MILAVIA > Air Shows > RAF Leuchars Airshow 2012 Last updated: 17 December 2012
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Air Show Report : RAF Leuchars Airshow 2012

RAF LEUCHARS AIR SHOW 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.

Diamond Nine formation of 6 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 pass overhead to close Leuchars Airshow 2012

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.

A first public appearance for re-forming 1 squadron as Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 ZK326/FB taxies out during arrivals on Friday morning
After meeting a pair of incoming Italian Air Force Eurofighter EF2000 1 Squadron FGR.4 ZK326/FB returns to Leuchars on Friday
A Spitfire flanked by a pair of Typhoon FGR.4 all in 1 Squadron markings provided a backdrop to the formal parade on Saturday morning
1 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 FA/ZX316 is towed away following its part in Saturday's formal parade
Supermarine Spitfire F.21 LA255/LX-U is cared for by 1 Squadron and was re-positioned several times during the day
3 Squadron marked their centenary in 2012 by applying these special markings to Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 ZJ936/QO-C
Post-flight servicing being carried out on specially marked 3 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 ZJ936/QO-C after arriving on Friday
Close-up of the tail markings applied to mark the centenary of 3 Squadron on Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 ZJ936/QO-C
Nose area of 3 Squadron's specially marked Typhoon FGR.4, ZJ936/QO-C, carries a list of battle honours
6 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 ZK312/EM ready for static display with a full set of bright red safety tags and covers in place
Best seat in the house for this 6 Squadron engineer as he waits for the 1 Squadron parade to end and his jet to be towed into place
Diamond Nine Flypast by 6 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 shows several variations in droptank, pylon and RAIDS Pod fit
Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 ZK302/EA joins the southern taxiway in the stream of aircraft returning after the closing flypast
6 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 ZK321/EU catches the late afternoon sun as it returns from the Diamond Nine flypast
The 2012 Typhoon solo display pilot, Squadron Leader Scott Loughran, pulls 6 Squadron Typhoon FGR.4 ZK331/EE up in reheat
6 Squadron Typhoon T.3 EZK381/EX crewed by Air Commodore Gavin Parker and Lt. General Guillaume Gelée taxies out on Friday
Following the RAF/AdlA exchange flight 6 Squadron Typhoon T.3 ZJ809/EY with Litening Pod and unmarked ZK380 are towed away
Eurofighter Typhoon T.3 ZJ809/EX from 6 Squadron under tow on Friday afternoon allowing the ramp to be rearranged for the Airshow
Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 ZK305/DE from 11 Squadron, the second RAF Coningsby front-line squadron to form, arrives for static display
11 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 ZK305/DE parked on the main ramp on Friday waiting to be towed into position for static display
The otherwise unmarked Eurofighter Typhoon T.3 ZK380 from Coningsby was not required for the Typhoon/Rafale exchange flight

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.

