Well, this year’s air show season for us is in full stride and as the weekend for the air show at RAF Waddington approached the weather forecast was good. What was worrying was that the weather men and women were unanimous that the weather was to hold for the whole weekend!
The organisers had booked both aircraft and wanted them as static displays rather than flying. It is always an interesting question as to which gives an air show the greatest benefit. The aircraft parked way away from the crowd and in the air for 7 or 8 minutes at best, or on the ground where people can get up close and chat to us about both machines. The latter of course is an attraction for the whole day. Being static though does mean you - the crowd - don't get to hear the sound of the beating blades. I know what the answer is but there's no way I could possibly persuade Phil to buy a second Huey!
Moving swiftly on, the flying crew to Waddington was myself and Rob in the Huey and Neil and Nina in the Loach. Phil and Jo were travelling by road in the motorhome. Everything had been packed the night before so they hit the road around midday on the Friday. Our lift time in the two helicopters was to be a little after 1400hrs with our allotted arrival time at Waddington at 1514hrs and 1516hrs. The weather forecast was good so we were looking forward to a good flight of around an hour.
Neil and Rob had planned the route which was to take us down the M55 to the junction with the M6. From there we flew up the Ribble Valley before turning south east between Blackburn and Great Harwood. We stayed on this course which took us past Todmorden towards Halifax and Huddersfield and just to the west of the Emley Moor mast. We flew some time south east flying between Barnsley and Sheffield and on to Maltby. We got clearance from Gamston to transit over them but with a keen eye as light aircraft were in the circuit. Our estimated time at Gamston was 1506hrs and we were there on the button. Passing Gamston meant we were on the final leg to RAF Waddington. The Vietnam Pair were accepted by ATC and asked to hold whilst a light aircraft was on its short final. Rob and Neil flew in circles until we were given permission to approach runway 20. We were instructed to look for marshals on the ground, which we did when we edged our way round to the ramp on the north of the field where the Awax aircraft are parked. We put both helicopters on the ground and awaited the heli-lift to park us where we would be for the weekend. One hour and one minute flying and we had made our landing slots.
I phoned Phil to see how they were getting on and as it happened they were just arriving at the main gate. Fifteen minutes later the motorhome arrived at the entrance to the static park area. We proceeded to set about erecting the awning to be told that we weren’t able to stay in the compound as the dogs were going to be let loose at night to keep a watchful eye over some fairly important 'assets'. So we repositioned the motorhome just outside the security gate and set about erecting the awning for the second time. With many hands it was soon up and the shop stock unloaded from the trailer ready for setting up the following morning. Rob set off to his daughter’s home in Lincoln and we settled down for the night. The sunset was glorious.
Up early Saturday morning as was the sun and the temperature; it was going to be a hot day. The weather brought out the crowds in their droves. As soon as the gates opened the placed filled up almost immediately and that was to set the pattern for the rest of the day. Jo and Nina took care of the shop which was doing a brisk trade, especially in baseball caps and T-shirts. Phil, Neil and I talked almost constantly to the appreciative and interested visitors who arrived to take a look at the Huey and Loach. Whilst doing this Phil and I went round with paint and paint brush in hand to touch up any paint chips and scuffs. Once it had dried we went around with an oily rag to wipe the dirt off the tails. We had to do this as we knew the judging for the Best Static Display would be taking place that morning.
Rob arrived so Phil and I took advantage and went off for brew and to see how the shop was getting on. In the meantime Neil gave the Judges a guided tour of both helicopters. We knew we couldn't possibly win the top slot for a second year running but we were hopeful of some recognition. As the day progressed the temperature was still rising, as was the crowd. We had our work cut out but thoroughly enjoyed ourselves talking to those that came to say hello and have look. Trying to talk to people whilst F16, the Red Arrows, Typhoons et al rip through the sky above is very difficult, but we battled on. The Vulcan put on a good display and made one heck of a racket but the display of the day for me was the mighty Chinook - what an impressive bit of kit it is when it has such a good pilot flying it. As the gates closed on the first day we headed off to the Air Crew tent for a well earned beer and to meet up with our new crew member Dick Barton who was attending the show in his official capacity rather than as our Loach Pilot! We then headed back to the motorhome for a bite to eat and some much earned sleep.
Sunday morning was a repeat of Saturday but it promised to be even hotter which meant the crowds weren't as high as they might have been. The shop once again had a brisk day’s trading and we continued to talk about the Huey and the Loach to anyone who ventured near. Word came through that Phil had been invited down to the Flightline for the Awards Presentation which was to be held at 1450hrs. Phil and I made our way over to find out that it had been delayed for about half an hour. We found a suitable spot and enjoyed watching the air displays give by the Chinook, a pair of Gnats from North Weald and a Turkish F16. We returned to the VIP tent to be ushered in and offered a cool drink. Whilst outside I recognised the Chinook pilot Paul Farmer so had a word with him and congratulated him on a first class display.
Then came the moment of truth. In third place for the static display was an Auster, in second was the Vietnam Pair and first were the Belgian F16's. Unfortunately not first but nonetheless second was a good effort. The display trophy went to the Chinook, so all in all a good result all round. We went back to the motor home and presented the girls with the bottle of Champagne. By now it was time to start packing up so we headed back to 509 and 011 to take the guns off and secure them inside along with the ground handling wheels. After that we were back to the shop to break it all down and pack everything into the trailer for our journey north and west.
We delayed our departure as we didn't want to get caught up in the traffic in Lincoln so we went to the end of air show bash. We had the obligatory chicken curry before hitting the road. Rob once again was staying with his daughter and had already departed as he was to fly the Huey on to Coventry the following morning.
Progress on the roads was really quite good until we hit the M62 to find that part of it was shut. To avoid horrendous tailbacks through Halifax we headed for Bradford to come over the tops via Keighley to join up with M56 and on to the M6 and M55. We eventually arrived at Wesham a little off 0200hrs.
Many thanks to the organisers for another great air show at RAF Waddington, roll on the next!