Having visited RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) for the last 2 years, this year I decided to give it a miss. Instead we decided as a family to go to the Southport Airshow with some good friends of ours. We knew the kids would love it and it would be a social event as well as an airshow. So here are my Southport Airshow 2017 Photographic Highlights.
This year, for the first time, there were flypasts on the Friday evening finishing with a firework display at 8.30pm. Due to school and traffic we unfortunately missed a few of the aircraft, finally pulling into the car park as the mighty Lancaster and Spitfire flew over. Great to see the Lancaster back in the air after 9 months of major maintenance work.
We weren’t too bothered about missing any of the aircraft on the Friday as all of them were due to return on the Saturday but it was great to see them as the light fell, a few of the aircraft even had neon lights and fireworks attached.
A highlight for everyone was the sound of the RAF Typhoon FGR4 as it made a low level approach, catching quite a few people off guard. The light was very low by now so I thought I’d try and take an image that was a little more creative. On static display was a Typhoon that members of the public could climb up and look in the cockpit. I thought if I could frame the cockpit against the setting sun and then hopefully capture the flying Typhoon in the same frame, it’d be pretty cool. I’d watched the flight height on the previous pass and thought it may be possible, if it returned at the same height. It did and then banked up at the end…even better!
After watching the fireworks we headed for some food. Frankie & Benny’s seemed like a good choice for everyone. As it happens it wasn’t just the choice for us but also for the RAF Typhoon Team, 5 or 6 of whom came in and sat on the table behind us, dressed in full RAF overalls. They certainly drew the eye of the others in the restaurant. Jokingly I asked Anthony, my 9 year old, to ask them where they got their fancy dress costumes, which he did saying ‘My dad wants to know where you got your fancy dress outfits from?’, they found this very funny and they seemed a great team.
The next day Dawn and the boys bumped into them again and they remembered them from the night before, having a good chat and giving them all some freebies. Many thanks to Sgt Glenn Evans and the Typhoon PR team, you put an extra smile on our children’s faces…Ollie as usual has his eyes closed!
For the remainder of the morning, we all looked around the many stands and displays, plenty to do for all the family. We’d already set up our chairs in preparation for the afternoon flying displays. The good things about Southport Airshow is the vast area available to position yourselves. So after filling their bags with posters, wrist bands and pens we all sat down and waited for the main event.
First to arrive were the Tigers Free Fall Team. Really good to watch and for one of the team it was his first jump as part of the team. To give him some moral support he was allowed to carry the team mascot ‘Tigger’, you can just about make him out strapped to his harness in the photo.
The first aircraft in the display was the fabulous Mustang P-51D which is owned and flown by Peter Tiechman. This is thought to be the only remaining P-51D that served with the US 332nd Fighter Group and last year Peter had the aircraft painted in the original authentic colour scheme. This Mustang’s nickname is ‘Tall In The Saddle’ and you can see that along the side.
It always amazes me when I see the Breitling Wingwalker team. The girl on top of the wing always strikes an elegant pose, even when being turned upside down. It must be cold up there!
A quick move away from planes with the arrival of ‘Otto’ the helicopter, thrown around by showman Brendan O’Brien. We’d seen Otto the night before but out of the hotel window, throwing fireworks in all directions. In the daylight it was just as impressive trailing a plume of white smoke, as it banked and turned.
First fast jet of the day was the Russian MiG-15 a formidable jet fighter, making its name in The Korean War (1950-53). I’ve seen MiG-15’s before and they are awesome, very quiet and compact.
Joining the MiG-15 came a pair of Swiss manufactured De Havilland Vampires. Both now operated by the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron. A Vampire FB.52 (PX-K) built in 1952 and a T.55 (PX-M) built in 1959. I always remember my dad had a model Vampire which I used to play with as a child. I only discovered its true identity after I saw one at an airshow a few years ago. As a child it was just a cool looking plane.
There was plenty to keep you entertained in the sky. I’m a fast jet fan (and Lancaster), the sound is amazing but I must say that one of the most entertaining acts of the day was The Turb Team. Basically self built aircraft doing some old school ‘aircraft games’. Dropping bags of flour onto a target, flying between poles on the beach, this was to imitate the old trick of ‘Barn Storming’, where a pilot would fly a plane through an open barn door and out of the other side. They even tried to pop balloons with their propellors that had been released.
