OuterMarker - aviation reviews and photography
Courtesy Air Displays International
Firsts and Lasts?
Author: John Stuart-Robson
Photography: Paul Tiller & Author
Spitfire B-17G Flying Fortress "Sally B"
702NAS / Black Cats Lynx duo (HAS.3 + HMA.8)
28(AC) Sqn Merlin HC.3

Sunday morning on 4th June, 6:30am and its two firsts for me, my first visit to Biggin Hill airfield for its 44th annual international air fair, It’s also my first article for Outer Marker. Could it be the last ever Biggin Hill International Air Fair?

I arrived at Biggin Hill and headed for the Press tent where I had the pleasure of meeting Nick Smith of Air Displays International, who would be looking after us “media types” for the day. The weather was good and I was very much looking forward to soaking in the airshow atmosphere again with the added experience of mingling with other members of the aviation press.
Air Atlantique's mighty DC-6 29(R) Sqn Typhoon T.1
18 Sqn Chinook HC.2 Road Angel Su-26M2
Hercules C.5 28(AC) Sqn Merlin HC.3
Red Bull Sea Vixen Patiotism from the Chinook...
Prior to the start of the show, the organisers had made an announcement that one item, which was to have featured in the display programme, had been cancelled – the Air Power Demonstration. This set piece would have involved a Belgian Air Force F-16, RAF Chinook helicopter, two Royal Navy Lynx Helicopters, RAF C130 Hercules, and a unit from the Army that would all be working together in a scenario to recapture a ficticious airfield complete with pyrotechnics. The Belgian Air Force F-16 was also to have made an appearance in the flying display but this was also cancelled and the aircraft was “relegated” to the static park. Initially, the news on the Sunday morning concerning the BBMF wasn't good. The Lancaster was undergoing repair to its hydraulic brake lines which had broken the day before. Amazingly, a fresh set of spares had been sent overnight and the aircraft was being jacked up off the ground for repair to be fixed for the Sunday display. The first airshow movement of the day was the Sea Vixen D.3 which was departing for an appearance in Ireland, before returning later on in the day for its display at Biggin. Its movement had the photographers snapping as a sharp blast of thrust lifted old tarmac on to the runway. FOD clearing ensued, as the Sea Vixen taxied and departed swiftly from the opposite end of the runway!

On with the show and first up were the RAF Falcons parachute display team who put on their usual good drop from their Hercules C.5 albeit at the lower altitude of 4,000ft rather than the normal 12,000ft due to the vicinity of Heathrow and Gatwick air traffic - a shame because the weather conditions were just right - their stand-in Hercules would again take to the skies later in the day to perform its tactical demonstration. Shortly after, groups of the press were able to hop on a mini bus visit to capture the flightline, I decided to tag along. Starting off with a drive to the visiting Belgian Sea King Mk.48 of 40sm based at Koksijde, painted in a special scheme to celebrate 40sm’s 25th year of Sea King operations, along with the RAF's Chinook HC.2 and Merlin HC.3. The flightline enabled us to get up close to the other displaying aircraft and get some more unusual shots, which you would not get behind the fence. It was also a chance to get a different perspective of the air display.

