2012 has been a fantastic year for the UK – the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic Games in London and of course an incredible air-show season! With 2013 on the horizon, it’s time to look back at some of the highlights of the year.
The season started with the Abingdon Air & Country Show at Dalton Barracks in Oxfordshire – a small scale affair that always manages to attract some interesting aircraft. Abingdon always sees good participation from the RAF and this year was no different, with the Hawk, Tucano, King Air and Tutor all displaying. The organisers also managed to persuade the AAC to give a preview of their Lynx solo display and it definitely didn’t disappoint, although it wasn’t a full display, the potential was all there. The highlight of the show however came from an unlikely pairing – Douglas DC3 ‘Drag Em Oot’ and the beautiful Avro Anson from the Classic Aircraft Trust collection.
Mid May saw the celebration begin for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which included a mass flypast over Windsor with several special formations. Tucanos and Hawk T1 and T2 aircraft formed a ’60’ and ‘EIIR’ for the occasion – formations of this size are certainly not something you see very often these days. The flypast also included other rarely seen aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules and VC-10.
Next on the calendar was Yeovilton Air Day – the flagship air display from the Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset. The organisers had a difficult time this year with a major show taking place in Europe on the same day – this meant that ALL fast jets were already booked and left Yeovilton looking a little thin. That was until some last minute additions which included displays from the Classic Aircraft Trust Venom, Vampire and Meteor T7 as well as a short display from an aircraft rarely seen at air displays – the Antonov An-124.
As you can tell, this year has been the year of grey skies and unfortunately it didn’t get a whole lot better at the Royal International Air Tattoo.
Every year the Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford draws in huge crowds and air forces from all over the world. One of this years biggest attractions was the Black Eagles from the Republic of Korea – a display team equipped with eight KAI T-50B Golden Eagle aircraft. Flying tight formations with jet aircraft isn’t easy at the best of times, let alone when you have the option of afterburner – it’s fair to say that the Black Eagles left the crowd in awe after their routine. An incredible display and one that I hope we’ll see back in the next five years!
As soon as the gates closed at Fairford, the gates opened at Farnborough for what was set to be another successful show for the aviation industry. FIA 2012 was the first public display of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner – rumour has it that Boeing didn’t want to display their demonstration aircraft so Qatar Airways offered theirs because they were so impressed with it. Although it wasn’t displayed in quite the same way as the Airbus A380, it was still an impressive sequence. Farnborough also saw the RAF put the Eurofighter Typhoon through its paces in what I think was its best display of the year. It’s great to see the Typhoon back on the circuit.
The best weather of the year came in late August, just in time for the Wings & Wheels event at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey. A fantastic show with a lovely atmosphere and a show that always manages to make that extra effort in putting something special together. This year the organisers went one step further and got two amazing displays setup; Miss Demeanour and the Hawker Sea Fury of the RNHF as well as Miss Demeanour and the Meteor T7 the following day. Two routines that you are not likely to see again any time soon. Ferocious Frankie and MH434 also displayed as a duo – the combined sound was spine tingling.
Last stop of the year was at North Weald Airfield for an event titled ‘Norwegian Wings Over North Weald’ – in essence, a celebration of the Norwegian Air Force arriving during the Second World War. At just £5, this event was a must for any enthusiast and didn’t disappoint when it came to aircraft. Two F-16s, two Vampires and the newly acquired T-33 jet trainer. With the addition of the support C-130 Hercules arriving mid afternoon, this was a fantastic way to finish the year and also a fitting tribute to the aircraft based there during WWII.
I can’t write a review of the year without mentioning two very colourful aircraft, both of which were painted up especially for the Queen and her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. So to sign off for the year, here are the 2012 display Hawk and Tucano.