MILAVIA > Air Shows > RAF Leuchars Airshow 2008 Last updated: 14 February 2014

Air Show Report : RAF Leuchars Airshow 2008


RAF Leuchars in Fife, Scotland, organized its air show on the 13th of September, 2008. Sadly, like many UK air events during 2008, the promising event suffered from poor weather as Des Brennan explains.

Leuchars 2008 - What Was and What Might Have Been

After missing a year because of runway resurfacing work the Royal Air Force Leuchars event returned again as the only remaining UK airshow held on an operational RAF station that can be traced back to the once prolific post-war Battle of Britain at Home events. Following the success of the 2006 show 2008 promised to be another well-balanced mix of current and historical aircraft participation along with one or two which would be new to Leuchars in what was planned as a celebration of the 90th.Anniversary of the Royal Air Force.

This was to be emphasised by the flying display which was heavily biased towards the history of the RAF and ranged from a First World War SE5a, through the Second World War with the full Battle of Britain Memorial Flight of Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster and Dakota, onto various privately owned 1950s vintage fighters, trainers and the Vulcan bomber before moving into the full range of current RAF display teams and aircraft. The latter included the Falcons Parachute Display Team; the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows; the full Role Demo which itself has grown from the Leuchar’s inspired tactical demonstrations of previous years and now incorporates Tornado F.3 and GR.4, Hawk, E-3D or Hercules, Chinook, Apache and ground forces along with synchronised pyrotechnic display as well as all RAF solo display aircraft – Typhoon, Hawk, King Air, Tucano and Tutor. Additionally there were plans for a Typhoon/Spitfire and Red Arrows/Vulcan flypasts Further UK participation was to be provided by the Royal Navy ‘Black Cat’ Lynx pair, Army Air Corps ‘Blue Eagles’ Lynx and Apache as well as for the first time a pair of FR Aviation Dassault Falcon 20 including their Flight Trials Falcon 20DC with Typhoon defensive suite pods underwing. Overseas flying participation would have been limited to F-16 displays from both the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Belgian Air Component.

The Royal Air Force was similarly well represented on the ground especially by ‘fast jets’ including (counting display aircraft and their spares) five Typhoons drawn from all four current units including a Litening III and LGB equipped FGR.4 from 3 Squadron; three Lossiemouth Wing Tornado GR.4 for static display and a further three from Marham for the Role Demo; a pair of Harrier GR.7/9; seven based Tornado F.3 including the 111 and the shortly to be repainted 56 Squadron special tails as well as a ‘pink pig nosed’ example marking the work of a local children’s charity ( Training and support operations were represented by five Hawks including three in special schemes, three Tucano, three Tutor, two King Air and a Dominie as well as Chinook, Merlin HC.3A, Griffin and Squirrel helicopters along with a Nimrod MR.2 and Hercules C.3. A locally based Army Air Corps Gazelle along with Royal Navy SAR Sea King from Prestwick and Culdrose based Jetstream completed UK military involvement.

Overseas participation in the static display was perhaps slightly less than some years but provided several first time visitors to the show. Holland and Germany as regular supporters of the event provided a pair of F-16MLU and an F-4F Phantom along with a Tornado ECR respectively. The United States Air Force, another stalwart, provided the centerpiece of the static display with a trio of Boeing ‘heavies’ in the form of a Barksdale based Air Force Reserve B-52H, 116th. ACW E-8C JSTARS making its first appearance and a New Hampshire ANG KC-135R as well as a pair of Lakenheath based F-15C. Following on from their Mil-17 and 24 appearances at the 2006 show the Czech Air Force returned this time with fixed wing aircraft in the form of a Saab Gripen, Let L-159 and the specially marked An-26.

Sadly, like many UK air events during 2008, the weather on the day of the show was to prevent this potential from being fully realised despite the best and gallant attempts of organisers and participants.