Centenary markings were also carried by 2 Squadron Panavia Tornado GR.4 ZA398 seen arriving for static display on Friday
Battle honours on the nose of 2 Squadron's centenary marked ZA398 built as a GR.4A but now sharing the common GR.4 designation
Specially marked 41(R) Squadron Tornado GR.4 ZA614/EB-Z, Gp. Capt. Finlay had been a pre-war Olympian and a wartime commander
Two XV(R) Squadron Tornado GR.4 provided a Role Demo with specially marked ZA547 here making a low, fast and noisy 'Show of Force'
Panavia Tornado GR.4 ZG754/130 from the XV(R) Squadron Role Demo pair flies through after a simulated straffing run
Bomb Damage Assessment by XV(R) Squadron Tornado GR.4 ZG754/130 after a simulated triple Brimstone attack during the Role Demo
Following their simulated attack runs the XV(Reserve) Squadron Role Demo pair exit with a final low, fast and furious 'Show of Force'
Making its first appearance at a Leuchars Airshow BAE Systems Hawk T.2 from 4 (Reserve) Squadron arrives on Friday
100 Squadron BAe Hawk T.1 XX184/CQ was camera ship for the Typhoon/Rafale exchange flight on Friday and then joined the static display
A second 100 Squadron aircraft, BAe Hawk T.1A XX203/CC was also present in the static display
Bae Hawk T.1A XX230 from 208(Reserve) Squadron in Union Flag markings provided the 2012 solo display flown by Flt. Lt. Phil Bird
2012 Solo Hawk Display T.1A XX230 from 208(R) Squadron flown by Flt. Lt. Phil Bird taxies out
Flight Lieutenant Phil Bird the 2012 Hawk Solo Display pilot from 208 (Reserve) Squadron of 4 Flying Training School at RAF Valley
Flying  in 'Big Battle' formation the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows salute the 1 Squadron formation parade
Peforming in clear blue skies a three-ship section of BAe Hawks from the Red Arrows gets airborne.
All seven aircraft from the 2012 Red Arrows team caught in the frame after displaying, the team will resume nine-ship displays in 2013
The 2012 Tucano Solo Display was flown by Flt. Lt. Jon Bond in specially marked Tucano T.1 ZF269 from 1 FTS at RAF Linton-on-Ouse
Shorts Tucano T.1 ZF269 from 1 Flying Training School flew the solo display in a Union Flag based scheme with Royal Jubilee markings
2012 Solo Display Team support was provided by Shorts Tucano T.1 ZF374/374 in standard trainer colours with added Jubilee markings
Departing Leuchars the 2012 Tucano display aircraft ZF269 and supporting ZF373/374 show off their specially applied underside markings
Odiham Wing Boeing Chinook HC.4 ZA713 was put through a very spirited display by its joint 18/27 Squadron crew
A casual passing glance at Bombardier Sentinel R.1 ZJ693 from 5 Squadron when seen from head-on does not look especially unusual
A sideview of 5 Squadron Bombardier Sentinel R.1 ZJ963 reveals the full extent of the strucural changes required for its RAF role
The handling crews carefully remove 8 Squadron Boeing Sentry AEW.1 ZH102/02 from the static line-up to fly on Saturday afternoon
As part of an impressively graceful display 8 Squadron  Boeing Sentry AEW.1 ZH102/02 climbs away from a missed approach
Returning after a very tighly flown display 8 Squadron's Boeing Sentry AEW.1 ZH102/02 was the last show aircraft to land
Vickers VC10 C.1K XR808 from 101 Squadron with markings celebrating the squadron's 95th. Anniversary and 50 years of VC10 flying
The unmistakable and stately sight of a VC10 head-on, 101 Squadron's C.1K XR808 is the last of the original RAF variant still in operation
101 Squadron Vickers VC10 C.1K XR808 is the last of its type and with the other remaining VC10 variants will be retired early in 2013
BAe HS125 CC.3 ZD703 from 32 (The Royal) Squadron provided service VIP support on Friday
Saturday's service VIP support was provided by 45(R) Squadron Beech King Air B200 ZK455/O 'Vagabond'
A fleetwide grounding meant that Leuchars based Grob Tutor T.1 G-CGKL/KL of the local University Air Squadron was the only one present

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.