RAF Falcons Hercules C.5
40 Sm Sea King Mk.48
28(AC) Sqn Merlin HC.3
Dragon Rapide duo Klemm 35
Fieseler Storch German trio
Flying in from Fairoaks airfield to start the display was RLM Aviation’s pair of vintage German aircraft owned by Glenn Lacey, comprising of a Fieseler Storch and Bucker BU-181 Bestmann. These, along with James Pittock’s Messerschmitt Bf-108 Taifun, got the display off to a magnificent start. Glenn Lacey has a very interesting project in the offing with the restoration of a Junkers Ju-88 Stuka. RLM Aviation also brought along a Klemm 35 trainer aircraft for the static display which is not too dissimilar to the Miles Magister with its gull wing shape.
The Utterly Butterly display team with their wonderful wing walkers was the first of the three display teams to display, followed by relative newcomers to the aerobatic display scene, 2Excel The Blades, featuring in only their second airshow. Comprising of four Extra 300LPs, three out of the four pilots are former Red Arrows pilots. Blades 1, 2 and 3 are the ex-Reds and are Andy Offer OBE, Andy Evans and Myles Garland, while Blade 4 is flown by civilian pilot Bruno Van Waeyanberghe. Waeyanberghe, an aerobatic instructor of over ten years with over 1,000 flying hours on the Extra 300, has demonstrated the aircraft on behalf of Extra Aircraft and flies the solo aerobatic parts of the 12 minute display. That can only be summed up as a very good team display.
2Excel The Blades
2Excel The Blades
2Excel The Blades 2Excel The Blades
702NAS / Black Cats Lynx duo (HAS.3 + HMA.8) 18 Sqn Chinook HC.2
20(R) Sqn Harrier GR.7 Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
The modern military displays started off with the frontline helicopters putting up their energetic displays. To start, 28(AC) Squadron put on their typically very good display with the Merlin HC.3 which was soon followed by the smaller Lynx HAS.3 and HMA.8 of the Black Cats who have introduced new maneuvers for the 2006 display season including the finale, passing within meters of each other with a high speed cross over. There was no respite as the 20(R) Squadron Harrier GR.7 demonstrated some of its helicopter like characteristics followed by the Breitling Trophy winning Chinook HC.2 display. The Chinook being flown with great gusto as it was put through its paces which, for a helicopter of its size, were very impressive and well worthy of winning the trophy. Meanwhile, the BBMF engineers of RAF Coningsby completed a sterling job of getting PA474 back to the flightline, ready for its display later on in the day.
Amongst the static display was the Belgian AF two-seater F-16BM from 10 Wing at Kleine-Brogel AB which, although not in the flying display, was a welcome addition to the static line-up. In amongst the static was another interesting item, the ATG Javelin; a twin fin, jet trainer-executive jet mock-up which ultimately resembles a cross between an F-5 and F/A-18 Hornet. For all of the participants of the show, the most outstanding display of the day for me was not what I was expecting, it was the MDM Fox glider flown by Guy Westgate being towed by an Extra 300L to gain altitude before a release into a display like no other I have seen. Who needs turboprops and jet engines when you see a glider performing with such precision with energetic loops, stall turns and tailslides, to return on the ground right back where he started.
10 Wing F-16BM Fighting Falcon
A flying tadpole?!
ATG Javelin Utterly Butterly
208(R) Sqn Hawk T.1 Road Angel Su-26M2
29(R) Sqn Typhoon T.1 29(R) Sqn Typhoon T.1
The attendance of the Breitling Display team stepped up to the task of filling the Red Arrows' big boots, and a thrilling display it was too, along with the Belgian Fouga CM.170R Magister, in its final year of operations under the Belgian AF. Flown by Lt. Col. Paul Rorive, the aircraft departed with his trademark takeoff of continuing very low along the length of the runway with gear up and white smoke on, and this was just the start of a truly fantastic display of maneuverability which will be missed in years to come. Will Curtis’ display in the Road Angel Su-26, formerly sponsored by Honda, started with his usual array of amazing aerobatics, before having to cut short his display due to a stuck cowl flap. This was the first time during the display that we were unable to hear the conversation between Will and commentator Pete McNamara following the Civil Aviation Authority’s action of preventing the use of Air Traffic frequencies for the display. Attempts were made to use walkie talkies between the two which didn’t work out. Quite a thrilling hour of flying came to an end with a return to frontline military fast jets. Martin Pert, believed to be the youngest ever Hawk Display Pilot at just 24 years old, was flying the specially marked 208(R) Squadron Hawk T.1 from RAF Valley in Anglesey and painted to celebrate 85 years of 4FTS. Possibly the star item for 2006 was the RAF’s Typhoon, the T.1 variant standing in for the F.2 single seat variant which had a technical problem and remained firmly on the ground. Flown by display pilot Matt Elliott from 29(R) Squadron based at RAF Coningsby, the display offered plenty of noise, glowing reheat, tight turns and fast passes, showing just a fraction of its awesome agility.
