MILAVIA > Air Shows > RAF Leuchars Airshow 2009 Last updated: 20 June 2010

Air Show Report : RAF Leuchars Airshow 2009


RAF Leuchars in Fife, Scotland, staged its annual air show on the 12th of September, 2009. Des Brennan reports.

All eleven Red Arrows BAe Hawk T.1 aircraft (including team manager and engineering officer) draw into line after arriving at the show on Saturday morning.

RAF Leuchars Airshow 2009:
Weather Perfect with a Slight Risk of Tornados

With clear, blue skies from dawn till dusk this years Leuchars Airshow on Saturday 12th September as with the days leading up to it suffered none of the weather problems that the organisers contended with in 2008 and which have dogged arrivals in other years.
Conditions were perfect for the show and we Scots did what we do best under such circumstances... we came... we saw... we got sunburnt.

But not only the weather was different, the financial downturn which has gathered pace over the past year, along with increasing operational commitments, brought changes to the event which may be a model for the future. Roughly half of the display content was from contemporary military sources (including memorial and display teams) of which half was from the Royal Air Force. The remainder came mainly from privately owned warbirds plus a few purely civil teams. Most of these are based in England and are subject to weather restrictions for both transit and display so factor in not unreasonable concerns over poor weather en-route and issues could arise regarding participation. However, that did not happen this year and Leuchars enjoyed a well balanced display of both the current and the historical featuring aircraft in both categories which had not displayed there before.
I attended on the fully subscribed two-day Enthusiasts Package and enjoyed arrivals, including some interesting formations, and many of the practice displays on the Friday as well as the public event on Saturday.

During a six hour Flying Display (an hour shorter than previously) the Royal Air Force provided most of its currently authorised displays – The Red Arrows flying their full display preceded by a formation flypast with a Eurofighter Typhoon, Typhoon FGR.4, Grob Tutor T.1 and Beech King Air solo displays as well as those frequent Leuchars weather casualties the RAF Falcons Parachute Team and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) with Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane.
The Hawk T.1 solo display was not included in the programme and while the Chinook HC.2 acted as drop ship for the Falcons and performed a very spirited flypast, turn and stop into the hover as the team performed their closing salute its later solo display was cancelled for technical reasons.
Ironically, despite recent full serviceability technical issues also limited participation of locally based 111 Squadron. A routine two hour training mission had been planned to incorporate a pair of Tornado F.3 in a simulated Quick Reaction Alert scramble, later returning with ‘intercepted’ Dassault Falcon 20s and ultimately closing the show as escorts to the Rolls-Royce Spitfire XIX during the Sunset Ceremony. This was reduced to one aircraft taking-off, returning with the Falcon 20s and eventually landing from a straight in approach after the flying display had officially ended.

Other UK military participation came from the Royal Navy with their Black Cats Lynx pair and a Sea King SAR display which was held on the ramp with rotors turning before being cancelled because of delays in parking the BBMF although it departed later in the day on a live ‘shout’. At long last the beautifully restored Royal Navy Historic Flight Sea Hawk FGA.6 made it to Leuchars. Initially listed to appear with the flight’s Sea Fury but replaced by the Duxford based Skyraider AD-4N for what was probably the first Leuchars appearance of either since leaving Royal Navy service almost 50 years ago.
Overseas participation came from a Czech Air Force Saab Gripen JAS39C making its display debut, a Polish Air Force MiG-29UB and both the Belgian Air Component and Royal Netherlands Air Force solo display F-16AM with the latter providing a 313 Squadron 55th. Anniversary Tiger scheme example rather than the current predominately orange coloured display mount.

Warbird participation included the Vulcan B.2, Team Viper with four BAC Strikemasters in their original military liveries, Hunter PR.11, Venom and Meteor NF.11 from Air Atlantique, Se5a replica, Flying High Spitfire Mk.IXT, Rolls-Royce owned Spitfire Mk.XIX which also performed the Sunset Ceremony flypast and as mentioned the impressive Skyraider AD-4N. Alongside the Sea Hawk this made a ready contrast between two very different 1950s approaches to the carrier-borne attack mission.
Purely civil participation came from The Cossacks Yak-52 Display Team, Team Guinot with their Stearman biplanes and wing walkers a well as the former Red Arrows crewed Extra 300 display team The Blades.

