Sunday 19th of June saw the return of the RAF Cosford air show now the only official Royal Air Force show of the year and the biggest public event in the West Midlands with this year’s show concentrating on five main themes being speed and the evolution of the jet engine, Training, 75 years of the air cadets, 25 years since Operation Granby and the centenary of the battle of the Somme during the first world war, these themes where all supported both in the air and on the ground with a number of flying and static displays.

With RAF Cosford being the home to the RAF Museum the location offers the added bonus of being able to transfer some of its inhabitants outside to be part of the static display for the show. This year saw a number of aircraft brought outside with the most noticeable being the Bristol 188 a British supersonic research aircraft built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company in the 1950s  also brought outside where the Avro 707, Folland Gnat T1 and Fairey Delta II all representing the shows theme’s of speed and training. Alongside these Museum aircraft a number of other aircraft where on static including on loan from RNAS Yeovilton a fine example of a BAE Systems Sea Harrier FA2 and making a welcome return to this year’s show was the BAE Harrier T4 from the VAAC project where it was used to test many of the systems for Lockheed Martins F-35B Lightning II, another aircraft making a return on static was Cosford’s own Harrier GR3 but this year repainted to represent arctic operations with its striking white camouflage pattern.

As well as the Museum at Cosford it is also home to No 1 School of Technical training who have a number of SEPECAT Jaguar GR1/3 aircraft used as ground instructor aircraft and many of these regularly join the static line up at the show, this year one helped to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Op Granby by representing one of the aircraft types flow during the operation and being painted in its original desert pink scheme.

The show also attracted a number of other aircraft to take part in the static display from both around the UK and Europe with this year’s show securing a Lockheed C-130H Hercules from the Royal Netherlands Air Force and undoubtedly one of the stars in the static park was the Sud-Aviation Alouette III from the Belgium Navy one of only a few still remaining in service in Belgium and very rarely seen outside. The French Air Force also contributed with a pair of SOCATA TB30 Elipsons also rarely seen outside France and the Irish Air Corps contributed with a Pilatus PC-9M. The static park also had a number of Royal Air Force aircraft including a Bell Griffin HT1 helicopter and a Squirrel HT1 from the Defence Helicopter flying school RAF Shawbury the RAF also provided a Beechcraft King Air in special markings from RAF Cranwell commemorating 45(R) squadrons 100th anniversary and a Shorts Tucano T1 from RAF Linton-on-ouse. A number of civilian operated ex-military aircraft were also on  display including Jeff Bell’s BAC Jet Provost T5, a number of ex training aircraft including de Havilland Chipmunk’s, Scottish Aviation Bulldog T1s and a Slingsby Venture T61. Also of note in the static park was the freshly painted Gazelle HT3 of the Gazelle Squadron who also participated in the flying display and Terry Martin’s Westland Wasp HAS1.

Sadly this year’s flying display was hit hard by bad weather around the country and forced a number of displays to cancel on the day leaving Flying display director Mike Stanway with a juggling act on his hands as he tried to rearrange the display to try and make it flow as smoothly as possible. It was rather disappointing that a number of the star items where the ones unable to attend with the likes of the Gnat Display Team, Hanger 11s P51D and the Sea Vixen all succumbing to the weather and being forced to cancel their appearance’s however this was not the end of the cancellations on the day as for the single most disappointing no show was to come right at the end of the day in the form of the USAF B-52H sadly as the show was drawing to a close the weather really drew in and by the time the B-52H was due to fly through the cloud base was below the minimum 1,000ft that they needed leaving everyone on the ground with just the sound of the engine as the aircraft passed over head.

The flying display was to be opened by the RAF’s newest transport aircraft the Airbus A400 Atlas C1 from 70 Squadron RAF Brize Norton flown by Flt Lt Tim Dunlop known as one of the Multi Engine aircraft pilots with the BBMF flying the Lancaster and Dakota. The Atlas would not be the only aircraft from Brize Norton to participate in this years show as later in the day a Lockheed C-130J C5 from 47 Squadron would also pay a visit and conduct a flypast both appearance’s where only brief with a single pass from each aircraft but again you don’t often see the RAF Transport fleet represented at shows very often so it was a pleasure to see. Sadly the third RAF Brize Norton Display was not to go to plan as the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team where forced to abandon their jump after a number of attempt’s where made as the cloud base was blow there minimum safe jump height.

Directly after the Atlas we were treated to a very special flypast by the Red Arrows and a Beechcraft King Air from 45(R) squadron who this year celebrate their 100th year anniversary this flypast officially opened the flying display for the afternoon. With the show being the official Royal Air Force Air show naturally the flying display was predominantly filled with RAF Displays including the ever impressive Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 Solo display piloted by Flt Lt Mark Long from 29 Squadron RAF Coningsby, The RAF Boeing Chinook HC4 Display from RAF Odiham making its first public appearance of 2016 and this year in the hands of Flt Lt Luke Huntly putting on an impressive display of high energy manoeuvre’s which you would not believe a helicopter would be capable of achieving. The Red Arrows also returned mid-afternoon and conducted a flat display in overcast skies, Cosford also got a visit from the Battle of Britain who contributed with Supermarine Spitfire XVI TE311 and Hawker Hurricane IIc PZ865 who conducted there pairs display.

