MILAVIA > Air Shows > RAF Leuchars Airshow 2010 Last updated: 27 October 2010

Air Show Report : RAF Leuchars Airshow 2010


This years airshow at RAF Leuchars on September 11 was more than just another edition of its international airshow. In addition to celebrating the Battle of Britain anniversary it also marked the arrival of RAF 6 Squadron, the first Typhoon unit to form at RAF Leuchars, and consequently the last airshow for resident 111 Sqn Tornado F.3 fighters. Des Brennan reports.

RAF Leuchars Airshow 2010:
Tornado risk decreases… but… Typhoon risk increases

This years Airshow at RAF Leuchars in Fife took place on Saturday 11th September, the weekend closest to Battle of Britain Day on the 15th. The event at Leuchars has evolved from the Battle of Britain At Home Days once marked by many RAF establishments following the Second World War but over time the number has gradually dwindled leaving Leuchars as the sole operational RAF station to host an Airshow at this time of year. Commemorating the events of the of 1940 has always been an integral part of the Leuchars event despite the gradual change in emphasis from At Home Day to International Airshow and this was reflected in this 70th.Anniversary year of the Battle.

As the last of the four to land 111 Squadron Tornado F.3 ZE961/HB brings up the rear as the aircraft taxi back in front of the crowd at the end of the show.

While events at the show celebrated this important anniversary they also marked what could be the final year of service for one of the participants in that battle, locally based 111 (Fighter) Squadron, which will disband in March 2011 to face an uncertain future when the Panavia Tornado F.3 of which they are the final operator is withdrawn from service. 111 Squadron currently holds 24 hour a day, 365 days a year sole responsibility for Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) for the northern area of the United Kingdom stretching out into the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
They will be replaced by 6 Squadron flying the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 which officially formed earlier that week and whose arrival at Leuchars was another feature of the show. While the changes that this transfer will bring were obvious there were also several other types at the show drawing close to the end of their service careers. My images cover both arrivals on Friday and the public event on Saturday and were taken on the as always well-subscribed Airshow Enthusiasts Package.

Two of the first four 6 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4, ZK300/EJ and PIRATE equipped ZJ946/EH, arrive on Friday morning.

On Monday 6th September, 6 Squadron’s Standard was transferred from safe keeping at the RAF College Cranwell to Leuchars and the first squadron aircraft appeared in full markings. In very poor weather on Friday 10th September the first four aircraft arrived at Leuchars from RAF Coningsby for the Airshow next day the opening and closing of which would encapsulate the major themes celebrating the arrival of 6 Squadron and the Typhoon FGR.4, the forthcoming retiral of 111 Squadron and their Tornado F.3 as well as the Battle of Britain anniversary.

Shortly after flying began in the morning 111 Squadron’s specially marked flagship ZE734/JU joined the RAF Typhoon and Spitfire Synchro Display Team to perform a flypast as the 6 Squadron Standard was formally paraded before HRH Prince Edward, The Duke of Kent and the Chief of the Air Staff against a background of two 6 Squadron Typhoon FGR.4s. This visual demonstration of air defence past, present and future and what it means for Leuchars was to be repeated when the show came to an end.

111 Squadron flagship Tornado F.3 ZE734/JU takes-off on Saturday morning to participate in a flypast celebrating 6 Squadron parading its colours.

As always the Airshow was closed by the traditional Sunset Ceremony with the Station Flag being lowered to the sound of a bagpipe lament while a based aircraft flies past in salute. This year it was preceded by the Spitfire and Hurricane from the Historic Aircraft Collection performing their paired and solo displays and as the ceremony began a three-ship of 111 Squadron Tornado F.3 flew past to be followed by a single example along with a 6 Squadron Typhoon. As this pair approached low and fast the Tornado pulled up and away leaving the Typhoon alone to present compliments at the salute in front of the old control tower where a 111 Squadron Tornado, 6 Squadron Typhoon and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire in 6 Squadron markings formed a backdrop. With the Airshow then officially over a more poignant moment followed once all four 111 Squadron F.3 had performed their run in, break and stream landing when instead of turning off onto the Southern Taxiway and returning to the squadron site the aircraft turned around at and taxied back along in front of the crowd-line in what some watchers likened to a funeral cortege.

0730 Saturday morning with the gates about to open for the public the overnight rain was still coming down in torrents and the cloud base was at ground level.
By 1200 Saturday the rain had stopped, the ground dried and the last of what was by then high cloud was clearing to provide blue skies for the rest of the day.

