Dave Eade/DEltafoto and Roger Cook/Pynelea Photo Bureau report on a wild and windy Yeovilton International Air Day, held on 5 July
Many concerned voices were to be heard (including ours) over the date clashes set for major airshows in the UK this year. It would not be difficult to hear a chorus voicing the opinion that Yeovilton had drawn the short straw, clashing as it did with the RAF's major show at Waddington. Yeovilton's traditional audience is local, so there was probably never an attendance issue - it was more about whether they would get the performers!
Those attendees at the press preview earlier in the year were heartened by the presence of the organisers from Waddington itself who, along with Yeovilton's base Commodore Chris Palmer, went to great lengths to emphasise how both airshows were working together to share out the assets available so nobody would be left with a thin programme. The possibility of a 'Harrier Meet' with Italian, Spanish, US Marine Corps and Joint Harrier Force examples on static was proffered and an assurance that "if" the Red Arrows were delayed in returning from their US tour, Waddington would 'send' the Spanish team to Yeovilton together with the B-52H.
Suffice it to say, little of the above happened, but in fairness (as with so many of the 2008 shows) it was more of a weather issue than a planning one. Severe cross-winds at Waddington prevented the B-52H from getting airborne and no further mention was made of the Harriers or the Reds. It was never likely that the Vulcan would appear and the only team on the programme were the Extras of the Royal Jordanian Falcons - who stayed firmly in their hangar for the whole day.
So what did Yeovilton provide? Opening with the RAF Typhoon from Coningsby's 29(R) Squadron is a great way to get everyone's attention, although surely one of the star turns of the whole season was provided by the VACC test Harrier from QinetiQ, over at Boscombe Down. In a year when Harriers are very thin on the airshow scene (unless you were Hungarian), the crowd were treated to a superb low-level hover and conventional display by this raspberry-ripple coloured example.
Team Guinot, the Hunter GA11, Golden Apple's F-86A from Duxford (superbly flown by Cliff Spink) were possibly the crowd favourites, with the popular return of the Sea Vixen threatening to turn this show into a 1960's veteran affair. Not to be left out were the 'home team', the 'Black Cats' Lynx pair, Seafire, Spitfire and the Culdrose Falcon and Hawk demo that always impresses.
Deteriorating weather during the early afternoon brought high winds, torrential rain and an early close to the show, but not before the ever-popular role demonstration and pyrotechnics by the Navy helicopters based here was completed with its usual aplomb.
With a verdict of "fair-to-'midlin'" on the show, we can only hope that lessons are learned as far as date selection is concerned, but must congratulate Yeovilton in doing what they did with what they had! Next year will celebrate a centenary of Naval Aviation, and is a week later than Waddington!