Air Show Report : RAF Leuchars Airshow 2012
On September 15, 2012, Royal Air Force Leuchars had its Jubilee airshow which included the reforming of RAF 1 Squadron on the Typhoon.
Des Brennan provides his report of the 2012 diamond event with photos of the resident and visiting aircraft and displays.
RAF Leuchars Jubilee Airshow : Typhoons and Diamonds
Although the announced theme was 'A Diamond Celebration' Leuchars Jubilee Airshow 2012 was most definitely the year of the Typhoon. Whether on the ground or in the air and whether performing solo aerobatics, a four-ship salute to newly re-formed RAF 1 Squadron or in the closing Diamond Nine flypast the Eurofighter Typhoon was a recurring motif throughout the event.
Being held on the 15th of September the event coincided with Battle of Britain Day as marked in the United Kingdom which was very apt as Leuchars not only plays a prominent part in the current Air Defence of the British Isles but is also as the last operational RAF station to hold onto the tradition of the 'Battle of Britain at Home Days' once common on or about that date.
2012 also marked the 60th or Diamond Anniversary of her Majesty the Queens accession to the throne and this was celebrated by not only the participation of many aircraft types to have served in her armed forces over that period from Sea Fury, Vampire and Meteor to the Hawk, Tornado, Sentry, Sentinel, VC10 and Typhoon of today.
Additionally many of the aircraft present wore the special colour schemes applied for the Diamond Jubilee, London Olympics and the many Centenary, Anniversary and other events marked during the year.
Unfortunately Airshow 2012 clashed with several other airshows being held in different parts of mainland Europe restricting participation from some regular supporters of the event although it was noticeable that while some of the dedicated RAF solo display aircraft departed after performing to attend these other events this was not reciprocated.
Additionally, high winds over the UK affected the arrival and display flying of some vintage aircraft while servicing requirements and other commitments both at home and abroad meant some late cancellations of other advertised attendees.
Such last minute changes are unavoidable for any Airshow but nevertheless the event enjoyed many aircraft types and colour schemes making their first appearance at a Leuchars Airshow in what were otherwise clear sunlit skies.
RAF Typhoon Squadrons
A major feature of the Airshow was the official re-forming of 1 Squadron on the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Although their radio call signs had been in use for some months and the first marked aircraft had appeared a few weeks previously, Saturday 15th September 2012 saw the official ceremonial parading of the Squadron's colours marking its return.
On the day of the show 1 Squadron's aircraft stayed very firmly on the ground but one had flown during the arrivals on Friday to escort pair of Italian EF2000 Typhoons into Leuchars. However, their Typhoon FGR.4 were very obvious among the static display along with those of co-located 6 Squadron as well as visitors from 3 Sqn (in Centenary Anniversary markings) and 11 Sqn as well as the two EF2000 Typhoons from 36 Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana.
All of the Typhoons flying in the display itself were from 6 Squadron with a four-ship performing one of the flypasts during the 1 Squadron parade, the solo aerobatic display by Squadron Leader Scott Loughran and a nine-ship 'Diamond Nine' saluting both the Queens' Diamond Jubilee and the station flag being lowered during the traditional closing Sunset Ceremony. To ensure that the latter went smoothly a total of eleven Typhoons had taken off, ten FGR.4 including the 'air spare' and a T.3 'whipper in'.
This was the only time a twin-seater was seen during the event although on the previous afternoon the Station Commander and Air Officer Scotland, Air Commodore Gavin Parker, had flown Lieutenant General Guillaume Gelée of the French air force in one alongside a Rafale B from EC01.007 'Provence' piloted by Captain Marc-Antoine Gerard with Air Vice Marshall Stuart Atha in the rear.
Although some of the many Typhoon departures during the show demonstrated the phenomenally short take-off and vertical climb performance, the majority followed a more standard profile keeping the aircraft low along most of the crowd line.
More Royal Air Force Displays
Besides the Typhoon the Royal Air Force was well represented both on the ground and in the air.
The other main combat type, the Panavia Tornado GR.4, was represented by two aircraft in the static display from 2 (in Centenary Anniversary markings) and XV(Reserve) Squadrons while another pair of XV(R) aircraft performed their impressively noisy, smoky and well-choreographed Role Demo with synchronised pyrotechnics.
A Hawk T.2 of 4 (Reserve) Squadron made its first appearance in the static display along with two examples of the Hawk T.1 from 100 Squadron, one of which flew as camera ship for the Anglo-French Typhoon/Rafale flight on Friday. Meanwhile the Hawk T.1 from 208(R) Squadron, the 4 Flying Training School solo display aircraft in a Jubilee colour scheme, and those of the Red Arrows, reduced to nine aircraft for flypasts and seven for displays in 2012, took part in the flying display following their arrival salute over the 1 Squadron parade.
The Shorts Tucano T.1 from 72(R) Squadron provided the 1 Flying Training School solo display aircraft and also wore a special Jubilee colour scheme.
A Chinook HC.2 from 18/27 Squadrons flew perhaps one of the most spirited displays on the type to date as well as being part of the static display alongside a Puma.
Although the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were scheduled to operate a Spitfire, Hurricane and Dakota from Leuchars for the show, the high winds prevented the latter from flying north and the fighters from landing although they did perform a flypast during the 1 Squadron ceremonials and later returned for their paired and solo displays.