Otherwise the Airshow followed the successful formula of previous years with the RAF providing roughly half of the flying displays and the rest split between overseas military involvement and warbirds. Despite an early morning downpour which caused road traffic and off-site parking problems it was dry by the time that flying started and cloud cover gradually improved as the morning went on to provide blue skies in the afternoon. This meant that while the RAF Falcon Parachute Team jumped at relatively low level from their Puma in the morning, the Red Arrows were able to put on a full display in the afternoon. Other RAF displays came from the Typhoon, Synchro Typhoon and Spitfire as mentioned, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and King Air along with role demonstrations as opposed to aerobatic displays by a Harrier as well as pairs of Tornado GR.4 and Hawk T.1. The Royal Navy Historic Flight Seahawk had arrived on Friday but a technical fault grounded it for the show.
Overseas displays came from both Belgian and Dutch F-16 Display Teams with the latter firing flares during his display, from France with an Alpha Jet, the Czech Air Force with a JAS 39C Gripen along with first time appearances by the Saab 105 and J 29 Tunnan of the Swedish and DeHavilland Vampire of the Norwegian Air Force Historic Flights. Civilian owned preserved aircraft participants in the flying display ranged from a replica SE5a of the First World War through Harvard, Spitfire and Hurricane of the Second World War to the post-war F-86, Vulcan and Team Viper making their display debut after moving to a four Hunter team with hopefully larger formations to follow in years to come.

The Runway Marker says 09 but only seven of the nine Red Arrows Hawk T.1 are in frame here as they leave the runway after landing.

The static display held some interesting visitors but seemed sparser than previous years and somewhat paradoxically despite the available space had some aircraft overlapping and penned in behind closely placed barriers, portable toilets and snack vans. For the first time in several years the RAF provided a VC10 for static display, which along with the Dominie are drawing ever closer to the end of their service. They were joined by pairs of locally based Tornado F.3 and Typhoon FGR.4 along with single examples of Tornado GR.4, Harrier GR.9, Hawk T.1, King Air, Griffin, Merlin and for the first time Chinook HC.3. The Royal Navy provided a soon to be retired Jetstream T.2 which also performed a ‘rescue’ mission on Friday afternoon by flying Vulcan to the Sky engineers and equipment to Brize Norton where XH558 was stranded with a brake problem. An Islander from the Army Air Corps also made a rare appearance in the static line-up which the barrier team excelled themselves in surrounding with tubular steel.
USAF participation was reduced this year with only the appearance of a KC-135R and B-52H and while the latter was again from Barksdale AFB the Stratotanker was from the 100th ARW at RAF Mildenhall which has not displayed at Leuchars for many years. European support came from Germany with a Tornado IDS in Afghanistan deployment markings and a JG71 F-4F Phantom II on what might be a last Leuchars visit, making its debut was a French C-130H, Denmark provided both a single and twin-seat F-16 and the Czech Republic returned with their An-26, L-159 ALCA and Saab JAS 39D Gripen which had markings celebrating 10,000 flying hours and ‘Tigers Eye’ painted canards for the following months Tiger Meet at Volkel, the Netherlands. Additionally there were a number of preserved and light civilian types with links to the area and for the first time a pair of civilian airliners in the shape of a FlyBe Saab 340 and City Jet Dornier 328 which are both flown on scheduled services from nearby Dundee.

In recent years at Leuchars there has been a gradual increase in displays by preserved aircraft as demands on military assets have increased and budgets contracted, similarly the presence of contemporary and vintage light aircraft on static display has grown for which the inclusion of locally operated airliners seems a natural progression. One wonders if the next step might involve an airliner in the flying display in which case I would heartily recommend the Star Air Boeing 767 freighters operated out of Edinburgh whose typically fighter-like take-offs compare well with the performance of the now sadly neutered, much restricted and continually embattled Vulcan.

Leuchars 2010 was a very well presented show and a credit to the work done by all involved especially in marking the final public outing for the Tornado F.3, as one 111 Squadron member said on the eve of the show ‘this year its all about us’ and it proved to be so right down to the end. Strategic Defence Spending Review and operational commitments permitting next years show marking 100 years of flying at Leuchars has been provisionally set for Saturday 10th September and will be keenly anticipated as the UK’s only true Battle of Britain Air Show.

