RAF Leuchars Airshow 2005

RAF Leuchars played host to the sole remaining RAF Battle of Britain At Home Day on Saturday 10th September. Sadly this year could possibly have seen the final appearance at the Scottish show of the Jaguar GR3.A and Sea Harrier FA.2, with both types due for imminent retirement.

Article and images by Sťan Wilson.

As expected the static line-up consisted mainly of the UK armed forces with the usual mix of RAF frontline and trainer aircraft, Royal Navy Lynx HMA.8, Jetstream T.2 and afore mentioned Sea Harrier FA.2 along with two Army Apache AH.1s. The foreign contingent was also well represented, most notably by the USAF with their F-15s, MH-53M, UH-60A, KC-135R and B-52H. Others included Dutch F-16s, French Mirage 2000D and Alpha Jet E, German F4-F, Tornado ECR and C-160D and Portuguese Alpha Jets. The highlight of the static was undoubtedly Phil Connollyís privately owned ex-US Army UH-1H Iroquois seen wearing the markings of the 129th Assault Helicopter Company.      

Bad weather meant that the flying display programme did not quite go according to plan with the Black Cats, the Royal Navyís Lynx display team, and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight unable to attend. As this show was organised to commemorate the Battle of Britain it was fortunate that a sole Spitfire, flown by the Aircraft Restoration Company, was present to take to the skies along with a P-51D Mustang and A-26B Invader belonging to the Scandinavian Historic Flight. The show would see the first performance in the UK by the Irish Air Corps display team flying four Pilatus PC-9Ms. Another newcomer to take part in the flying display was the Chipmunk T10 privately owned by Caledonian Chipmunks. Conversely, could we have witnessed the final display of the Jaguar at Leuchars?

The flying display was opened by the RAFís Hawk T.1A advanced trainer painted in a special colour scheme for the airshow season, with the Tucano T.1 basic trainer also making an appearance. The most exciting element of the flying display was a tactical demonstration. This involved a dogfight between a Hawk and two F-3s and an airfield attack, complete with explosions, carried out by four Tornado GR4s and a Chinook HC.2. The Gnat and Hunter pair of Delta Jets, painted in the colours of the RAFís former display teams the Black Arrows of 111 Squadron, the Blue Diamonds of 92 Squadron and the Yellow Jacks (aka the Daffodil Patrol), brightened up a rather gloomy sky. When it comes to display teams the biggest crowd puller of all was of course the Red Arrows. The Merlin HC.3 put on a spirited display as did the Hercules with its dramatic Khe Sanh approach.

The bad weather turned out to be somewhat of a mixed blessing with regards to the flying as cancellations meant that the Eurofighter Typhoon performed its display routine twice. The moisture laden air provided the perfect environment for the Typhoon and Tornados GR4 and F3 to perform high-g turns, with the aircraft disappearing into their own vapour clouds at times. It was unfortunate that there was no Royal Navy Sea Harrier display this year as this is yet another type soon to be retired. However its RAF counterpart was present to bow to the crowd. International participation was sparse with only a Belgian F-16BM and French Alpha Jet E flying. The less than perfect weather conditions certainly did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd so I think itís fair to say that the only airshow to be held at an RAF base in Scotland was an overall success.

 

                                                                                                                                              1 October 2005

 

 

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© Sťan Wilson 2005