IN THE aftermath of the Kosovo conflict, many military airshow organisers are facing problems due to personnel shortages and operational commitments. Fortunately for RAF Waddington and the airshow public, the Lincolnshire airfield was spared and the show went ahead as planned over the weekend of June 26/27.
For a change it was blessed with superb weather — well, for at least 50% of the weekend — with the Saturday offering almost perfect conditions. The event also succeeded in attracting some very interesting aircraft, despite many units still winding down from operations over Yugoslavia. Participants from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA joined those from the UK to present a truly international flavour.
Of all the UK’s major airshows, Waddington should be applauded for the efforts it makes to ensure an enjoyable day out for all the family. There was plenty, apart from the flying and static aircraft, to entertain the children. For the dedicated enthusiast, this was the first modern military show to take place in the UK this year, following the demise of Air Fete 99 at RAF Mildenhall. Easily the most exciting visitors were the two Turkish Air Force F-4Es, this year’s pair coming from 7 AJU at Erhac, both wearing brown camouflage instead of the more usual grey. AFM passed on photographers’ comments about last year’s show to the organiser, Paul Byram, who took these into account when parking the Phantoms on Alpha dispersal, thereby providing much better photographic opportunities.
Some people still failed to make it to the large aircraft park on Alpha but there were somevery interesting aircraft to be found there. The 55th Wing RC-135V from the detachment at RAF Mildenhall had been heavily involved during Allied Force operations — its crew were glad to have a more relaxing weekend. Canada sent a specially-marked CP-140 Aurora (Airshows — back to normal? August, p72) complete with wartime roundel and code letters to add some colour to its otherwise drab paint scheme. The nearby Dutch P-3 was in immaculate condition, having just returned from overhaul with OGMA in Portugal, its crew offering some lucky guests a tipple of Dutch-brewed ‘rocket fuel’, not to be consumed liberally, I might add! Overlooked by much of the general public was the No.51 Squadron Nimrod R.l, only since it has been based at Waddington has the squadron exhibited its aircraft statically. Still cloaked in secrecy, the unit now has a new CO, Wing Commander Dave Payton, who is eager to present a more open image for the squadron.
The flying programme was well-balanced, but with a distinctively modern flavour, and the public had the spectacle of four national display teams to savour: those from France, Italy, Switzerland and the UK. Although there were no B-IBs or B-52s at this year’s show, due to operational commitments (indeed, the only American aircraft present was the RC-135V), the fast jet content easily made up for this. Superb displays were given by the Mirage 2000C, Saab Viggen and the stars of the show, the two Russian Su-27 Flankers. These mighty combat aircraft put on a perfectly-choreographed routine in the capable hands of Anatoly Kvotchur and Vladimir Loginovski from the Gromov Flight Research Institute.
On the lighter side, a wonderful display of aerobatics was given by Gennady Afinov, a UK-based Russian aerobatic instructor, in a Yak-52, and an equally good display was afforded by the diminutive Pitts Special.
Waddington has become the final show of the century to take place at an operational RAF base, following the cancellation of the RAF Leuchars show on September 11. Hopefully everything will return to normal for next year, but one thing is certain — RAF Waddington 2000 is guaranteed to be one of the highlights during the millennium airshow season.