The Static Display was always going to be smaller than in recent years and last minute cancellations reduced this further. Sadly much of what did appear was fenced in even more closely than usual by barriers which frustrated photography and created bottlenecks for spectators.
The largest RAF asset on show was a Merlin HC.3A helicopter along with Squirrel, Griffin, Tutor, Tucano, Hawk, Tornado GR.4, Typhoon FGR.4 and a pair of Tornado F.3 one of which was in a hangar display. Reportedly it was decreed that only two F.3 could be shown and then only in 111 Squadron markings despite the availability of differently marked airframes. Publicity posters and the show programme cover both featured aircraft in both 43 and 111 Squadron markings placing this decision on a par with the 2006 order to keep the all-black 43 Squadron Anniversary F.3 locked away despite its promotional national TV appearance and featuring on the Ministry of Defence webpage for the event.
The Royal Navy provided a pair of ‘100 Years Of Naval Aviation’ marked Jetstream T.2 and a Harrier GR.9 from 800 NAS.

Static visitors included the USAF which mirrored 2008 with a Barksdale based B-52H, New Hampshire KC-135R and two F-15C from Lakenheath. Germany provided an Anniversary marked Air Force Tornado IDS and its last Naval Atlantic Maritime Patrol aircraft, a specially marked SIGINT conversion, while The Netherlands supplied a Fokker 50 and F-16AM. Newer NATO members the Czech Republic and Poland also took part, the former with the same mix of aircraft as 2008 - a JAS39D Gripen, L159T1 ALCA and the same Antonov An-26 albeit with additional engine nacelles markings, while the latter brought a CASA C-295 on its first Leuchars appearance, supporting the Polish Air Force MiG-29UB solo display.
A growing number of light aircraft types with Scottish and Leuchars area connections completed the static display.

In summary, 2009 brought a change of emphasis to the show with overseas commitments and budgetary restrictions limiting military involvement as evidenced by the notable absence of RAF ‘heavies’ and Army Air Corps along with reduced foreign participation.
Conversely, increased Warbird participation was a welcome move in a different direction bringing displays that previously necessitated long journeys and providing that distance and weather do not hinder future appearances this can only be a good thing. An added bonus was the return of many of these southwards in a mass exodus following the end of the show and providing yet another occasion to see some of these classic aircraft in flight.
Anyone reasonably capable of understanding the most basic road map can see that Leuchars is poorly located to clear 40-50,000 people away immediately after such a major event. Therefore the subsequent response of internet ‘experts’ and the regional media with their typical ‘traffic chaos’ and ‘something must be done’ whinging was not unexpected. However, quoted delay times seemed no worse than usual and the published complaints similarly familiar with only the names of the complainants ever seeming to change.

Next year will mark the 70th. Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Leuchars is the only operational Royal Air Force Station still commemorating what used to be billed as a Battle of Britain at Home Day and now known as the RAF Leuchars Air Show.
2010 will also be the last full year of Panavia Tornado F.3 service and it would be good if both events could be marked (with better spaced barriers around in the static display) in a suitably memorable manner if the show goes ahead as mooted for September 11th. 2010.