Taking advantage of the two day Enthusiasts Package I was able to attend both on Friday for arrivals and practice displays as well as for the show itself on Saturday. With only the USAF ‘heavies’ already on base on Friday morning the rest of that day saw the majority of static and display participants arrive with many of the latter also performing their qualifying practice displays in glorious weather although poor weather elsewhere meant that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and several vintage jet aircraft were unable to make their way north. By the end of the day a very light drizzle blowing through the evening sunshine along with dark clouds and rainbows on the horizon gave an indication of what was to come.

Saturday dawned with rain, mist and low cloud which with slight variations in severity and density remained for the rest of the day. A forecast easing of conditions around 1100 arrived as promised along with the first flying of the day which saw the Red Arrows arrive and the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon solo display take-off but the ‘microclimate’ often said to be enjoyed by Leuchars worked in reverse to bring back not so much the rain but very poor visibility which remained firmly fixed over the airfield.

After a few manoeuvres in steadily deteriorating visibility the Typhoon departed the area for a radar talkdown and landing as later repeated by the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 display and by two Tornado GR.4 operating as singletons performing simulated attack runs with pyrotechnics as their part of the Role Demo sequence of which the only other aircraft to fly was the E-3D Sentry which flew up from Waddington to perform an overshoot, appearing in its own condensation cloud out of the murk only as it crossed the airfield boundary. The Red Arrows, performed a restricted version of their ‘flat display’ which required rather longer than usual run-ins, often with the outermost members of the team skirting the cloud base while solo display Tutor, Tucano and Hawk performed similarly reduced displays and the Royal Navy ‘Black Cats’ and Army ‘Blue Eagles’ flew single aircraft. Having been delayed by weather conditions en-route on the Friday local conditions on Saturday kept the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight away but a privately owned Spitfire Mk.XVIII did fly. The advertised appearance of Vulcan B.2 XH558 drew a large crowd which held on until late in the afternoon hoping to see it fly as the penultimate display and while it rather ironically sat at the end of the runway in the only sunshine of the day visibility elsewhere on and around the airfield meant that it, like several other non-military participants, could only perform fast ground runs. Finally the only locally based Tornado F.3 involved in the event, two others had been planned for the Role Demo, performed a high speed flypast for the closing sunset ceremony before being swallowed by the again rapidly lowering cloud base.

Leuchars 2008 had the promise of being a memorable event and was only prevented from fulfilling this by the one thing no event organiser can control, the weather. Looking back over my forty years Leuchars has enjoyed fair, albeit sometimes cool, weather far more often than not and thanks to the tenacity of organisers and aircrew actually fared better than several mid-summer UK shows this year in being able to keep a semblance of the show running all day for which they are to be heartily congratulated. A provisional date has already been set for 12th September, 2009, and it is to be hoped that the event will go ahead with perhaps two requests – please let us see a lot more Tornado F.3 in the air before they have gone forever and please, please move the barriers slightly further AWAY from the static aircraft as it makes it far easier for more people to see and photograph them without a crush.

