MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS!
GLORIOUS sunshine and blue skies provided the perfect setting for a dazzling line up at the Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton International Air Day, with a flight down memory lane and a look to the future.
For the third year running temperatures soared at the Royal Navy’s Premier Air Day as thousands enjoyed a feast of aviation.
Celebrating 75 years of RNAS Yeovilton and bathed in the sunshine, crowds at the Air Day saw aircraft of all ages thrilling spectators as they took to the sky with a breath-taking and exhilarating air display.
Crowds - over 37,000 - flew through the gates, Air Day started as it meant to go on, wowing the crowds as the Sea King, flying the White Ensign, opened the Show. The extravaganza had begun!
The magnificent Vulcan B2, the 'jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber', the biggest aircraft of the day, took to the sky thundering over the horizon and took spectators’ breath away.
The world's only flying example of the Cold War strategic bomber is in its last flying season and this, the last at RNAS Yeovilton. This was a sad occasion for thousands of flying fans and particularly emotional for Robert Pleming who originally saved the plane for public display. Mr Pleming has dedicated 18 years to extending the flying life of the aircraft, which served 60 years ago. He said:
“I'm proud of my achievement and of the team. It's the last time we fly at Yeovilton which is always a brilliant home from home for the aircraft. I'll be sad to say farewell, but it's the thousands of fans who I feel most sorry for. I always look at the crowds faces when the Vulcan flies - she brings a broad smile to everyone's face. That makes everything we've done worthwhile.”
Amongst the many impressive displays, both static and flying, the crowds were bowled over by the Jordanian Falcons and amazed at the skill demonstrated by the Pitts Special who captivated with their acrobatic and spellbinding agility. As commentator George Bacon explained:
“The Pitts Special Pilot has physically experienced in just 8 minutes what a Formula one driver experiences in 2 hours of a Grand Prix! It’s like being in a tumble drier!”
The Fleet Air Arm demonstrated their front line capability with displays from the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force including the very latest edition to the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) family the Wildcat HMA Mk2 and the Royal Navy’s Black Cats Display Team.
This was a significant public display for the Black Cats. For the first time, RNAS Yeovilton's resident helicopter display team took to the skies as a pair!
Lead pilot Lt Dave Lilly said on landing after thrilling the crowd:
“This was a fantastic and extra special display for us. It was the first time we've done a public display operating with the two new Wildcats at our home base in front if our home crowd. It's a privilege to show our community what we can do.”
His display colleagues are Lt James Woods, Lt Ash Morgan and Lt Andrew Henderson.
Other attractions included a Field Gun demonstration by HMS Heron, this years record breaking winners of the Brickwoods trophy, and the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) Forward Operating Base.
Ending the RNAS Yeovilton’s International Air Day was the ever-popular, adrenaline fuelled, Commando Assault. Particularly poignant and memorable, as the Sea King Mk4 displayed here for the final time before she goes out of service in 2016. The Commando Assault was a farewell to the Sea King and an introduction to the FAA and CHFs newest aircraft, the Wildcat HMA Mk2 and the Merlin Mk3.
Lt Col Derek Stafford RM, Commanding Officer of 846 NAS said:
“For the Commando Helicopter Force this is an enormously historic and emotional year as we transition from the Sea King, a wonderful helicopter that has served us faithfully in many operations, to the exceptionally capable Merlin.”
Making this a truly Joint display of aviation capability, alongside the aircraft of the FAA and CHF were two Apache AH1s from the Army Air Corps’ Apache Display Team.
A magnificent display of aviation at its very best, celebrating 75 years since HMS Heron was commissioned, left the crowds departing reluctantly for home, but happy and content following yet another brilliant show from the Royal Navy and Friends!