Display team
One team that has become much less active in recent years is the collection of Folland Gnats based at North Weald. The team last flew at Duxford’s RAF100 show in 2018, with no public appearances (aside from North Weald’s “JetFest”) in 2019. This year the team have flown their aircraft from North Weald but with so few airshows there were no opportunities to display.
The team do have a number of active restoration projects, which should see another two seat example of the Gnat and the single seat Gnat F1, which will hopefully fly before long. The Gnat team always put on a great show so it would be fantastic to see the team, especially the single seat machine, back in the air next year.
Strikemaster Display Team
Very much the leading UK classic jet act in the last few years has been the Strikemaster team. Flying as a solo act for many years in the grey camouflage machine, a second airframe joined the team in 2018, adding an extra dimension to the routine.
Often easily mistaken as a Jet Provost, the Strikemaster is a far more powerful and capable machine that makes for a wonderful display act. The lifting of the aerobatic ban on straight winged jets has allowed the team to carry out their full display at all venues again, which is always a highlight of any show.
The future of Classic Jets in the UK remains something of an unknown. The three teams/operators featured here have and hopefully will continue to play a big part in the UK airshow scene and perhaps we may see further acts and aircraft take to the skies.