There were no Red Arrows this year, which was a big disappointment, they were on a corporate assignment in the Middle East…money talks! So we were treated to Team Raven, which although will never out do the Arrows, gave a really good display.
I’ve mentioned before about my links with BAE Woodford with my Granddad working his whole career there. So anytime I see a Lancaster (as the Vulcan is no more) brings back brilliant memories. So the arrival into view of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF), featuring in tandem the last UK based Avro Lancaster B1 and a Supekrmarine Spitfire, again triggered these memories.
Again, as with the previous evening I had a certain image in mind. There was a pair of RAF flags in the crowd area. I wanted to try and use these as a foreground element with the unmistakable shape of the Avro Lancaster B1, out of focus in the background. I suppose a ‘Best of British’ type photograph.
This wasn’t the only Spitfire of the day a little later there a was a mock dogfight between another Spitfire and a Hispano HA112-M1L Buchon. The Buchon is a Spanish built aircraft but has been painted up to look like a Messerschmitt Bf109, the WWII Spitfire rival.
The Avro Lancaster wasn’t the only large bomber at this years airshow. Making an appearance was the US equivalent, the mighty Boeing B17G Flying Fortress, this particular one is known as Sally B. I’d never seen a B17 before and she really was a crowd pleaser.
For those that remember the film Memphis Belle, Sally B played a starring role. She is the last remaining airworthy B17G in Europe and I hope she continues to be appreciated for years to come. Definitely a highlight of this years show. A lot of American war planes had things painted on the aircraft, maybe to lighten the sombre mood of war? Sally B has a naked Pin-Up girl painted on the left side of the nose and a Memphis Belle on the right.
Before moving away from the Yank theme, another regular visitor to the airshows is the unmistakable sound of ‘Huey’, the Bell UH-1 helicopter, one of the most recognisable choppers due to its use in the Vietnam war as well as subsequent documentaries, films, TV shows about the Vietnam conflict. I always remember a Huey during the title sequence for once of my favourite TV shows as a kid, The A Team. I didn’t know why it referred to as Huey but it comes from its original name Bell HU-1 (Huey), it was officially reclassified to the UH-1 in 1962.
Another jet fighter to make an appearance was the BAC 167 Mk82A Strikemaster. The Strikemaster gave a great display, made even better by its custom made smoke system. This made it really stand out against the patches of blue sky.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘Save the best until last’, well that certainly for me was the case this year at Southport. There are few sounds that are better than the thunderous crackle made by the awesome RAF Typhoon FGR4. If you’ve never witnessed the sound made by one of these at close range then I urge you to change that.
I was pretty sure that the Typhoon would announce its arrival by making a low level fast pass from the left, this is what it had done on the Friday night. Looking to left meant looking towards the sun, so I thought I’d shoot a bit wider and try and incorporate a few different tones from the sea, sand and spectators gathered on the beach. Basically take advantage of the high contrast, rather than shooting a tighter image that would lack detail. I think it’s always worth looking for potential images in your mind, things often don’t go to plan but none the less, it keeps your creativity flowing.
I really wanted to try and get a photo of the Typhoon with the amazing vapour that sometimes appears when it banks and turns. I’m not really sure what causes this, sometimes you see it sometimes you don’t, presumably atmospheric conditions play a part as well. On this day it didn’t seem to happen, certainly not to the extent I’d wished for. Here’s an image from Saturday with a little of the effect I mention.
It’s always a challenge to try and capture an image of a fast jet as it performs a low level fast pass. Especially when you’re being lazy and sitting down. The lighting wasn’t the greatest by this time, slightly behind and to the left. This makes the sky a little lacking in colour as you have to expose for the aircraft, if you want to show details.
So another airshow had come to an end. Such a brilliant day, the kids loved it…well Ollie was a little scared of the Typhoon noise but at least he’ll remember it, haha. We finished the day off by taking the children for a few rides at Pleasureland then filling ourselves at the all you can eat Chinese Buffet. Here’s to next year!