Dawlish can be found on the beautiful South Coast of England in the county of Devon, perhaps best known in Europe for the damage it sustained during the very heavy storms in 2014 when large sections of the coastal railway were washed away and homes on the sea front were damaged.
The Annual Dawlish Airshow is organized by a small but dedicated group of volunteers who work year round to raise the money required to hold the event. The flying display is held over the bay with Dawlish as a stunning backdrop. As you can imagine spectators can watch from the whole of the sea front and surrounding areas. Making it impossible for the watchers to be charged and so making the fund raising and donations all the more important. The organisers need to raise over ť70,000 to deliver the show and take no wages themselves so all the money goes into covering the cost of the show and payment for the participating aircraft. Interestingly this year they did not have enough money to secure the Avro 698 VULCAN in its final display season. Undaunted they launched an internet campaign to raise the extra cash and with only days to spare were very pleased to announce they had done it and the VULCAN was now on the bill! The anticipated number of spectators is 60 to 70,000 so this is no small event. The show is well supported by the RAF and the Royal Navy with both service aircraft and historic participants.
The show kicked off with the RAF BAe HAWK T.Mk 2 Role Demo, from RAF Valley. The latest variant of the BAE Systems Hawk and the transition aircraft for RAF pilots leading onto Panavia TORNADO Gr.Mk 4a and Eurofighter EF-2000 TYPHOON FGR4. Fully acrobatic with a max speed of 555 kts the HAWK T2 has a full digital cockpit and advanced avionics and simulation systems allowing for a shorter transition period when the pilots and weapons officers move onto the front line Jets. Following the HAWK was the Westland SEA KING HAR 5 of 771 Naval Air Squadron Culdrose just over the county border in Cornwall. This is the final year for the SEA KING as they retire and the role is handed over to a private company to provide Search And Rescue (SAR) services in the UK. The display was to show a rescue scenario coordinated with the RNLI, lifting a casualty from a moving boat and returning him after a lap of the bay. This is just the type of emergency the RNLI and the SAR teams perform everyday in this area. Also expected at the helicopter landing site was the Wessex WHIRLWIND HAR 10 XJ729, the only airworthy example of its type but unfortunately it suffered a bird strike shortly after take off and had to return to base. The owner Andrew Whitehouse did arrive in an Agusta A109 aII to add to the Helo line up.
The action them moved back to the RAF with the 2015 display TYPHOON from RAF No. 29 (Reserve) Squadron at RAF Coningsby in the Battle of Britain commemorative colour scheme. No one could miss the low level approach down the coast and into the bay and with lots of moisture in the air the high energy maneuvers looked even better!! The RAFs leading fighter aircraft again showed its agility and power with the two Eurojet EJ200 Turbojets roaring across the bay stopping all conversations on the sea front! A great display against a great backdrop.
The BAC STRIKEMASTER is an armed and modified version of the old RAF jet trainer the JET PROVOST. Today we see Mark Petrie displaying his aircraft solo although he also flys with TEAM VIPER displaying this type. The STRIKEMASTER was modified to be a light attack aircraft as well as a training platform for small air forces. With the Viper 525 engine, armour, drop tanks and under wing hard points this is a fighting airplane. The display is very tight and shows the maneuverability of the type well. Having completed his solo display Mark returned in close formation with the next display the modified Pitts Special S2S of Rich Goodwin the Muscle Biplane! The did several close formation passes before the STRIKEMASTER broke off leaving the bay clear for some spectacular acrobatics from the ex RAF Tornado GR1 pilot including the High Alfa Knife edge flight for the full length of the bay.
The Royal Navy took centre stage then with a fly through from two Westland SEA KING MK4 “Junglie” helicopters of the Commando Helicopter Force from RNAS Yeovilton followed by the Royal Navy Black Cats flying the latest Westland LYNX, variant the Agusta Westland AW159 WILDCAT Maritime attack helicopter. Based at RNAS Yeovilton and from 702 Naval Air Squadron the BLACK CATS are no strangers to our readers as they have been reported on many times. Although the LYNX ancestry is quite clear there is only a 5% commonality of parts with the LYNX AH7. The display itself was a little distant but it is expected at coastal displays.
As the weather began to turn the mighty VULCAN XH558 ran in from the East over the bay with the trade mark howl of the Olympus engines! After 8 years of display flying the VULCAN has come to the end of its road. The type has been flying with a break for over 55 years and has been thrilling audiences for every one of them, but XH558 now has more flying hours than any other VULCAN and the technical authorities (the three companies) on whom XH558 relies have all decided to end their support at the end of this flying season.
The display was the usual awesome spectacle we expect from the only flying Vulcan in the world and was well received by all but with a tint of sadness as all knew that the sky over Dawlish would not see this spectacle ever again. As XH558 ended the final power climb out of the bay and the Olympus engines faded to a whisper the coast fell silent as all listened to the end of an era. The weather closed in with lightning over the English Channel and rain light and heavy forcing a break in the flying display. By the time the weather had improved the other Coldwar warbird the DeHavilland DH-110 SEA VIXEN had to cancel, John Beattie brought the Kennet Aviation Supermarine SEAFIRE in to display but visibility was getting worse and by the end of his otherwise first rate display it was very poor indeed and forced all flying to be abandoned so no BBMF Fighters or the RAF RED ARROWS. It was an unfortunate end to a great day at Dawlish, our thanks and congratulations go to the Dawlish Airshow Committee for organizing a great day.
At the same time the Dawlish show was on there where two other shows on the South Coast, Bournemouth and Shoreham with Dawlish sharing some of the participating aircraft. As I am sure you all know there was a tragic accident at Shoreham resulting in the loss of 11 lives and numerous other injuries when a Hawker HUNTER T.Mk 7 / G-BFXI failed to recover from a loop and crashed onto a busy road. The pilot Andy Hill is still in hospital in a coma.
Our thoughts and best wishes are with all involved.
Will Moore / CHK 6 UK
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