While once resident 111 (Fighter) Squadron disbanded in 2011, reminders of their long association with Leuchars were present in the static display with McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 'Black Mike' which had operated from the station and the English Electric Lightning F.3 gate guard to the former squadron HAS site.
The largest RAF aircraft gracing the static display were a Bombardier Sentinel R.1 from 5 Squadron, the final serving Vickers VC10 C.1K from 101 Squadron in special markings, along with a Boeing Sentry AEW.1 from 8 Squadron which was very deftly towed onto the flight line during Saturday afternoon to perform an impressively tight and well thought out flying display.
It should be said that the aircraft marshalling crews worked extremely hard in managing the varying backdrops to the saluting base by the old control tower with 1 Squadron Typhoons in the morning, Red Arrows Hawks during the middle of the day, 1 and 6 Squadron Typhoons during the late afternoon and withdrawing the Sentry from the static display.
VIP support flights were provided by a 32 (The Royal) Squadron BAe HS125 CC.3 on Friday and 45(R) Squadron King Air on Saturday.
Other Military Aircraft
Other UK military and associated participation came from the Royal Navy with one of their new Beechcraft King Air Avenger in the static and also provided a powerfully demonstrated Historic Flight Hawker Sea Fury T.20.
The British Army provided an Islander AL.1 along with a Lynx AH.7 and two Gazelle AH.1 helicopters for the static line-up as did Cobham Aviation Services with a Dassault Falcon 20 and the Defence Helicopter Flying School with its Griffin HT.1 and Squirrel HT.1 training helicopters.
Although perhaps down on previous years as mentioned overseas military participation was nonetheless wide-ranging.
The USAF visually dominated the airfield with their Boeing B-52H Stratofortress from the 93rd. Bomb Squadron of the United States Air Force Reserve Command based at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana,
Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker from the 133rd. Air Refeulling Squadron of the New Hampshire Air National Guard from Pease ANGB and McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender from the 305th Air Mobility Wing
based at McGuire AFB in New Jersey.
A single flypast was performed by another Barksdale B-52H operating from Fairford which, while rather high, was a very welcome sight since the last flying appearance was about twenty years ago.
Mention has already been made of the pairs of Eurofighter EF2000 from 10 and 12 Gruppo of 36 Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana and Dassault Rafale B from EC01 of the Armée de l'Air all on their first Leuchars Airshow visit for which the latter were supported on Friday by a Lockheed C-130H of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
Although Lockheed Martin F-16s of the Royal Norwegian Air Force are regular attendees 2012 saw the immaculately marked Centenary Anniversary F-16AM along with a twin-seat BM in standard markings from the pooled Forsvarets Logistikk Organisasjon.
Last but far from least was another first time participant in the colourful shape of the Dutch Coastguard Dornier 228.
Warbirds & Other Aircraft
The high winds affecting most of mainland Britain over the airshow had their greatest effect on civil and warbird particptation although the most unlikely aircraft to manage both transit and display was Neil Geddes' SE.5a replica which seemed to hover into the wind at times.
Other more modern types to display that reflected the early years of the Queen's sixty year reign were the De Havilland Vampires of the Norwegian Historical squadron now joined by a Lockheed T-33, the stunningly flown Gloster Meteor T.7 of Air Atlantique's Classic Flight and the unfailingly impressive Avro Vulcan B.2.
These were joined by UH-1H 'Huey' and OH-6A 'Loach' team making their first flying appearance as well as the purely civil Blades and Wildcat teams with their Extra EA-300s and Pitts Specials respectively.
Among the light aircraft in the static display there were pairs of former RAF Scottish Aviation Bulldogs in their original markings, De Havilland Chipmunk T.10s perfectly restored and marked as T.20s of the Irish Air Corps and a CASA 1-131E (Bucker Bu 131 Jungmann) in Spanish Air Force markings.
Concluding RAF Leuchars Airshow 2012
While Leuchars 2012 was without doubt the 'Year of the Typhoon' that was only one excellent aspect of a well thought out and executed event with the Royal Air Force fully engaged with demonstrating the breadth of their activities to the public and in marking H.M. the Queens Diamond Jubilee in Scotland. Leuchars 2011 had ended on a rather pessimistic note about the future of the Airshow and while in 2012 the outlook seemed rather more optimistic there has by late November been no confirmation that a show will take place in 2013.
For once the local press seemed unable to find nit-picking fault with the post-show traffic management plan but instead focused on some rail users to complain that it took 'almost
an hour from exiting the airfield to getting on a train at the nearby station'.
Changed days from my first visits to Leuchars in the 1960s when with a much larger rail travelling public each stage of the journey from leaving the airfield to railway station gate
and then to the platform and eventually onto a train could easily take an hour.
But it would not quite be Britain if we did not have something to complain about and we did have far more sunshine than we are used to.
I again attended the Airshow as part of the organised Enthusiast's Package with access on Friday for arrivals and practices as well as on Saturday for the show itself and
offer thanks as always to the Airshow Office for the work done in arranging this and especially to Flight Lieutenants Phil Webster and Paul Tench along with their team
from RAF Leuchars who coped extremely well with the two hundred or so crazed civilians in the Enthusiasts Enclosure.
Our previous RAF Leuchars airshow reports:
Report and photos by Des Brennan ( view portfolio )