The Red Arrows in formation with the Typhoon Solo Display Team Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 before beginning their display.
Flying in perfect conditions all nine display aircraft of the Red Arrows pull round in formation during the first part of their show  ...
... and then separate into smaller groups for the second and more dynamic part of their display as here where two aircraft of a five-ship pull up and out of formation.
Flt. Lt. Scott Loughran the 2009 RAF solo Typhoon Display Pilot performs a fast run in reheat in a No. 3 Squadron Eurofighter FGR.4  ...
... later taxiing back to the display aircraft ramp with the brake parachute trailing behind his No. 3 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4, ZJ926/QO-Y ...
... and providing a close-up view of the nose with its PIRATE sensor.
The RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team after departing their Chinook HC.2 drop ship at about 10,000 feet (approx 3,000 metres) ...
... and form into a stack in which they will spiral towards their drop zone once they have opened their parachutes.
Chinook HC.2 ZA680 acted as drop ship and runs in before a very sharp turn into the hover as the team as it lines up to salute after landing on target.
Heads and Tails - The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster noses in to join the Hurricane and Spitfire after their transit to Leuchars.
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire PR.XIX, PM631, 541 Squadron markings with D-Day Invasion Stripes taxies in at Leuchars.
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Hurricane Mk.IIc, JX*E/PZ865 ‘The Night Reaper’, flown by 1 Squadron Czech pilot Flt Lt Karel Kuttelwascher.
Beech King Air ZK451/K the Solo Display aircraft from No. 45 (Reserve) Squadron taxies in, another King Air from the unit was in the static line up.
Shorts Tucano ZF317 from No.1 Flying Training School was to be the 2009 Solo Display aircraft but was withdrawn after a pre-season accident.
No. 208 (Reserve) Squadron sent a pair of BAe Hawk T.1 for the static display as seen here with  XX201/201 in the foreground and XX195/195 beyond.
Griffin ZJ234/S from No. 60 (Reserve) Squadron, Defence Helicopter Flying School, in the static display, a grey coloured HAR.2 was withdrawn at short notice.
Static display Squirrel HT.1Z J267/67 from the Defence Helicopter Flying School where it is operated on a pooled basis for basic and advanced training.
Panavia Tornado GR.4, ZA406/015, in No. 2 Squadron markings taxies in to for the static display with CBLS carrier and TIALD Pod on the fuselage pylons.
Crew leaving otherwise unmarked Panavia Tornado GR.4 (formerly a GR.4A), ZG712/122, in position for the static display.
No. 11 Squadron Typhoon FGR.4, ZJ939/DXI, carrying a centreline Litening Designator Pod lands for the static display after arriving in formation with the Vulcan.
The largest RAF asset in the static display was Merlin HC.3A, ZJ990/AA, with 78 Squadron markings on the tail seen shortly after arriving.
BAe 125 CC.3, ZD704, from No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron provided VIP Transport on the day of the Airshow and is seen departing after the event. 	.
A wave from the Navigator of No. 111 Squadron Tornado F.3, ZE788/HV, after its unfortunately foreshortened participation in the Flying Display.
Dassault Falcon 20DC, G-FRAJ, of Cobham Aviation Services breaks into the circuit to land as one of a pair ‘intercepted’ by the 111 Squadron Tornado F.3.
Not an everyday sight as a pair of 750 Naval Air Squadron Jetstream T.2 break into the circuit to land for the static display.
Scottish Aviation Jetstream T.2, XX484/566/CU66, of 750 Naval Air Squadron with ‘100 Years Of Naval Aviation’ markings in the static display.
Lynx helicopters of the Royal Navy ‘Black Cats’ Display Team, No. 815 NAS HMA.8, XZ732/314 (left) and No. 702 NAS HAS.3S, XZ234/630 (right).
Harrier GR.9, ZD463/53, from 800 Naval Air Squadron arrives for the static display.
Westland Sea King HU.5, XV699/823/PW23, from the Royal Navy’s HMS Gannet Search and Rescue Flight departing on a task late in the afternoon.
Royal Navy Historic Flight Armstrong-Whitworth Sea Hawk FGA.6, WV908/A188, in the markings of 806 Naval Air Squadron taxies out to display.
Royal Navy Historic Flight Armstrong-Whitworth Sea Hawk FGA.6, WV908/A188 in 806 Naval Air Squadron markings taxies in with wings folded.
RN Historic Flight Sea Hawk and the Skyraider which replaced the planned Sea Fury to formation during the overlap between their solo displays.
Douglas AD-4N Skyraider, G-RADR, marked as A-1H Skyraider 26922/AK 402 of VA-176 on the USS Intrepid with wings folded during engine start.
Douglas AD-4N Skyraider, G-RADR, marked as A-1H Skyraider 26922/AK 402 of VA-176 on the USS Intrepid as it taxies after arriving on Friday.
At the tail end of the day – a look down the fast jet display aircraft line-up on Friday evening with the Singapore Air Force Strikemaster in the foreground.
Embraer ERJ-135, CE-01, from 21 Squadron of the Belgian Air Component provided logistical support for the Belgian F-16 Display Team on the Friday.
Vulcan Dawn – Vulcan B.2 XH558 still in shadow as the sun rises on Saturday morning to burn off the last of the cloud for a day of blue skies.
In a column of flame, smoke and condensation Commandant Michel Beulen from 349 Squadron of the Belgian Air Component displays his F-16AM.