48th. Fighter Wing/493rd. Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle , LN/84-0001,  was one of the first static display arrivals on Friday morning.
17 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4, AA/ZJ930, reaches for the runwayas it is about to land on Friday morning.
The unmistakable shape of Avro Vulcan B.2 ,XH588, operated by Vulcan to the Skies during its practice display on Friday.
Vulcan to the Skies operated Avro Vulcan B.2, XH588, comes in to land after its journey north and practice display.
RAF Marham based 9 Squadron Tornado GR.4, GA/ZA546, was one of three present for the Role Demo and is seen awaiting refeulling after its Friday arrival.
Dutch and Belgian Display F-16AM and their support aircraft on the Visiting Aircraft Ramp where they were later joined by other display aircraft.
Solo display Eurofighter Typhoon F.2, DA/ZJ931, from 11 (Fighter) Squadron arrives on Friday.
Aero L-159T1, 6072,  from 212 Tactical Fighter Squadron Czech Air Force arrives for the static display.
3 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4, QO-H/ZJ921, breaks into the circuit laden with Litening Pod and full load of LGBs.
A pair of RAF Lossiemouth based 12 Squadron Tornado GR.4 framed by the wing of the Vulcan as they clear the runway.
LGB laden Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4, QO-H/ZJ921, from 3 Squadron taxiies in for the static display.
208 (Reserve) Squadron BAe Hawk T.1, XX245/245, arrives on Friday as support for the solo display aircraft.
Anniversary marked Antonov An-26B-100, 2507,  from 242 Transport Squadron of the Czech Air Force based at Prague-Kbely arrives.
DHC-1 Chipmunk T.10 pair of the Caledonian Chipmunk Team practice their display in clear skies on Friday.
Specially marked F-16AM Fighting Falcon, J-876,  from 322 Squadron Royal Netherlands Air Force arriving for the static display.
Specially marked solo display Shorts Tucano T.1, ZF338/338,  from No.1 Flying Training School cleans up before performing a practice display on Friday afternoon.
Privately owned Hawker Hunter F.58, J-4021, in Patrouille Suisse markings arrives on Friday for the flying display.
Beech B200 King Air, M/ZK453, from 45 (Reserve) Squadron approaching to land after a practice display on Friday Afternoon.
A mixed formation of British Army Apache and Lynx, Royal Navy Lynx pair and RAF Griffin arrive after holding off during practice displays and other arrivals.
Eucrocopter Squirrel HT.1, ZJ276/76,  from the Defence Helicopter Flying School arrives for static display on Friday afternoon.
Beech B200 King Air, L/ZK452 and M/ZK453 , from 45 (Reserve) Squadron taxy in for the static and display lines respectively.
BAE Hawk T.1A , CP/XX331, from 100 Squadron arrives on Friday afternoon to take part in the Role Demo.
Shorts Tucano T.1, ZF374/374, from 1 Flying Training School taxies in with Belgian C-130H dropping off ground crew behind.
29 (Reserve) Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon T.1, BD/ZJ905, landing after performing a practice display on Friday afternoon.
Beech B200 King Air, L/ZK452,  from 45 (Reserve) Squadron taxies past USAF static participants as the Belgian support C-130H takes off in the background.
Chinook HC.2, AT/ZA712, from the RAF Odiham Wing touches down on Friday afternoon.
BAe Harrier GR.7A, 24A/ZD376, operated by the Naval Strike Wing landing for the static display.
Belgian Air Component solo display F-16AM, FA-131, from 2 Wing taxies out for a practice display on Friday afaternoon.
Specially marked Grob Tutor T.1 solo display aircraft, G-BYXN, from the Central Flying School runs through its practice display on Friday afternoon.
The Lynx HAS.3 pair of the Royal Navy 'Black Cats' Display Team perform their practice display on Friday afternoon.
Dassault Falcon 20DC, G-FRBA, operated by the Flight Trials section of FRA with Eurofighter Typhoon Defensive pods underwing arrives for the flying display.
Cannon nosed F-4F Phantom II, 38+45, from JG71 of the German Air Force in the static line-up.
HARM equipped Panavia Tornado ECR, 46+44, of JbG32 German Air Force in the static display.
BAe Hawk T.1, XX184, from 19 (Reserve) Squadron in the same markings as applied to the first Spitfires operated by the unit.
Shorts Tucano T.1, ZF342/342, from 1 Flying Training School in the static display.
Litening designator pod equipped F-16AM, J-135, from 322 Squadron Royal Netherlands Air Force in the static line.
Privately owned Hunting Jet Provost T.3A, XM479, appeared in the static display.
Ooops - arrival of BAe Hawk T.1A , CP/XX331, from 100 Squadron is shown again !!.
Bell Griffin HT.1, ZJ235, from 60 Squadron which is part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School seen in the static display.
