OuterMarker - aviation reviews and photography
Indian Summer, Typhoon and Monsoon
Author: Paul Tiller
Photography: Author & Robin Powney
ISTAR - Sentinal R.1 + Sentry AEW.1 48FW F-15E Strike Eagle
Sentinel R.1 + Red Arrows

June 2007 wasn’t a particularly good month weather-wise. In fact it was to be the wettest June since 1860 and the forecast for the Waddington airshow was? Yep, you guessed it, rain.

The week leading up to the airshow had seen persistent heavy rainfall and areas of Lincolnshire had been flooded out so the rumours began to circulate that the Waddington air show organisers were on the verge of cancelling the event.  As it was, the event went ahead and Friday arrivals day started off grey with showers but by the afternoon it was sunshine and blue skies. However, on Saturday morning, heavy grey cloud overcast conditions and rain had returned.

25 Sqn Tornado F.3 3(F) Sqn Typhoon F.2
45(R) Sqn King Air GAF Tornado ECR
GAF Tornado IDS NAEWCF E-3A Sentry
IAF Su-30MKI Flanker IAF Il-78MK Midas

One thing that has become very evident at the Waddington show during the past couple of years is the lack of “international” participation which seems to dwindle each year and again the 2007 show fell foul of that issue.  The Greek Air Force were to send an RF-4E Phantom but sadly the jet developed technical problems whilst en-route to the UK and diverted to Aviano AB in Italy where it remained; NATO sent an E-3A Sentry and a Boeing 707CTA, but this was a disappointment as the E-3 wasn’t the aircraft painted in the special NATO 50th Anniversary colour scheme; the Royal Netherlands Air Force were present with two F-16s, an AH-64D Longbow Apache and a Fokker 50; the German Air Force sent a Tornado IDS in the new light grey colour scheme; the Royal Norwegian Air Force attended with two F-16s and the USAFE were represented with a pair of A-10As and a single F-15E.  But, for the many enthusiasts the real stars of the show were the Indian Air Force who were on a two week detachment to Waddington participating in “Exercise Indra Dhanush 07” with Tornado F.3 units based at RAF Leeming. The Indians had brought six Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flankers to the UK which were supported by two Ilyushin Il-78 Midas tanker aircraft and two Ilyushin Il-76 Candid transport aircraft.

The aircraft in the static park were mainly Royal Air Force types with examples of Tucano T1, Hawk T1A, King Air, Merlin HC1, Puma HC3, Nimrod MR2, Harrier GR9, Bell Griffon HT1, E-3D Sentry, a pair of Typhoon F2s, and a pair of Tornado GR4. The Tornado GR4s were from 2(AC) Squadron and 31 Squadron based at RAF Marham and both aircraft sported special 90th anniversary markings – “Shiny Two” and “Goldstars”, respectively. The Typhoons were from 3(F) Squadron and 17(R) Squadron. Notable were the five Tornado F3s from RAF Leeming which took centre stage in the static line-up but these were the RAF aircraft participating in “Exercise Indra Dhanush 07”. The gems of the static park were the pair of A-10A Thunderbolt IIs of the 81FW, a pair of Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flankers and an Il-78 Midas tanker. The A-10As had been temporarily deployed to RAF Lakenheath whilst their home base at Spangdahlem underwent runway repairs and resurfacing so they only had to make a short trip to Waddington together with the single 48FW F-15E. 

25 Sqn Tornado F.3 81FS A-10A Thunderbolt II
"Shiny Two" II(AC) Sqn Tornado GR.4A
II(AC) & 13 Sqn Tornado GR.4s
IAF Su-30MKI Flanker Harrier GR.9
RNlAF AH-64D Apache IAF Il-78MKI Midas

As has been mentioned, the Indian Air Force was the focus of much attention from enthusiasts and the public alike. Two examples of their Su-30MKI Flanker aircraft and a single Il-78 Midas tanker were parked on Alpha dispersal.  Alpha dispersal is a large area normally used by the based E-3D Sentry aircraft but the Flankers were parked in the far corner which made getting decent photographs of them somewhat of a challenge – it would’ve been far better to have parked them in the centre display area on the dispersal. Never mind though, hindsight is a wonderful thing. The Royal Navy was also present with examples of the Harrier GR9, Lynx helicopter and Jetstream T1 aircraft in the static park. The Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s were parked – well, tucked away is probably more applicable – in a less than ideal location. They would’ve been far better placed in the main static line-up and it’s not as if there wasn’t space. Surely some of the privately owned ex-military aircraft types could’ve have been positioned elsewhere?