Then serving as a weapons load trainer and carrying AMRAAM and ASRAAM missiles 111 Squadron Tornado F.3 ZE965/HZ was on static display.
111 Squadron Tornado F.3 three-ship perform their flypast during the closing Sunset Ceremony in their last public display before disbanding early in 2011.
Although one of the latest Typhoon FGR.4 built ZK300/EJ shows signs of heavy use as 6 Squadron worked up towards officially forming and moving to Leuchars.
Typhoon FGR.4 ZJ946/EH shows its new 6 Squadron markings to effect in the late afternoon sunshine after taking part in the closing Sunset Ceremony.
The first two 6 Squadron Typhoon FGR.4 to arrive at Leuchars, ZK302/EA and ZK307/EE, come to rest on Friday morning.
With engines shut down, canards canted forward and canopy open the pilot of 6 Squadron Typhoon FGR.4 ZJ946/EH arrives at his new base.
6 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon ZJ946/EH taxies out to take part in the Sunset Ceremony flypoast that brought the Airshow to a close.
The Spitfire and Typhoon Synchro pair are joined by 111 Squadron flagship Tornado F.3 in a flypast to mark the formal parading of the 6 Squadron standard.
Air defence past, present and future as Spitfire, Typhoon and Tornado F.3 provide the backdrop for the closing Sunset Ceremony and lowering of the flag.
A cloud of black smoke on engine start for Spitfire LF.IX, MK356 UF-Q, of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in late-war 6 Squadron markings.
Post-flight checks on Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Hurricane IIC, PZ865/JX-E, in the 1 Squadron ‘Night Reaper' markings of Karel Kuttelwascher.
317 (Polish) Squadron Spitfire Vb BM597/JH-C returns after displaying with fellow Historic Aircraft Collection Hurricane prior to the Sunset Ceremony.
Historic Aircraft Collection Hurricane XIIa X5140 wearing the HA-C codes of 126 Squadron taxies out to display with the HAC Spitfire.
Following their formation and solo displays the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire and Hurricane are parked in the foreground while the Lancaster taxies in.
Although the 2010 Typhoon Solo Display Team was provided by 29(R) Squadron the aircraft used was 11 Squadron FGR.4 ZJ923/DM.
The view from under the display line as 11 Squadron Typhoon FGR.4 ZJ923/DM performs its practice display on Friday afternoon.
Noise, flame and raw power as the 2010 Royal Air Force Typhoon Solo Display pilot demonstrates his aircraft to the crowd.
Display completed 11 Squadron Typhoon FGR.4 ZJ923/DM taxies back in past the 6 Squadron marked BBMF Spitfire awaiting engine start for his turn.
How would that be for a spot landing ?  ...some members of the  RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team come into land.
Team Leader 'Red 1' breaks off to lead the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team the Red Arrows into a stream landing following their display.
Described by the Commentator as a 'Spitcano' 72(R) Squadron Tucano T.1 ZF317 in the colours and LZ-R code of a 72 Squadron Battle of Britain Spitfire.
208 Squadron Hawk T.1 XX194/194 and XX171/171 make a pairs arrival of Friday for their Role Demonstration at the Airshow next day.
Beech King Air ZK450/J 'Assyrian' of 45(R) Squadron taxies in on Friday afternoon to take part in the static display.
After declaring a problem on landing Royal Navy Historic Flight Sea Hawk FGA.6 WV908/A-188 in 806 NAS markings was hangared for the weekend.
The Blades flying their Extra 300 LP aerobatic aircraft with the logo of the Royal Air Force Association below the wings highlighting their RAF backgrounds.
F-16AM FA-131 from 2 Wing of the Belgian Air Component taxies in as display spare on Friday afternoon in the grey 2009 display colour scheme.
Wearing the blue 2010 display colour scheme F-16AM FA-110 from 10 Wing of the Belgian Air Component is seen at rest on the display aircraft ramp.
Displaying just after the rain on Saturday morning the Belgian Air Component Solo Display F-16AM  FA-110 from 10 Wing creates its own clouds.
Specially marked Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Solo Display F-16AM J-015 prepares for its Friday afternoon practice display.
Saab JAS 39C Gripen 9236 from 211 Tactical Squadron Czech Air Force taxies out to display on Saturday afternoon.
EAC00.314 of the French Air Force supplied a pair of Alpha Jet with E146/314-RR providing a solo display and E51-705-AD acting as display spare.
Alpha Jet E146/314-RR from EAC00.314 of the French Air Force returns after performing its solo display on Saturday.
Saab J29F 29670/R  (SE-DXB) from the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight taxies out to display on its first visit to Leuchars.
Four seat utility variant of the Saab 105/Sk60E, 60140/140-5 (SE-DXG), from the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight returns after displaying.
Saab 105/Sk60E and J29F of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight fly together during the Synchro element of their debut display at Leuchars.
