August 24th, 2015

Husky Airways

Wings over Water

Howard persuaded me that the best way for us to get to Bournemouth Air Show was for him to ride on my pillion. It wasn't a very comfortable experience for either of us, but it was a useful exercise in smooth riding. The weather was gorgeous and the beach was already packed when we arrived, but we found a clear spot of sand and staked a claim so I could tear my clothes off and run into the freezing sea.

Swimming in the sea while watching a flying display is pretty much my idea of heaven, and there was a lot to watch: the lovely Sea Vixen ("There's nothing like it!" I told Howard. "...Except for the Vampire and the Venom."), the Chinook standing on its nose above the water, and Patrouille Reva in their weird Acroez aircraft.

The Red Arrows gave a faultless display against a clear, blue sky...with eight aircraft, rather than their customary nine. I admired their skill in keeping the group tight with one element gone, and was deeply moved by what I assumed was a 'missing man' formation in honour of Jon Egging, the pilot killed at Bournemouth in 2012.

It turns out one of the Hawks developed a problem on the way and had to turn back to Exeter airport.

The final airborne act was the Eurofighter Typhoon, turning and banking steeply with a grumble of jet engine and a glow of afterburner, whipping up the waves and causing every seagull to take off from the beach in a panic.

It was a glorious day, which made it all the more terrible to learn of the crash at Shoreham.

In response to some of what I've seen in the media about air displays and safety, I would like to reference this blog post. TL;DR version: it is more than 60 years since a spectator has died as a result of a crash at an airshow in the UK, thanks to regulations put in place after the Farnborough disaster of 1952. To put that in context, lists more than 100 airshows and flypasts taking place in the UK in 2015.

As I was heading home up the A31 on Sunday, the Vulcan passed over the road ahead of me. Probably the last time I'll see it flying.