Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Sywell Great War Air Show 2014

On Sunday 17 August 2014 the much publicised air show at Sywell Aerodrome took place.
Agusta A-109 G-RSCU of the WNAA

The bi-annual show is in aid of the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) and is always an interesting show with a variety of participants, mainly classic aircraft. There is always the odd exception or surprise be it participants or visiting aircraft.  The main attraction this year was no doubt the highly anticipated participation of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster accompanied by the visiting Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancaster. For many people present, including a number of WWII Lancaster veterans, this was the main reason they had bought a ticket and the event was a total sell out.

The visiting aircraft park was not as packed as it had been in previous years and that was down to the weather, but a few hardy pilots did make it, including a diesel powered visitor from the Netherlands. Here are some of them.

On the Saturday the Lancasters, accompanied by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, were displaying at Eastbourne and a couple of other venues are were due to stay overnight at the Battle of Britain Station of Biggin Hill, but in anticipation of the high winds expected for Sunday the entire group relocated to RAF Coningsby on Saturday evening. This put their appearance at Sywell and any other venues in doubt. Although the BBMF website confirmed this around lunchtime on Sunday, the announcement at Sywell was made just after 4pm. This caused droves of people to leave the aerodrome and head for home, also because the rain, that started the day between 9 and 10am, made an unwelcome return.

Despite the high winds, which gusted at up to 28mph on occasions, the show went on and even though it meant that some acts, such as the Great War Display Team and the usual Flying Circus had to be cancelled, acts were shuffled around to keep some form of continuity. It was obvious throughout the display that some of the aircraft, their pilots more precisely, clearly struggled, especially the lighter aircraft with less power. There were also some interesting landings by visiting aircraft as illustrated by the two pictures above, but despite the weather condition everything went well and without incident.

Some of the Popham based Great War Display Team members departed for an arduous journey home

The flying part of the day was opened by three large scale model aircraft, a jet, a Sopwith Pup and the only Lancaster flying at Sywell 2014! They were clearly affected by the winds and gusts, but their performances were awe inspiring.

The first  main feature of the flying display was one this author has never witnessed before consisting of a Piper Pawnee 250, ex-crop duster, and a glider. This was the Glider FX Team and the accompanying pictures partially illustrate the glider performing a roll, whilst being towed. After several passes, the combination climbed to around 3000 feet where the glider was released for the pilot to give a master class in energy management, with loops, rolls and stall turns. My companion for the day had seen this class act before and told me beforehand what I could expect. It certainly was awe inspiring.

Midair's Canberra PR9 made a very welcome appearance and much earlier than initially programmed in order to fill the gaps, its capabilities being shown off to excellent effect while locally based Skytech's MH-500 helicopter performed its act of high speed flying, steep turns and picking up  and replacing a traffic cone.

Carolyn Grace flew the Grace Spitfire and as we have become to expect it was an immaculate and flowing sequence of passes, however, because of the wind she appeared to keep the aircraft a bit higher and further away from the crowd line.

Carolyn's son Richard lead the TRIG aerobatic team in their blue and yellow Pitts Specials, a class act, we have seen at Sywell before.

 As an act of remembrance, Leah Hammond flew her Auster AOP for a poppy drop, that despite her very best efforts, was, according to the commentator, not quite as planned, but the poppies were released in the right place, landing where a guard of honour was standing to attention. Nice touch, I thought, including couple to the minute silence that everyone, including the children, observed.

Leah Hammond coming in for the poppy drop

Bückers Jungmeister from the Breighton stable
Also from Breighton the ever popular Bückers Bestmann

And a "Welsh" Bückers Jungmann

Percival Mewgull and Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship represented the era of air racing and of course the former is a reminder of the famous flight to Cape Town by the late Alex Henshaw.

The Fighter Collection participated with their beautiful Gloster Gladiator, which was expertly displayed and made a very welcome addition to the show.
The Hardwick Fighters, led by Maurice Hammond in P-51D Mustang "Janie", arrived during the less windy conditions in the morning and in the afternoon put on a number of fly-byes as a pair, the other pilot, flying P-51D Mustang "Marinell", being Rob Davies.

One of the Gnat Display Team's Gnat T1s, in Red Arrows colour scheme, showed off its speed and agility against mostly dark and threatening skies.

The Breitling Wing Walkers with their orange Boeing Stearman aircraft performed their usual display of aerial aero- and acrobatics, much to the delight of the assembled crowd.

The locally based Blades Aerobatic Team, consisting of ex-Red Arrows pilots, put on a great display of aerobatic manoeuvres, again something we have come to expect from this highly professional team.

The Red Arrows were to close the show at 17:15, but following their display, another act turned up that should have arrived in the morning, Hangar 11's Peter Teichman in his Hurribomber BE505. He flew the display with his usual great panache. 

This year's Sywell Air Show was once again a credit to its organisers and despite the disappointing weather condition that precluded the participation of some eagerly anticipated acts, including the two Lancasters, what did fly and display was absolutely fantastic. I just hope that those that came to see the Lancasters do have the opportunity to see them elsewhere, that said, tickets for most events sell like hotcakes and the Little Gransden show is also a total sell out.

18 August 2014
Theo Claassen


  1. Dam good photos, shame about the wind conditions on that day ..

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