De Havilland Vampire Mk.55 PX-M (LN-DHZ) of the Norwegian Air Force Historic Flight taxies out to display.
Team Viper flew their first public Hunter four-ship display at Leuchars, an exercise in perfection of sight and sound under a clear blue sky.
Formerly in service as XL600 Hunter T.7 G-VETA now operates as part of the Team Viper and is seen here taxiing out for a Friday afternoon practice display.
Former FRADU operated Hunter GA.11 XE685/861 now privately owned and flying as part of Team Viper returns from its display.
Still wearing the 'Raspberry Ripple' paint scheme from when it was operated by A&AEE Hunter FGA.9 XE601 taxies out to display with Team Viper.
Built as a Hunter F.4, XG194 underwent various conversions during service, ending up as a Royal Navy PR.11 and now flies as part of Team Viper.
North American F-86A Sabre 8178/FU-178 (G-SABR) operated by Golden Apple Operations takes-off to display.
Delayed because of brake problems Vulcan B.2 XH558 displayed publicly straight from transiting north but is still a magnificent, if subdued, sight and sound.
Eurofighter Typhoon T.1 ZJ805/BD from 29 (R) Squadron attended as display spare wearing the S-RO code from a Battle of Britain Blenheim.
XV(R) Squadron at Lossiemouth provided Tornado GR.4 ZD741/089 and ZA598/064 to perform a Role Demonstration of Close Air Support techniques.
Also from Lossiemouth but in the static display was Tornado GR.4 ZD849/110 from 617 Squadron 'The Dambusters'.
Operating from the south side of the airfield was the 4 (Reserve) Squadron Role Demonstration Harrier GR.9 ZD321/02 still carrying 20 (R) marks on the tail.
Best seat in the house for the pilot of 1 Squadron Harrier GR.9A ZD467/57A as he watches the Belgian Air Component F-16 perform.
Hawk T.1A XX265/265 from 19 (R) Squadron displaying a charity promotion banner in the static line-up.
ZH899 from the Odiham Wing was making a first visit for the wide sponsoned HC.3 variant of the Chinook and was open to the public as seen here.
The distinctive nose radome of Merlin HC.3A ZJ994/AC from 28/78 Squadrons.
Griffin HT.1 ZJ236/X from 60 (R) Squadron, Defence Helicopter Flying School in the static display.
Retirement steadily approaches for the RAF VC10 fleet including VC10 K.3  ZA148/G from 101 Squadron  seen just after arriving on Friday afternoon.
Providing VIP transport for Royal and senior military guests was BAe125 CC.3 ZE395 from 32 (The Royal) Squadron seen here departing after the show.
Soon to retire Jetstream T.2 XX481/560/CU60 from 750 Naval Air Squadron is departing here to 'rescue' Vulcan XH558 before going on static display.
Islander AL.1 ZG848 from 651 Squadron Army Air Corps was an unusual and welcome visitor as well as being a notable 'barrier' victim.
B-52H  BD/60-0045 'Cherokee Strip II' from the 93rd. Bomb Squadron at Barksdale AFB seen on Friday afternoon before the barrier team struck.
Close-up of the 'Cherokee Strip II' noseart on the 93rd. Bomb Squadron's B-52H BD/60-0045.
KC-135R 60-0328 from the 100th. Air Refeulling Wing at RAF Mildenhall on approach through the drizzle on Friday morning.
Noseart on 100 ARW KC-135R 60-0328 commemorates its links with the UK that go back to the 100th. Bomb Group during Word War II.
On perhaps its last Leuchars Airshow visit Luftwaffe F-4F Phantom II 37+89 from JG 71 'Richthofen' appeared in the static display.
Carrying a large recce pod below the fuselage Tornado IDS 45+64 from AG 51 'Immelmann' also wore an Afghanistan deployment marking on the intakes.
Close-up of the Einsatzgeschwader (Combat Wing) Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan deployment marking on AG 51 Tornado IDS 45+64.
Arriving late on Friday evening French Air Force C-130H-30 Hercules 5151/61-PH from ET03.061 'Poitou' was well surrounded by barriers next morning.
Head-on view of C-130H-30 Hercules 5151/61-PH from ET.03.061 'Poitou' of the French Air Force showing the distinctive threat warning receivers.
Saab JAS 39D Gripen 9819 from 211 Tactical Squadron Czech Air Force with 10,000 flight hours tail marking arrives on Friday for static display.
By Saturday morning Czech Air Force 211 Tactical Squadron Saab JAS 39D Gripen 9819 was  showing off its 'Tiger Eyes' for the October NATO Tiger Meet.
F-16BM ET-613 was one of two Danish Air Force Fighting Falcons from Esk 727 to take part in the static display, the other being F-16AM E-006.
F-16AM J-512 from 313 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force attended as display spare and is seen having its 'Smokewinder' topped up.
Eastern Airways operate the Jetstream 41 on scheduled flights from Aberdeen but G-MAJG was being used by British Aerospace for their VIP guests.
FlyBe operates Saab 340B including G-LGNF seen arriving for the static display on behalf of Loganair for scheduled services from nearby Dundee.
Scot Airways also operate scheduled flights from Dundee using Dornier 328 some, like G-BWIR seen arriving for the static display, in CityJet livery.

Report and photos by Des Brennan ( view portfolio )