The 75th anniversary of the Air Cadets was marked with a three ship formation flypast of 3 Grob Tutor T1 aircraft each with a Staff cadet in the co-pilot’s seat demonstrating the modern day aircraft cadets learn to fly followed later in the day by a De Havilland Canada Chipmunk T10 piloted by John Higgins who put on an impressive display of aerobatics showing just what previous generations of cadets would of experienced.

Alongside the Chupmunk the flying display featured a number historic training aircraft ranging from the Avro C19 Anson and its unusual pairing next to a North American Harvard “Wacky Wabbit” who conducted a flypast together before taking part in solo display’s showing off both aircraft to their max. There was also a rare appearance this year from a Chinese built aircraft in the shape of the Nanchang CJ-6, the CJ-6 was used as a Basic Trainer aircraft for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of china. The aircraft is an all original Chinese design but it shares its history and design with the Yak-18 as its predecessor the Nanchang CJ-5 was a licence-built version of the Yak-18. Completing the line-up of classics saw the return of the Bucker Jungmann and Bucker Jungmister in a spirited pair’s display of the German World War Two trainer aircraft showing the aircrafts manoeuvrability for the era and ease of control showing just why they were popular trainers with the Luftwaffe.

Sticking with the classic theme and with one of the main themes of Cosford 2016 being the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme it was only right that the Great War Display team took centre stage flying a number of World War One ear aircraft in a highly dramatic dog fight display consisting of eight aircraft including the Sopwith Triplane, Fokker Dr1’s, Junkers CL1’s and RAF SE5as and a RAF BE2c. For this year’s display season at venues that allow the team have enhanced there display by incorporating pyrotechnics recreating the sights and sounds that pilots would expect to see during the battle by recreating ground explosions and flak and also incorporating gun sounds into the commentary the display really does give you the sense of being on the battlefield.

 

With the classic prop generation well represented Cosford also had a couple of Vintage jets to bring some noise to proceedings with the first being a rare display by the Norwegian Air Force Historic Squadron’s Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15UTi flown by Kenneth Aarkvisla who performed a number of fly pasts showing off the aircraft’s sleek design perfectly both underneath and on top and offering photographers ample opportunities for the perfect top side shot. The second Classic Jet of the afternoon was to be the BAC Jet Provost T5 XW289 flown by the skilled Ollie Suckling who operated out of Cosford showing the versatility of the Jet Provost and its ability to operate out of airfields with short runways. Ollie performed a sublime display considering the weather profiling the aircraft perfectly with a number of passes including a gear down dirty pass which is always nice to see.

Another of RAF Cosford’s themes this year is STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths representing this theme in the air was the Rans S-6 Coyote II built by the “Schools-Build-a-Plane” Project which incorporates a number of schools together to build the aircraft. Sponsored by the Royal Aeronautical Society the Rans highlights the success of the project which promotes aviation and engineering. Also showing off her skills was none other than Lauren Richardson an aviation engineer by trade Lauren fly’s the Pitts S-1S Special and puts on an outstanding display of skill and bravery as she throws the aircraft around the sky.

As well as fixed wing flying there was also a number of rotary displays at this year’s show one such being from the Belgium Air Force in the shape of their Agusta A109BA solo display performing a highly aerobatic display with a number a tight turns and high energy climbs the display is always very well received. As the weather started to deteriorate further it was the turn of the Gazelle Squadron to make their public flying display debut flying two Gazelle HT2 aircraft in a highly choreographed display of formation flying and synchronisation opposition passes it really was a pleasure to watch. With the weather closing in minute by minute the heavens opened just as it was time for the Army Historic Flights Westland Scout AH1 and Army Air Corps Westland Apache WAH-61D to perform their respective displays. The Scout was due to be joined by the Bell Sioux AH1 but unfortunately it went unserviceable before the display, however we still got a paired departure and crowd centre hover by the Scout and Apache which was fantastic to see to compare how Army Aviation has progressed thought the years. The Army Air Corps Apache put on an impressive display of agility and power with its role demo and full pyrotechnic display even with the torrential rain at this point it was still fantastic to watch sadly this was to be the final display of the 2016 RAF Cosford air show bringing to a close what had been a day of ups and downs but overall a brilliant effort by the organisers for still putting on another fantastic show and we hope to return again next year.

RAF Cosford Air show returns next year on the 11th June 2017 and we hope to see many of you there.

Article by Kurt Fairhurst assisted by Paul Atkin