OuterMarker - aviation reviews and photography
Courtesy Air Displays International
Biggin' Up The RAF - Biggin Hill International Air Fair 2007
Author: John Stuart-Robson
Photography: Paul Tiller & Author
Tornado F.3s Typhoon F.2
Oasis Hong Kong 747-400
Oasis Hong Kong 747-400

Saturday June 2nd saw the official start of the UK’s major airshow season in 2007. With 2007 came a change in the RAF’s “Engagement Strategy” and Biggin Hill has received priority one status, thus providing the event with all available display assets. The main attraction being the first airshow appearance of the RAF’s new “Role Demonstration”, something I’ll get back to later. Biggin Hill also proudly presented the second and last opportunity this season to see the unique flypast of the veteran and ever popular Spitfire in close formation with the RAF's latest frontline fighter, the Typhoon. Not only do we get the flavour of a classic airshow at Biggin Hill, we also get to see some uncommon sights at UK airshows which range from the World War I fighters to the graceful flypasts of the giant Boeing 747.

On my second visit to Biggin Hill, there was an air of familiarity and unfamiliarity at the same time. The weather couldn't have been better, just like last year yet the unfamiliarity came with change in layout of the event with participating aircraft now parked towards the southern end of the airfield and hospitality facilities also relocated which provided a substantial area for the crowd at display centre. The additional space freed up by these changes also meant there was somewhere for the new “RAF Village”, home to a 28(AC) Sqn Merlin HC.3, to be positioned. The RAF Village is a new concept intended to allow the public to show to the general public what goes into keeping the RAF in the air.

Chinook HC.2 Lancaster B.I
Red Arrows Hawk T.1A
Typhoon & Spitfire Typhoon & Spitfire
Typhoon F.2 Typhoon F.2

The flying display commenced promptly at 11:45, with the unique formation of the BBMF's Spitfire PR.XIX and Typhoon F.2 from 29(R) Sqn flown by the 2007 display pilot, Flt Lt Jim Wallis, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the BBMF. This was highly appropriate based on the fact that Biggin Hill is considered to be the BBMF’s spiritual home as it was formed back in July 1957, at RAF Biggin Hill as it was known then, as the Historic Aircraft Flight with one Hurricane Iic and three Spitfire Mk XIXs. Following a series of close formation flypasts, the Typhoon rolled in to its solo display.

Following on from the energetic display from the RAF's premier fighter came a display of a rather different nature with the Great War Display team taking to the skies in nine replica aircraft depicting a typical scenario in a World War One dogfight, filling the skies in dramatic fashion. The display coincided with the cinematic release of the film “Flyboys” which follows the story of the Lafayette Escadrille. Another war theme swiftly followed with smaller displays forming part of a larger display which comprised Carolyn Grace’s Spitfire T.IX, John Romain took the controls of Spitfire IX “The Spirit of Kent” which has recently become a resident at Biggin Hill, whilst Cliff Spink flew the Me-109J Buchon, re-enacting a World War II airfield attack and scramble.

Flyboys Flyboys
Team Guinot Blue Eagles Lynx AH.7
Blue Eagles Gazelle AH.1s Team Guinot

As the afternoon progressed, it was time to reacquaint ourselves with some breathtaking aerobatics from the civilian participants at Biggin Hill, the Swift Aerobatic display team comprising Guy Westgate in the S-1 Swift Glider and John Gowdy in the Extra 300 who had to cut short their demonstration due to an electrical fault. Early attendee's to the show on Saturday would have seen the pair preview their new element of the display – a mirror pass with Guy inverting the glider whilst in parallel flight with the Extra 300.  The Blades, also flying Extra 300s (now of the lightened LP derivative), returned with another scintillating display. This year the team has a new member and former Red Arrow pilot, Dave Slow, who occupies the position of Blade 2. For 2007 they too have introduced a new element to their display with a synchronized “hammerhead” stall turn.  The aerobatics continued right through the afternoon with an impressive display by John Taylor in the Ultimate High Extra 300L and Will Curtis in the Su-26M2Making a welcome return was another familiar display act over Biggin Hill, albeit under new sponsorship, in the form of Team Guinot formerly known as the “Utterly Butterly” display team. The aircraft, and the amazing wing walkers, looking resplendent in the new team colours and livery performed their eye catching barnstorming display with precsion.