Another event taking place on the ground was the Falkland’s 25th anniversary ceremony organised by the South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA). It had been hoped for Vulcan B2 XH558 to be restored in time for it to make a flypast for this event but sadly it wasn’t to be. The attending veterans, together with Baroness Thatcher and senior military personnel, held a two-minute silence and laid wreaths in remembrance of those who lost their lives.  There was a small ground display of aircraft types from that conflict comprising a Gazelle AH1 helicopter, a Harrier GR3, a Scout AH1 helicopter, and a Wessex 5 helicopter. The Gazelle, XX411, was the focus point of the wreath laying ceremony as this helicopter was one of two Gazelles shot down by small arms fire; XX411 was downed on May 21st 1982 near Port San Carlos, the crash killing Lt K D Francis, L/Cpl B P Griffin and Sgt A P Evans.

Scout AH.1 & Wessex Mk 5
Puma HC.1
Sea King HC.4 28(AC) Sqn Merlin HC.1
8/23/54(R) Sqn Sentry AEW.1 5(AC) Sqn Sentinel R.1
Hawk T.1 Tucano T.1
For those who saw the Indian Air Force Il-76 and Il-78 departing Waddington mid morning in the spray from the runway and into the low cloud, it was apparent that the rain and grey skies were going to seriously hamper and disrupt the flying display schedule.  To open the display, the ISTAR formation of a 51 Squadron Nimrod R1, an 8/23 Squadron E-3D Sentry and a 5(AC) Squadron Sentinel R1 were expected – but instead the aircraft had to perform solo flypasts. Somehow the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team found a gap in the cloud base and managed to make their jump and do their display. The RAF’s Tutor T1, Tucano T1 and Hawk T1, together with the Spitfire IXT and Hunter F58, displays seemed to enjoy a slight “break” in the weather as conditions seemed to brighten up – just slightly.

The low cloud base and conditions limited the glider displays of both Team Condor and Guy Westlake in the S-1 Swift. One interesting display came from a pair of FR Aviation Falcon 20ESM aircraft. FR Aviation, part of the Cobham Group, regularly provides training to the RAF and Royal Navy with the Falcon 20ESM aircraft being used in a variety of roles. Watching their display one would think that they’d “stolen” some moves from the Red Arrows Synchro Pair – considering some of the FR Aviation pilots are ex-Red Arrows team members that thought holds truth. The Chinook HC2 display was also affected by the low cloud, the helicopter on a couple of occasions finding the cloud base. The Royal Navy duo helicopter display team the “Black Cats” suffered a serviceability issue with one of their Lynx helicopters resulting in their display being a solo Lynx, and the Army Air Corps’ “Blue Eagles” could only manage to display their Lynx AH7 and a single Gazelle AH1.

Blue Eagles Lynx AH.7
FRA Falcon 20ESMs
Canberra Chinook HC2s
IAF Su-30MKI Flanker IAF Su-30MKI Flanker
IAF Il-76MD Candid Nimrod MRA.4

The sight of three Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flankers taxiing out for departure got the attention of the crowds. The original plan was for two Flankers and an Il-78 Midas tanker to perform an air-to-air refuelling demonstration but the conditions were too limiting so instead these three aircraft would perform a flyby. Whilst the pilots are not display qualified and thus unable to display this aircraft properly a three-ship flypast was most welcome. Each aircraft departed into the grey with their blue afterburners a-glowing. Whilst waiting for them to return, the RAF’s newest aircraft, currently in testing, the Nimrod MRA4, put in a appearance with some flypasts whilst on an evaluation flight from BAE Warton.

