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Leuchars Airshow - September 2009

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  • Leuchars Airshow - September 2009

    The Red Arrows line up on arrival at RAF LeucharsAfter the disappointments of the weather affected 2008 show at RAF Leuchars and the cancellation of other UK shows earlier in the year down to similar circumstances, the chances seemed higher of this year's show being similarly hit than otherwise. In the end, Mother Nature turned on the style and greeted the morning with blue skies as far as the eye could see in what would be a pretty well perfect day for an airshow.

    After negotiating the notoriously long traffic queues towards Guardbridge (no, didn't leave anywhere near as early as planned!), we finally made it onto the base just in time to see the opening display for this year. Unlike previous years where 'family needs' have dictated watching the show from the St Andrews West Sands, I took the plunge this year and headed onto the base in order to get up close to, not only the flying display aircraft but the static displays that I've never managed to see. Although we weren't early in leaving for the base, we were early enough that we didn't have the massive trek across the 'car park' to get to the entrance.

    On arrival at the fence-line, we decided to take in the static display while the crowds were still a little lighter. And there was my first disappointment of the day. While some of the foreign visitors were very impressive, I was let down by the lack of 'home talent'. Here we were on one of the main air defence bases in the UK and the only home based aircraft we found was tucked in the back of a hanger. Now I appreciate that as a 'live' and functioning base, not all aircraft can simply be put on show for people to see however there were plenty of areas where a Tornado or two could have been strategically placed so that not only would they have been visible but could have easily been fired up and pressed into action if necessary.

    The Vulcan shows where it used to keep Britain's only air-release nuclear weapons

    Meanwhile in the air, we were seeing some fine displays as we baked ourselves on the ground! This year's display programme had a good mix of aircraft with F-16s, The Blades in their Extra 300 aerobatic aircraft, World War 1 and 2 displays including the always popular and very welcome Battle of Britain Memorial Flight as well as more recent RAF frontline aircraft. However, as always there were a few that stole the show. The Red Arrows always put on a fantastic display but for me, two aircraft did it this year - The Czech JAS-39 Gripen and the Avro Vulcan bomber.

    The latter has been an aircraft I've tried to see fly on a few occasions now. Thankfully this year, I managed to see it twice in two days having been there to see it arrive on the Friday also. It's sweeping, loud display took me back to when I first saw it - at RAF Fairford back in 1991. Unfortunately, the aircraft will be unable to fly for a huge amount longer so take the chance to go along and see it in 2010 if you can.

    As the displays headed towards the end of the programme, it seemed to fade a little with some very 'samey' displays taking place. And herein came my second big disappointment - the lack of Tornado flying display. We did get a QRA demonstration (Quick Reaction Alert - the role that Leuchars takes on) with a single Tornado making it into the sky a bare 2 minutes after the alert was sounded (it was revealed later that a second Tornado developed a technical problem and couldn't take off) however that was the last we saw of it other than milling around in the distance. Again, as the home of the Tornado and one of the last bases still to have them in operation, this was a pretty disappointing finale to a wonderful display day.

    All in all, Leuchars 2009 was a roaring success. With the weather playing it's part in burning many visitors - including myself - the day could only have been a little better than it was. I could write another few paragraphs relating to traffic problems and the incompetence of the civilian 'marshals' that were dealing with the traffic however I think that pretty well sums them up! Here's to Leuchars 2010!
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