Well, that’s it for another year. A fantastic display at Scotland’s National Airshow, and the weather just about held. I’m sure most of you would agree that compared to last year the one shower we had in the midst of a day of sunshine doesn’t really count as rain!! This year there was a certain amount of re-programming and juggling to do, which made for some hectic moments in the control cabin, but I think we did what we came to do – give Scotland a great flying display.
There’s always a fast ball waiting in the display business, and this year it was the withdrawal of the Sabre with literally days to go. Luckily, Jonathan Whaley and his gorgeous Hawker Hunter, Miss Demeanour, stepped into the breach and we were able to carry on with hardly a blip in the planning process.
All the best laid plans…
As those of you who have been following the display plans know, the Sabre was the latest in a series of cancellations. Not to be disheartened though, we always cope and come up with a new plan. By the time the first members of the public walked through the gate on Saturday morning, I was on display plan number 13 and was hoping it wasn’t going to be unlucky!
Having briefed the crews operating out of Edinburgh airport, I arrived on site at about 10.45 to be told that the Search And Rescue Sea King helicopter had been called out, but still hoped to make it to the display. There is nothing you can do about that, and it’s always a caveat of using the Navy Sea King that, if needed, it will answer Search And Rescue calls. As our commentator Ben said on the day, the people who need her will be a lot more pleased to see her than we could possibly be.
And off we go!
Opening the display with the Typhoon really set the scene for a great day. The clear blue sky and the noise and drama of the aircraft served to get us off to a grand start. The Breitling Wingwalkers were spectacular as usual and the idea of getting them over from Archerfield to meet people was inspired. The queues at the ‘meet the crew’ tent showed how just popular they were.
I thought the flight display was terrific this year and behind the scenes there was so much going on to coordinate the show, including arranging for some aircraft to take part at the very last minute!
Our autogyro had problems with starting. Having already possibly lost the Sea King display, I wasn’t keen on losing another display item! So, after a few minutes of manic activity, with a phone at each ear to try and find a replacement aircraft, I was delighted that Jim McTaggart at Archerfield came up trumps with his Piper Cub – a lovely looking aircraft in such a small arena. I gave Jim a start time and the challenge that we needed a five minute display as there was aircraft on the way from Edinburgh. And he did it, a perfect five-minute show, clearing the display line in order to allow the Buchon (Me109) to fly in. What a graceful aircraft, beautifully displayed by John Romain from the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford. I could relax… for a bit…
Oh no, what do we do now?
After a quick phone call to Prestwick Airport, it was obvious we weren’t going to see the Sea King, so my next challenge was how to fill this gap?
The answer? Get the SWIP team to display early and massage the gaps from then on, slowly filling the time from the back of the programme so that when we reached the finale we would be back on time. And that is precisely what happened. Everyone played their part in modifying timings when asked. And everything was going swimmingly until we were told the BBMF Spitfire had suffered an in-flight engine problem and had to return to Newcastle.
By this time I realised that I’d have to accept a slightly earlier finish time than planned, and I started making arrangements accordingly. But, as it turned out, the crews came up trumps. We were able to get back on time quite quickly and by the time the Sea Fury arrived we were back on track for a spectacular finale. I think you will all agree that the Sea Fury and Hawker Hunter formation was brilliant and that Jonathan in Miss Demeanour provided a fitting end to a great day.
It turns out that the Sea King was called out to a job off the Isle of Man, and from there was re-tasked to two more missions, clocking up over nine hours flying by day’s end: that’s a very long time to sit in a helicopter, and here I speak from experience.
Well that’s it for another year
Last year I commented on the two little girls playing in the puddles in their new wellies, oblivious to the flying display. Well this year it was a little boy, about five or six years old, who caught our attention , bang in front of the control cabin. He was definitely a future aircraft enthusiast or even pilot – he was wearing a children’s flying suit, complete with pilot’s wings, and had a toy aeroplane in his hands. As the display aircraft twisted, rolled and looped in front of him, so he twisted, rolled and looped his toy, getting in such a spin at one point that he fell over! Up he jumped, and off he went again – the future of aviation is safe in Scotland.
Well, that’s me just about done. All that remains is to thank Steve McLean, General Manager at the National Museum of Flight and his team here at the Museum and ask him if he has enjoyed his first East Fortune Airshow – and I hope you did too! I’ve written far more than I intended but I hope I haven’t rambled too much. Have a great summer and Christmas, and hopefully I’ll be back next year!