Alice Dryden (huskyteer) wrote,
Alice Dryden

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Perfect weather for an air show today. Lucky me, I had one to go to: Biggin Hill International Air Fair.

I arrived at 10:15, when things were still relatively quiet, and had time for some shopping before cybersofa arrived and we settled on the crowdline for the day.

Antonov AN-2Utterly ButterlysHarrierChinookDragon RapideTwin PioneerDH Devon(?)Catalina

My favourite item by far was the Antonov AN-2, the world's largest biplane. It's not only beautiful to look at, but the pilot threw it around in a way impressive for something so large, slow and frankly ungainly.

I have long theorised that my attraction to biplanes over fast jets is related to my fondness for scooters: they're cute and quirky. The AN-2, then, must surely be the maxi-scooter of the biplane world. No wonder I like them so much.

Biggin Hill prides itself on not only unusual aircraft but on displaying them in rarely-seen configurations. We were treated first to a trio of non-combat Luftwaffe planes, paying a friendly visit to the airfield their compatriots bombed so many times: a Storch, a Bestmann and a Messerschmidt 108. But they surpassed themselves with Air Atlantique's contribution: two Dragon Rapides, a Twin Pioneer, a DC3, a DC6, a Pembroke, an Anson and a Devon, all in the air at the same time. Eight of the most graceful aircraft you're likely to see, circling and landing in perfect harmony. (Find them all here.)

Other honorable mentions:

Loudest: Eurofighter Typhoon
Best theme tune: RAF Merlin (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
Jolliest colour scheme: The Blades (orange top, black underside with St. George Cross)
Most charming guest commentator: Breitling Jets (French bloke)
Coolest Thingy: Twin Pioneer (triple tail fin)
Rara Avis Award: Bestmann (I'd never even heard of it)
Holy Crap! Award: Road Angels SU 26 (how many rolls in one loop!?)

The day ended with a moving tribute by Spitfire and Gnat to pilot Ray Hanna, a veteran of the display circuit who had undoubtedly entertained me at air shows past. Almost every air show I go to seems to be paying tribute to a pilot who has left us, often meeting their end while flying the planes they love so much. As insurance issues make it harder and more expensive to put on a display and many smaller shows go under, I hope civilian air shows like Biggin can carry on entertaining us and keeping knowledge of aviation and military history alive. That's the best tribute there could be to the fallen.


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