Specially marked F-16AM, FA-134, from the F-16 Display Team of the Belgian Air Component returns to the display aircraft line.
The 211th. Tactical Squadron of the Czech Air Force brought the first flying display of a Saab Gripen to Leuchars with JAS-39C, 9240, seen here.
Saab JAS-39C Gripen, 9240, from the 211th. Tactical Squadron of the Czech Air Force returns to the display aircraft line after its debut display at Leuchars.
AMRAAM carrying Saab JAS-39C Gripen, 9820, from the 211th. Tactical Squadron of the Czech Air Force arrives for the static display.
The Czech Air Force also brought an Aero L159T1 ALCA, 6069, from the 212th Tactical Squadron for the static display. 	.
Antonov An-26, 2507, of the 242nd.Transport Squadron of the Czech Air Force had been displayed statically in 2008 but returned with some new markings ...
... on the port side a commemoration of taking part in the 2008 RAF Waddington Airshow ...
...  and to starboard marking the 10th. Anniversary of the Czech Republic joining NATO.
Specially marked German Navy SIGINT Atlantic 61+03 from MFG-3  flies the circuit to land for a last UK appearance as its withdrawal from service approaches.
Flying the unit flag as it taxies SIGINT Atlantic 61+03 from MFG 3 shows the lumps, bumps and odd aerials associated with the arcane services it once provided.
Flying one of the lowest circuits of the show arrivals is German Air Force Tornado IDS 43+65 from JbG-31 ‘Boelke’ in the unit’s 50th.Anniversary colour scheme.
Port sideview of 50th. Anniversary schemed Tornado IDS 43+65 from JbG-31 ‘Boelke’  with the obligatory crash barriers impinging.
A surprise substitution for the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 display aircraft was J-008, in 313 Squadron’s Tiger Schemed 55th. Anniversary colour scheme.
Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 display aircraft J-008 from 313 Squadron returns after displaying trailing its brake parachute in national colours.
Another static display barrier victim was Royal Netherlands Air Force Fokker 50, U-05/’Fons Aler’ from 334 Squadron.
Compared with other Royal Netherlands Air Force aircraft at the show F-16AM, J-869, from 322 Squadron was rather plain and grey.
MiG-19UB ‘Red 15’ from the 1st. Tactical Squadron, ‘Warszawa’ (Warsaw), of the Polish Air Force taxies in after displaying with cockpit periscope raised.
Casa C-295, 020, from the 13th. Airlift Squadron of the Polish Air Force on its first visit to a Leuchars Airshow as part of the static display.
Sandwiched between a B-52 and KC-135 on the static line are two F-15C, LN/84-014 and 84-027, from the 493rd. Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath.
New Hampshire Air National Guard 133rd. Air Refuelling Squadron Boeing KC-135R, 62-3547, with ‘Rose of York’ noseart, from Pease AFB.
Boeing B-52H, 61-0011/BD, of the 93rd. Bomb Squadron/ 917th. Wing United States Air Force Reserve Command from Barksdale AFB Louisiana.
Old meets new – Fifty years seperate No. 11 Squadron Typhoon FGR.4, ZJ939/DXI  and Vulcan B.2 XH558 seen flying into Leuchars on Friday.
The unmistakable outline of the Vulcan as B.2, XH558, as it arcs round over the crowd.
Arriving together on Friday was this impressive formation of the 4 Strikemasters of Team Viper along with the Hawker Hunter PR.11 and De Havilland Venom.
Hunting Jet Provost T.3A, XM479 (G-BVEZ), operated by the Newcastle Jet Provost Company in the markings of the Central Flying School arrives.
North Wales Military Aviation Services BAC Strikemaster Mk.82A, 425 (G-SOAF), in Omani Air Force markings displayed as part of the four-ship Team Viper.
Privately owned BAC Strikemaster Mk.84, 311 (G-MXPH), in its former Singapore Air Force markings appearing as part of the Team Viper quartet.
Privately owned BAC Strikemaster Mk.80A 1130 (G-VPER), in its former Royal Saudi Air Force markings taxies out as part of the Team Viper display team.
Ex-Kenyan Air Force BAC Strikemaster Mk.87, G-UVNR, but in a typical Botswann colour scheme without national markings appeared as part of Team Viper.
Jet Provost T.3A, G-BWDS (previously XM424), operated by Air Atlantique Classic Flight in a non-standard ‘Blue Diamonds’ Hunter scheme arrives on Friday.
The four BAC Strikemasters of Team Viper, the UK’s only civilian jet display team going through their paces.
Perth based Australian Supermarine Aircraft Factory Spitfire Mk.26, IJ*H/VH-IJH,  is an 80% sized replica twin-seat kit-build owned and flown by Ian Hutchinson.
De Haviland Venom FB.1, WR470 (G-DHVM), in the markings of No. 208  Squadron and operated by Air Atlantique Classic Flight taxies displayed with ...
... otherwise unmarked Gloster Meteor NF11, WM167/G-LOSM which is also owned by Air Atlantique Classic Flight.
Hawker Hunter PR.11, XG194/N (ex-WT723 now G-PRII) on the display line is operated by Hunter Flying Ltd. in a spurious ‘Black Arrows’ colour scheme.
Spitfire Mk.IXT Trainer, H*98 (G-CCCA), in its original Royal Netherlands Air Force colour scheme by its current operator Historic Flying Ltd.
Folland Gnat T.1, XR538/01 (G-RORI), in 4 Flying Training School colours and operated by Swept Wing Ltd. arrives at Leuchars as a standby display item.
Flames lick around the jet exhaust of Folland Gnat T.1, XR538/01 (G-RORI) as it starts up to return to North Weald after being a standby display item at the show.
Rolls Royce’s Supermarine Spitfre XIX, PS853/C (G-RRGN) in No.16 Photographic Squadron markings returns after the Sunset Ceremony that closed the show.

Report and photos by Des Brennan ( view portfolio )