NARRATIVE BY RICHARD E. FLAGG & IMAGES BY RICHARD FLAGG/CARL NEWELL/CHRIS WHEELER
RAF Scampton Airshow
Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September 2017 saw an airshow return to Lincolnshire, though at a different venue to the last one at RAF Waddington in July 2014. Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Scampton opened its doors and skies to visitors far and wide, hosting an airshow for the first time since 1991. With aircraft visiting from as far away as Canada, USA, Germany, Norway and Sweden the line up looked promising. Located north of Lincoln, adjacent to the A15, RAF Scampton can trace its heritage as far back as 1916 when it was known as Brattleby. It was renamed Scampton in 1917 and closed in 1920. It was surveyed in the 1930’s as a potential airfield site, it re-opened again in 1936 under the command of 3 Group as a grass airfield. The typical expansion period buildings turned it into a permanent airfield with the four dominating C-Type Hangars. Later transferring to 5 Group it was home to 49 Sqn and 83 Sqn when war broke out.
RAF Scampton is famous as the home of 617 Squadron, The Dambusters, who on the night of 16th/17th May 1943 bombed the Möhne Dam, Edersee Dam and Sorpe Dam causing massive flooding in the Ruhr and Eder Vally’s. Scampton closed again in August 1943 so that hard runways could be built, after which it was upgraded to an A-Class Station, the base reopened again in July 1944. Post war, Scampton was retained and continued to house various bomber squadrons, later becoming a training base. The airfield has survived through many defence and budget cuts over recent years and it is now home to the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows, along with other support units and also Hawker Hunter Aviation.
Gates opened at 0800 with excited spectators arriving by bus from the carpark at the nearby Lincoln Showground. The five hour flying display started at 1100, opening with a familiar sight for anyone who went to the Waddington airshows, a formation flypast by the Red Arrows Hawker Siddeley Hawk T.1’s and a Bombardier Sentinel R.1 of 5 Squadron. This was followed by a single pass by an RAF Boeing E-3D Sentry. Following this there were spirited displays by a number of aircraft in a fairly busy five hour flying programme. Undoubtedly some of the highlights of the show were found on the ground in the static line up. Hawker Hunter Aviation (HHA) brought four of their aircraft over to the static park, a Hawker Hunter F.58, Sukhoi Su-22M4, McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom and a Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S.2B. To most people these might be ‘just another aeroplane’ but the the enthusiast it was a rare chance to see some aircraft that are notoriously hard to see. The Hunter, ZZ191 is one of several aircraft that HHA have on strength and this one, along with ZZ190, is kept in airworthy condition, the other aircraft are stored pending future contract work and can be potentially made arworthy again.
The Swedish Air Force Historic Flight were lined up in the static park with the Saab AJS-37 Vggen, Saab Sk-35C Draken, Saab J-29F Tunnan and Saab J-32B Lansen. This was the first apearance of a Saab Lansen at a UK airshow for over 20 years and it was the first time the author had seen one in the flesh, its bigger than you think! Parked between a Luftwaffe Eurofighter EF.2000T and a pair of Royal Netherlands Air Force General Dynamics F-16AM Fighting Falcon’s, the real gem was the Canadian Air Force McDonnell Douglas CF-188A Hornet. This is a rare sight in the UK now and this aircraft demonstrates the Canadian Air Force’s long association with Lincolnshire dating back to the first world war. The RAF Village proved a huge success with plenty of things to look at and the usual plastic mock up aircraft to sit in should you have wanted to. The new Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance was on display near the last area of the static park. Showcasing the RAF training fleet there was the Grob G-115E Tutor T.1, the new Grob G-120 Prefect T.1, British Aerospace Hawk T.2 and the Hawker Beechcraft B200GT King Air air. Past types were there too with civilian De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunks and BAC Jet Provost’s that had flown in for the show.
Back to the flying display and it was nice to see international participation with the French Air Force Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet E and the Belgian Air Force General Dynamics F-16AM Fighting Falcon which put on a very impressive display showcasing the F-16AM to its full potential – though ear defenders were recommended! The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) have had an issue for the past few weeks causing their aircraft powered by the Rolls Royce Merlin engine to be grounded. Repairs to the Avro Lancaster B.1 and a Hawker Hurricane IIc were finished the day before the show and air tests carried out on the Saturday morning. Shortly after lunch the BBMF arrived to the delight of the crowd. The Lincolnshire skies would have been full of the sight and sound of Lancaster’s over 70 years ago and to have one flying now is very emotive. Sqn Ldr George ‘Johnny’ Johnson was at the show meeting people and signing books in the Aces High tent, he is the last British survivor of Operation Chastise flown by 617 Squadron from RAF Scampton in May 1943. One can’t imagine what was going through his mind all those years ago and to see how his wartime home had changed.
Coming to the show from where I live in East Anglia it was good to see the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress ‘Sally B’ flying in the show, the only airworthy B-17 outside the USA is kept as a flying memorial to the Americans who were based in the UK during the war. The Red Arrows had an interesting and memorable day, Red 10, or Squadron Leader Mike Ling as he is better known has been with the Reds since 2008 performed his last UK Commentary for the team. Already down to eight aircraft due to one of the pilots going on paternity leave the Reds taxied out to display and one aircraft developed a technical fault, the decision was made for the Enid part of the team to taxi in leaving the four aircraft from Gypo Formation to display. With the rain coming in they opted for the flat display and with the dark clouds behind the colour of the smoke stood out nicely creating some dramatic flying effects. 2 Excel Aviation sent one of their two Oil Spill Response Boeing 727-51(F)’s from nearby Doncaster Airport. Its very unusual to see a civilian 727 flying in a flying display, this particular aircraft was one of the last 727’s to have been built and was initially delivered to Fed-ex in the freight role. During the display the spectators were treated to three passes, two of which it sprayed the runway with water! Finishing the flying for the day was Flt Lt Ryan Lawton from 29(R) Squadron, RAF Coningsby demonstrating the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 which was a fitting end to an enjoyable airshow.
With the number of older jet types on display throughout the day it gave a nice Cold War theme to the weekend. Despite a few teething issues – mainly getting out of the car park, it was a very enjoyable day with plenty of interesting things to see. A very promising first show and should Scampton be back for the 2018 airshow season then I will definitely be there.