Hawker Sea Fury T.20 VX281/VL-120 of the Royal Navy Historic Flight well demonstrated the sheer power of the type
Replacing the Jetstream in Royal Navy service Beech King Air 350ER Avenger T.1 ZZ500 from 750 Naval Air Squadron made its debut
Britten Norman Islander AL.1 ZG845 from 651 Squadron, Army Air Corps, in the static display
9 Regiment Army Air Corps Westland Lynx AH.7 XZ645 with the sun behind and on the airside of the crowdline
Aérospatiale Gazelle AH.1 XZ334 from 665 Squadron Army Air Corps in the static display
G-FRAW is one of the large fleet of Dassault Falcon 20 operated by Cobham Aviation to provide threat simulation and associated duties
Boeing KC-135R 62-3576 of the 133rd. Air Refeulling Squadron, New Hampshire Air National Guard with KC-10A and B-52H beyond
McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 79-1712 from the 305th Air Mobility Wing based at McGuire AFB, New Jersey in the static display
Boeing B-52H BD/61-0031 from the 93rd Bomb Squadron USAF Reserve Command at Barksdale AFB was aptly named 'Judgement Day'
Litening II laser targetting pod on the outer wing pylon of Boeing B-52H BD/61-0031 of the 93rd. Bomb Squadron USAFRC
Two Italian 36 Stormo Eurofighter EF2000 made their first appearance, MM7296/36-22 of 12 Gruppo and MM7297/36-23 from 10 Gruppo
Eurofighter EF2000 MM7286/36-22 from 36 Stormo/12 Gruppo of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana with IRIS-T AAM on the outer pylon
Cpt.Marc-Antoine Gerard of EC01.007 'Provence' taxies Dassault Rafale B 319/113-HN out on Friday with AVM Stuart Atha as passenger
Dassault Rafale B 322/113-HU from EC01.091 'Gascogne' displays the very low-viz style of unit markings now in use.
Seen from head-on Dassault Rafale B 322/113-HU from EC01.091 'Gascogne' portrays an air of purposeful menace
With Air Vice Marshall Stuart Atha in the rear Dassault Rafale B 322/113-HN from EC01.007 'Provence'  returns from the exchange flight
336 Squadron RNLAF Lockheed C-130H G-781/Bob van der Stok provided logisitic support for the French Rafale deployment on Friday
Odd goings on the nosewheel bay of 336 Squadron Royal Netherlands Air Force Lockheed C-130H Hercules G-781/Bob van der Stok
The Lockheed Martin F-16 is operated on a pooled basis by the Royal Norwegian Air Force with F-16BM 305 here in standard markings
Gunfire residue on Royal Norwegian Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16BM 305 had unusually been cleaned to follow panel lines
To celebrate the centenary of the Royal Norwegian Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16AM 686 carried this immaculate special colour scheme
Dornier Do228-212 PH-CGN from Kustwacht, the Dutch Coastguard, made its first visit to a Leuchars Airshow
Dornier Do228-212 PH-CGN of the Dutch Coastguard carries SLAR along the fuselage and a FLIR turret below

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.

Pre-flight briefing for the air and ground crews of the Norwegian Historical Squadron with their Vampire FB.6, T.55 and CT-133 behind
Canadair CT-133 Silver Star 133599/NX865SA is a recent addition to the Norwegian Historical Squadron and retains its Canadian colours
De Havilland Vampire T.55 (top) and FB.6 of the Norwegian Historical Squadron have been finished in their early 1950s markings
The low-viz colours of  Norwegian Historical Flight Canadair CT-133 are not typical of the Lockheed T-33 in Norwegian service
Air Atlantique Classic Flight's Gloster Meteor T.7 WA591/FMK-Q (G-BWMF) provided a stunning peformance
In service when H.M. The Queen ascended to the throne Air Atlantique's Gloster Meteor T.7 WA591/FMK-Q looks as good as new
Avro Vulcan B.2 XH558/G-VULC never fails to impress as seen here with airbrakes out to keep noise and power up but speed down
Not quite Apocalypse Now although both MSS Holdings' OH-6A 'Loach' and UH-1H Huey are actually Vietnam veterans
MSS Holdings Hughes OH-6A Cayuse or 'Loach' 69-16011 (G-OHGA) restored to its 20th. Transport Company combat markings
Bell UH-1H Iroquois or 'Huey' 72-21509 (G-UH1H) restored by MSS Holding to its wartime 129th. Assault Helicopter Company markings
Once common at Leuchars but Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1 XX667/16 (G-BZFN) and XX546/03 (G-WINI) are now privately owned
Restored by Caledonian Chipmunks as T.20s in 1950s Irish Air Corps markings both 169 and 170 are ex-RAF de Havilland Chipmunk T.10
De Havilland Chipmunk T.20 169 in 1950s Irish Air Corps markings  Caledonian Chipmunks G-ARGG was previously RAF T.10 WD305
 CASA 1-131E  E3B-599/791-31 has its restored Spanish Air Force finish somewhat marred by its current civil registration G-CGTX
Formation take-off for The Blades and their Extra EA-300s take-off in formation, all are flown by ex-RAF Red Arrows pilots
In their second airshow season and displaying at Leuchars for the first time were Wildcats Aerobatics and their Pitts S-2 Specials

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.

Tornado GR.4 pilot Richard Pargeter in his Pitts Special G-PARG taxies back across a ramp full of current military hardware after displaying

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 )