Ex-Danish Merlin HC.3E, AB/ZJ992, from 28 Squadron in the static line-up.
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress, BD/61-0032, from the 93rd. Bomb Squadron of USAF Reserve Command in Friday evening sunshine.
Panavia Tornado F.3, GI/ZE257, in the markings of resident 43 (Fighter) Squadron was one of several local F.3 n the static display.
Boeing E-8C JSTARS, GA/96-0042, from the 116th. ACW making the first visit of the type to the show.
Panavia Tornado F.3, JU/ZE734, in 111 (Fighter) Squadron 90th. Anniversary markings on one of its last appearances before deep maintenance.
48th. Fighter Wing/493rd. Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle , LN/84-0001,  in the Friday evening sunshine with a B-52 backdrop.
48th. Fighter Wing/493rd. Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle , LN/84-004 with E-8C JSTARS beyond and a darkening sky behind.
Half of a rainbow arcs behind Boeing KC-135R, 58-008, of the New Hampshire National Guard in the static line.
The other half of the rainbow frames BAe Nimrod MR.2, XV254/254, from the RAF Kinloss Maritime Recconaisance Wing.
Starboard side of the special tail markings on Czech Antonov An-26B-100, 2507, shows silhouettes of the aircraft which have operated from Prague-Kbely.
111(Fighter) Squadron Panavia Tornado F.3, HM/ZE162, in 4 pylon 'Pig Fit' and wearing the pig snout of local children's charity  -  <a href='' target=_blank></a>.
A queue waiting to get a closer look at Saab JAS 39D Gripen, 9819, from 211 Tactical Fighter Squadron of the Czech Air Force despite the Saturday morning rain.
1100 hrs. Saturday and the sun breaks through the cloud for the arrival of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team - The Red Arrows - and their Hawk T.1.
….. only to return with a vengance as the solo display Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 makes a low, fast run in reheat while generating its own raincloud.
Army Air Corps Apache AH.1, ZJ222, although part of the 'Blue Eagles' display pair made a solo appearance complete with pyrotechnic smoke adding to the murk.
Leuchars based Gazelle AH.1, XZ345, from 3 Flight Army Air Corps takes off to photograph the crowds for planning future shows.
Solo display BAe Hawk T.1(F), XX325, from 19 (Reserve) Squadron in special markings taxies to take off and display …….
…… and is almost consumed by low cloud although unlike the 'fast jets' it did remain almost within sight for most of the display.
Like the Army's 'Blue Eagles' weather reduced the Royal Navy 'Black Cats' pair to a single ship display from Lynx HAS.3 GMS, XZ239/633, of 702 Naval Air Squadron.
90th. Anniversary marked Hawk T.1A, XX285, from 100 Squadron was another Role Demo participant but returned home early to RAF Leeming because of the weather.
Another intended Role Demo participant Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 , ZH102, from 8/23 Squadron creates its own cloud as it overshoots befor returning to RAF Waddington.
A general impression of the conditions as the Royal Netherlands Air Force display F-16AM, J-055,  from 311 Squadron takes off into the murk.
BAC Strikemaster Mk.82A, G-SOAF, in the markings of the Sultan of Oman's Air Force taxies for its first Leuchars display but was thwarted by the weather.
Panavia Tornado GR.4, 007/H/ZA373, in 2 Squadron markings makes one of several precision radar directed low, fast runs as part of the much truncated Role Demo.
Skirting the low cloud base the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team - The Red Arrows passes in impecable formation.
BAe Hawk T.1W, XX292, of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team - The Red Arrows lands through the smoke of other team member after displaying.
Held back waiting for better weather Avro Vulcan B.2 , XH558, about to turn onto the western end of the runway in the best sunlight of the day …..
….. but poor conditions to the eastern end and elsewhere around the airfield meant that Avro Vulcan B.2, XH558, could only perform a fast taxi run.
Privately owned Spitfire Mk.XIX, GZ-J/SM845, displays the classic lines of the type despite the conditions.
Westland Sea King HU.5 SAR, PW-707/XZ920, from HMS Gannet Search and Rescue Flight catches a brief glimpse of late afternoon sunshine.
The weather starts to close in again as locally based Panavia Tornado F.3, FH/ZE969, departs in reheat to end the show by a fast flypast during the Sunset Ceremony …..
……  passing low and fast as the station flag is lowered Leuchars based Tornado F.3, FH/ZE969, is still within the airfield boundary as it is swallowed in the low cloud and brings the day to an end.

Report and photos by Des Brennan ( view portfolio )