Monday, 10 August 2015

Blackpool Air Show Sunday 9 Aug 2015

Yesterday saw us down in Blackpool for the first of a two-day air show. Weather could have been better, but it remained dry and at times patches of blue came through the clouds, but cloud base remained fairly low and many of the photos would have benefited from a touch of sunshine. On saying that, my head did take on a certain red soreness by the end of the afternoon...

First up was the Typhoon - I still think of it as the Eurofighter. This put on a superb show with lots of opportunities for taking shots like this with the twin engines glowing from the afterburners.

It looked even better when it started to turn and the air condensed as water was squeezed out of it, forming mist and vapour trails.

Conditions were not ideal for taking photographs due to the low light levels coupled with the speed at which aircraft travel meaning several photos were a touch blurred. But I did take quite a few so there are enough to go round!

We were sitting on the steps leading down to the beach just south of the North Pier. Cones and a security cordon kept the beach clear of onlookers who might otherwise have strayed a little too close to passing aircraft. It's been an unfortunate year indeed for air shows with a number of incidents in recent weeks. Happily Sunday's show went ahead without mishap. (Monday's is going ahead as I write - a helicopter clattered over the house half an hour ago and I can now hear jet engine noise.)

The Extra EA-260 is a hand-built aerobatic plane designed by Walter Extra which is a name any manufacturer would want on the payroll. Project behind time? Put a bit of Extra into it! This thing can roll a full 360 degrees in a second. Great to watch but it doesn't photograph well...

The BAC Strikemaster, jet trainer and light attack aircraft. An armed version of the Jet Provost, they were mainly used as trainers, but some were deployed on active duty. They first flew in 1967.

The Breitling Wingwalkers are a team of very brave young ladies who take it upon themselves to stand on top of a couple of biplanes hurtling about the sky at 150mph and doing synchronised poses such as high kicks and stuff. In the old days wingwalkers would perform without tethering themselves to the aircraft with some even walking off the wing of one aircraft onto another. This practice quickly fell off though...

Even so, you need a certain amount of nerve to do this and performing in a 150mph gale is not for ninnies!

"Pull up! Pull up!!!"

This is what many people had come to see. The Avro Vulcan's last tour of the North West before it is retired. The ultimate V-Bomber, operational through the Cold War and the aircraft that famously flew down to bomb the runaway at Port Stanley during the Falklands War.

The THRUM! of those jet engines in your chest as you watch is to be savoured! We used to have a ceramic-coated metal scale model on a plinth when I was a teenager. With a wingspan of around 12 inches it would probably be worth a fortune now. It got thrown out at some point unknown...

I remember well in the early days of Ebay when the dilapidated Vulcan from outside Blackpool Airport quickly gained bids of several million pounds before it was pointed out that all armaments had been stripped out and that it wouldn't fly... Wouldn't move at all in fact - it had to be taken to bits on site.

The RotorSport Calidus autogyro. They look great fun but I'm not sure you could coax me into one unless there were twenty of you with cattle prods...

They take two people sitting tandem style in the tiny cockpit and are highly manoeuvrable. Bizarrely the wikipedia website says they can be fitted with navigation lights for night flying - but that night flying is not allowed...

I used to love the air shows of the sixties and seventies which were always full of Spitfires doing their thing. After TV shots of them flying in swarms earlier in the year this was a rather disappointing showing with only one Spit from the Battle of Britain Memorial flight and which seemed to me to stay well away from the audience, making close-up photos impossible.

The Chinook helicopter is an awesome sight. The blooming thing just chunkered over my house whilst I was writing about the Vulcan a bit ago too - I had to stop and make sure none of my teeth were going to rattle loose... The only aircraft of the day to - literally - take a bow! Show-off!

Aw... that's nice! The RV8tors fly a pair of RV-8 aircraft (you see what they did there...?) which are highly manoeuvrable and skid about at 230mph. This is the climax of their display when the two planes each create half of a heart with their smoke trails.

When this appeared I was wracking my brains trying to think what it was. It had a bit of the look of a Feisler, but their best-known model, the Storch, had high wings on a level with the top of the cockpit... It turned out to be a Bűcker Bestmann. If you watch The Great Escape and can tear yourself from the scene where Steve McQueen jumps the fence on a motorbike, concentrate instead on James Garner and Donald Pleasance, who nick one of these and fly back into the hands of the Germans. Oh sorry - I should have said "spoiler alert"...

The Red Arrows have had a bit of a grotty weekend with technical problems. A couple of displays at Belfast and Newcastle had to be cancelled due to the requirement that pilots after a leave must conduct a practice with nine aircraft. Faults were eventually fixed and a practice held, but then an instrument check on one aircraft meant that it had to be pulled again and the Blackpool show went ahead with only eight aircraft. Due to cloud cover this was a flat (flattish) display but the 70,000 strong crowd were making plenty of appreciative noise!

It was madness after the display ended. We had gone down to Blackpool by bus but with so many people heading for public transport we decided to just set off and walked back to Bispham along the cliffs. A good afternoon!

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