Après Airshow 2011

Take a look at some of the fantastic images on the air display and on the ground activity that were taken of Scotland’s National Airshow in our Flickr Group and check back on the Airshow here for announcements of our 2015 show.

Well, it’s over.  It’s Monday morning and I’m back in the office, considering the weekend and what we could have done better.  As you will all now be aware, having read my previous blogs, there is always something in this business that will creep up and give you a surprise when you least expect it.  Last week it was the withdrawal of the Pitts aircraft on Wednesday morning.  As I was driving the length of the UK on Thursday that didn’t leave a lot of time to fill the gap in the programme.

A few manic phone calls later and I had the germ of a plan.  If someone could display twice, I wouldn’t have to change any timings, nor make any more Edinburgh airport bookings or need any more hotel rooms – thank you Neil McArthy, with his beautifully finished Jet Provost.  He readily agreed to fly twice, filling the programme once more and giving me that warm, fuzzy feeling that Display Directors get when they have a full programme, a workable plan, and still have time in hand.

Jet Provost
Jet Provost XM479 performing a slow flypast at Airshow 2011 © dram of whisky.

There is nothing quite like watching a display director with gaps in his programme trying to re-jig his programme with a phone in each hand as the first aircraft displays.  Thankfully, that wouldn’t be me at East Fortune.

I have already told you about my team, and we all duly met on Thursday night, ready for action.  Friday was spent setting up the radios and operations suite (!) in the palatial accommodation provided by the National Museum of Flight.  We were sharing our ops room with the tannoy operator, who seemed to really enjoy very loud music – a bit of a problem when you have to speak to aircraft.

He was nice as pie though, and readily agreed to hand over to Ben, our commentator, whenever we wanted, shutting off the music while we operated aircraft.  We found this all weekend.  Everyone we came across, be it the National Museums Scotland team, contractors, or members of the public, was helpful in the extreme.  It seemed nothing was too much trouble, and everything fell into place seamlessly, ready for a fine show on Saturday.  I began to relax.  Oops!

Saturday dawned.  Early breakfast for those of the team who were off to Edinburgh to brief the crews.  I always like to arrive early, because there’s always an IT faff when setting up a laptop and projector, and I like to get it sorted with time in hand.

Breitling Wingwalker formation
Breitling Wingwalkers performing at Airshow 2011 © dram of whisky

There was no IT faff on Saturday morning though – because there was no IT!  It was safe and sound in my hotel room 20 miles away.  Did I panic?  Of course I did – before haring back to the hotel for the kit.  Fifty minutes later I’m back at the briefing room, setting up, and ready to brief (don’t do the sums; I couldn’t possibly have exceeded the speed limit).

As the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) inspector later said, the brief was late, but relevant, and everyone was now ready to display.  More to the point, I’d had my display day incident/problem.  We all have them, and it’s better to get them out of the way early.  So what can possibly go wrong now? Everybody is briefed, the CAA inspector is happy, the aircraft are all serviceable and in the right place, and the team is prepared.

What can go wrong is that we can entrust the map reader to get us back to East Fortune, avoiding the traffic jams, to the air traffic controller.  Northumberland is lovely at this time of year – at least, that’s how far it felt that we had gone when he decided we’d missed the junction.  Eventually we pitch up at the National Museum of Flight, harassed, hot, and slightly unsettled.

Not quite NASA! – Flight control at Airshow 2011.

Thankfully, we still had time for a cup of coffee, a quick team brief, and off we go – first aircraft on the radio, clear to run in and display.  From that point on, it ran like clockwork.  Most aircraft were bang on time, those that weren’t were easily slotted into the programme; Ben’s commentary was brilliant, along with his choice of music, and the CAA inspector was smiling.  The Huey and the Sea King were parked where everyone could see them (I got to marshal them in – a throwback to my helicopter days) and the crews were royally entertained by their adoring public.


I have to say that none of my team, including me, has ever seen such an appreciative and responsive audience at a UK flying display.  They were generous with their applause, and were obviously enjoying the day immensely.  The shouts and cheers as the Skyraider and Bronco flew past, or the whole crowd standing up and waving as the Sea King departed, are things I will carry with me for a long time – it was truly a joy to present a display to such a stunning crowd.

What were the highlights for me?  The audience, without a doubt.  It’s always so much easier when you feel the audience is with you and enjoying the show.  I have to mention my team as well – we have had a ball.  Lots of laughs, and I don’t suppose I’ve heard the last of the laptop incident, but we are looking forward to doing it all again next year.

Airco Replica DH-2 5964 displaying at the Airshow 2011 © dram of whisky.

Favourite aircraft?  Well, I’m the Director, and I’m not allowed to have a favourite, but the DH-2 and the Dragon lifted my heart.  So thank you Scotland and thank you National Museum of Flight for allowing me to have so much fun (well, mostly fun) running your flying display.

See you all next year.


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