One of the highlights of Biggin Hill was a welcome appearance of the brightly liveried Hunter F.58A “Miss Demeanor” flown by Jonathon “Flapjack” Whaley who flew another sprightly performance and was certainly a sight and sound to savour across the blue skies over Biggin. Rotary displays culminated in a rare display from an 824NAS Royal Navy Merlin HM.1 putting on a display to rival its air force stable mate. An RAF Chinook HC.2 provided a platform for The Tigers or, to give them their full name, The Princess of Wale’s Royal Regiment’s Parachute Display Team, and also played a part in the role demonstration later on. Rounding off the rotary performers were the Blue Eagles of the Army Air Corps.  2007 is the 50th anniversary of the Army Air Corps.

Miss Demeanor
Miss Demeanor
Merlin HM.1 Merlin HM.1
Red Arrows Spitfire
Lancaster B.I Tucano T.1

By mid-afternoon, we were nearing the crescendo of the day with imminent arrival of the Role Demonstration. Before that though, we were treated to a trio of solo displays, from the CFS Grob Tutor T.1, the special liveried 1FTS Tucano T.1 and 208(R) Squadron Hawk T.1. It was then the turn once again of the BBMF but with a break from the normal routine. A four ship comprising of three Spitfire PR.IXs and one Hurricane IIc. Reprising the unique first displayed at Duxford back in May, with the Lancaster performing a solo display at the end. The buildup to the much anticipated roll-demo climaxed with the crowd-pulling Red Arrows who put in a classic performance after a year away from the venue. It is widely regarded that the popularity of the Reds draw in the public with this year being no exception - Biggin’s 2007 show pulled in a crowd of around 100,000 which is a substantial increase on last years attendance of around 80,000. Whilst the Reds may not have been entirely responsible for the crowd levels, it would be fair to assume that had there been no Red Arrow display, the crowds wouldn’t have been quite the same.

The highlight of the show was the RAF's role demo. The participants each taking centre stage during the unfolding of the scenario, starting off with the departure of two Tornado F.3s (one 43(F) Squadron, one 111(F) Squadron), to the arrival of the 8/23 Squadron E-3D Sentry. The demo culminated in an aerial assault by two XIII Squadron Tornado GR.4's complete with convincing pyrotechnics. Whilst the Tornado F.3s provided top cover for the GR.4s, Hawk T.1s acted as enemy air defence. In the meantime, a Chinook inserted ground troops and a C-130J provided reinforcements in a tactical take off and landing. The finale consisted of a flypast of all types in the same airspace.

Tornado F.3s
E-3D Sentry Chinook HC.2
Tornado GR.4 BOOOOM!!!
Chinook HC.2 & Tornados C-130J

Overall, I enjoyed the demonstration and credit must be given to the RAF Events Team for introducing something new to the airshow arena in the UK. It certainly seemed to be well received by the on looking crowds with eruptions of applause greeting the returning aircraft and crews. There will always be some criticism, certainly from enthusiasts, on such aspects as the height levels and gaps in the scenario and even the types of aircraft involved. But hopefully this only means the role demo can go from strength to strength in the future as there is certainly scope for enhancement. However, whichever way you look at it, a pair of Tornado GR.4s streaking across the South London skyline is something to behold.

Regaining breath, it was time to move on to our fellow American attendee's with successive displays by the P-40 Kittyhawk displayed by Peter Teichmann and then the OFMC's P-51C Mustang “Ferocious Frankie” flown by Alistair Kay. The B-17G “Sally B”, together with the P-51C, took to the skies and it's always a pleasure to see the venerable B-17G, a flying memorial to the 70,000 airmen lost whilst flying B-17s during the Second World War.

Spitfire PR.XIX
Spitfires Spitfire PR.XIX
Tornado F.3 Sea Fury FB.11
Red Arrows Tornado F.3

The display on Saturday was also privileged with a series of flypasts by an Oasis Hong Kong Boeing 747-412, one of just two ex-Singapore Airlines jets operated by the low-cost carrier, which performed a handful of graceful flypasts, before returning to Manston. The RNHF's Sea Fury FB.11, wearing its particularly smart new paint scheme, then displayed and the show was brought to a close with the traditional Spitfire solo, flown by John Romain, in the Spirit of Kent Spitfire IX.

Combined with the weather, there is no surprise that Biggin Hill 2007 was hugely successful, helped no end by the massive contribution from the Royal Air Force and the RAF Events Team although we must not be forgetting the civilian acts that help to make the International Air Fair at Biggin Hill. Perhaps with the addition of foreign support, 2008 will be even better.

Tornado F.3
Tornado F.3 The Blades
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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