It was now the turn of the WWII heavyweights, featuring the Mighty Lancaster bomber which was back in the air thanks to the magnificent efforts of the RAF ground crew, along with the Spitfire PR.XIX and Hurricane IIc to form the Battle of Britain Memorial flight, a lovely sight and sound over the skies of Biggin Hill where the BBMF was born back in 1957 known as the RAF Heritage Flight. Representing the US was the ever popular B-17G Flying Fortress, “Sally B”, performed with the OFMC’s P-51D Mustang “Ferocious Frankie” with plenty of smoke and pyrotechnics to boot. The B-17 making a “mock” bombing run and the P-51D carrying out a “mock” strafing run accompanied with the characteristic howling noise generated by the air flow over the three gun ports in each wing. Plain Sailing’s Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina put in a classic display to commemorate its use at sea during the war.
P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie"
P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie"
B-17G Flying Fortress "Sally B" PBY-5A Catalina
Air Atlantique DC-6 Twin Pioneer
DC-3 Dakota An-2 "Colt"
Will Curtis returned to the skies together with Chief Pilot Richard Davies at the controls of the Gold Air Learjet 45 based at Biggin Hill with a quick display to celebrate Gold Air’s 10th Anniversary before Air Atlantique’s classic flight consisting of two de Havilland Dragon Rapides, one Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer 3, one Percival Pembroke HC.1, one de Havilland Devon C.2, one Avro 652A Anson T.21, one DC-3 Dakota and the Douglas DC-6A took to the air for their 30 minute display. The Twin Pioneer acting as an airborne liaison for the various aircraft and ensuring the formation maintained their display timings as well as itself making an incredibly short landing before taking off to join up with part of the main formation as it flew overhead along the runway. The Air Atlantique display culminated with the classic airliners and support aircraft “beating up” the airfield, the Douglas DC-6A being the star attraction, the finale being a fine balbo. This contribution from Air Atlantique earned them the Battle of Britain sword award. The former Soviet Bloc Antonov An-2 “Colt” flown by James Black showed us just how maneuverable it is for a classic airliner, with its short takeoff and stall turns.
After a solid display performances from Paul Jones and Paul Bonhomme of the Red Bull Matadors who won the 2006 Shell Aviation award for their very impressive and concise display on only their second Biggin Hill visit, the Sea Vixen returned from its display in Ireland and landed, and the Belgian Sea King took to the air to give a demonstration of search and rescue (SAR) complete with crew members being winched down to the ground and back to the helicopter.
Sea Vixen
40 Sm Sea King Mk.48
Red Bull Matadors Su-26M 40 Sm Sea King Mk.48
Gnat T,1 + Spitfire IXb Gnat T,1 + Spitfire IXb
Gnat T.1 Spifire IXb, MH434
The time was nearing to the main event that everyone was anticipating. … the tribute to one of Air Fair’s biggest friends and most famous participants - Ray Hanna and his beloved Spitfire IXb, MH434. Flown by Nigel Lamb in formation with Andy Cubin in the Yellow Jacks liveried Folland Gnat T.1, it was a stirring event, mostly watched in silence until MH434 disappeared out of sight into the Biggin valley only to reappear from behind the trees into a steep climb, rising like a phoenix out of the flames. Greeted by a mass of cheering and applause, flown in the true style of Ray, it was a sight and sound never to be forgotten. May he rest in peace.
In conclusion Biggin Hill International Air Fair ‘06 was very enjoyable and made me wonder why I never attended before. With over 85,000 people attending over both days, the organisers can consider it a success. Having survived sponsorship woes in the past and with the threat of property development in the area, the future of Biggin Hill’s 2007 event and beyond is in serious doubt. The Metropolitan Police look likely to charge the organisers almost £47,000 for policing the entire event, as it is to be deemed a commercial show. The organisers fear that because of this, it would make Air Fair 07 unviable especially if the revenue received from this years show is down. Local councilors and MP’s have so far been unsuccessful in reaching a solution.
Sea Vixen
CM.170R Magister
P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie" L-39 Albatros, Breitling Team

More photos

The author would like to thank Simon Ames, Nick Smith and everyone at Air Displays International who helped with organising the Biggin Hill Air Fair and for giving me the opportunity to attend and write this review.

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