As the rain fell harder, the three Flankers flew by, disappearing as quickly as they had appeared. Meanwhile, on the runway, the 29(R) Squadron Typhoon was ready to begin its display and perhaps the use of the afterburner would warm the skies sufficiently to make the rain stop. The Typhoon blasted off the runway and into the low cloud, the orange glow of the afterburners brightly burning in the grey. But the Typhoon, with Flt Lt Jim Wallis at the controls, is no slouch and Jim did his best to put on a great low display in the conditions, creating vapour clouds which at times rattled over its airframe. Superb!

29 Sqn Typhoon F.2
29 Sqn Typhoon F.2
29 Sqn Typhoon F.2 29 Sqn Typhoon F.2
29 Sqn Typhoon F.2
QinetiQ Jaguar GR.3A QinetiQ Jaguar GR.3A

As the Typhoon finished its display the Boscombe Down based Jaguar GR3A of QinetiQ lined up and departed to hold prior to display. Once the Jaguar had got airborne the three Flankers returned and landed. The RAF had quietly retired the Jaguar from operational service with minimum fuss but a final farewell event taking place as the Waddington show went on was a Families Day organised by 6 Squadron at RAF Coningsby. It was a shame that the Jaguars’ 30 year RAF service ended like that as Waddington would’ve been a great place for the three specially painted Jaguars to make their last appearance. The QinetiQ Jaguar performed its flypast and landed. That was it. Bye bye Jaguar.

By now the weather had worsened but despite this The Blades put in a great performance with their Extra 300s.  The Red Arrows in formation with a Sentinel R1 of 5(AC) Squadron performed a signature flypast to celebrate the Sentinel R1s entry into service with 5(AC) Squadron based at Waddington.  Only eight Red Arrows instead of nine were in the formation as they were one man short due to the pilot injuring his hand. The Reds then went on to display with their eight aircraft and although they succeeded in getting part of their low display complete, the team leader called an end to the display early due to the worsening weather. The show finale was to be the RAF’s Role Demonstration involving an E-3D Sentry, Tornado F3s, Hawk T1As, a Chinook HC2, a Hercules C5, ground troops and Tornado GR4As. 

The Blades
8 Red Arrows
The Blade 13 Sqn Tornado GR.4
43 & 111 Sqn Tornado F.3s 13 Sqn Tornado GR.4A
25 Sqn Tornado F.3 BOOM!!!!!!!!

As the participating aircraft held on the runway, the already airborne E-3D Sentry had relayed info that the weather conditions were not favourable for the display so the decision was made to cancel the demo. Whilst unfortunate and disappointing it should be remembered that maintaining the safety of the aircrews and the public is paramount. All the aircraft could do was taxi back down the runway. However, the two Tornado GR4As operating from RAF Marham were already airborne so they were called in to perform their airfield attack. Low and fast and out of the grey the two jets raced over the airfield doing their mock attack runs supported with ground pyrotechnics. Their second run resulting in a large fireball erupting on the airfield.  The show certainly ended with a bang!

As the public began to leave the airfield the grassy areas were already becoming sunken mud pools and were being covered with hay / straw. The weather forecast for the Sunday show was for another rain front to clear Waddington during the night.  But it didn’t.  Instead the heavens opened up, again on Waddington, and the prolonged heavy rain caused massive problems on the ground with car parking areas becoming saturated and flooded. The organisers were left with no choice and had to cancel the show on the grounds of Health & Safety issues. People who had already arrived on base when the decision was made to cancel were asked to leave so a clean-up operation could commence and cars waiting to get access to the airfield were turned around.

Griffin HT.1
81FS A-10A Thunderbolt II
IAF Il-76MD Candid Hunter T.7
51 Sqn Nimrod R.1 100 Sqn Hawk T.1A
Strikemaster 25 Sqn Tornado F.3s

Waddington show was by no means the only UK outdoor event to fall foul of the weather during June 2007 so full credit to the show organisers and pilots who, in ever changing conditions, succeeded in providing an airshow on the Saturday. Hopefully the 2008 show will be fortunate to enjoy decent weather and have more success in attracting greater international participation.

The author would like to thank Flt Lt Sarah Dickson, Media & Communications Officer and the members of the media team for their assistance and hospitality.