Somerset’s Finest

Lewis Gaylard attended Somerset’s RNAS Yeovilton Air Day 2013. Images by Mike Kerr and Bob Franklin.

RNAS Yeovilton always puts on a varied and spectacular air show and this was very much the case on July 13th.

Yeovilton this year had a very good mix of foreign and UK participants both in the air and on the ground. The highlight for many was the inclusion of the Czech Air Force SAAB JAS-39C Gripen, which made its Yeovilton debut in dramatic style. An Aero Vodochody L-159A ALCA was also provided by the Czech Air Force which gave a very noisy display.

A regular participant at Yeovilton is the Belgian F-16AM Fighting Falcon, piloted this year by Major Grat Thys. The Belgian F-16AM is one of the best fast-jet displays around and using ample flare releases it tore up the skies around Yeovilton having already displayed at Valenciennes in France earlier in the day.

[img src=6770 align=full]It was a welcome return to Yeovilton for the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 which gave a superb display in the glorious weather. It was a busy day for Flt Lt Jamie Norris as he was also displaying at the Swansea air show, which gave the large crowd several opportunities to see and hear the RAF’s latest high performance fast-jet.

[img src=6767 align=left]Yeovilton always has a unique formation, or two, in the display and this year the crowd was treated to the rare sight of the Royal Navy Historic Flight (RNHF) Fairey Swordfish LS326 with a pair of AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat HMA2s. It was a very fitting display in this year of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

The other RNHF performer was the Hawker Sea Fury T20, piloted by Lt Cdr Chris Gotke, which entered the display circuit alongside Kennet Aviation’s Douglas AD4N Skyraider and Peter Teichman in his North American P-51D Mustang for a number of formation passes before they split to perform their own solo displays.

There are always a lot of helicopters at Yeovilton and this year the crowd was treated to numerous displays which included the ‘home team’ with the singleton Lynx HMA8 of the ‘Black Cats’, the remarkable Army Air Corps (AAC) Lynx AH7, with its now famous ‘flick-knife’ manoeuvre, the new Royal Navy AgustaWestland Merlin HM2, which is still in its evaluation stage with 824NAS and the Lynx maritime role demo. However, the 2 displays that stood apart from the rest was the RAF Boeing-Vertol Chinook HC2 display, which is quite remarkable considering the size of the aircraft and the Yeovilton debut of the Belgian Agusta A109BA which produced an eye watering display accompanied with a generous use of flares.

[img src=6776 align=full]Other notable displays were the RAF ‘Red Arrows’, the Jordanian Falcons, the Avro Vulcan, a rare display by an Eastern Airways SAAB 2000 and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight amongst many others.

The end of the air show at Yeovilton concluded with the now legendary ‘Commando Assault’. This year the ‘assault’ started with the Red Star Rebels in their Aero L-29 Delphin trainers who had the audacity to ‘attack’ the airfield! This called for a dramatic response from the Yeovilton based Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), with assistance from an AAC WAH-64D Apache AH1 and a couple of Wildcat AH1s; they swiftly brought the might of the Royal Marines to the airfield. With Close Air Support provided by two BAe Hawk T1As of the newly formed 736 NAS, the ‘Commando Assault’ proceeded to demonstrate troop drops, under-slung load carrying and the extraction of hostages all accompanied with numerous explosions and a very dramatic flare burst!

It was an extraordinary way to end another highly successful RNAS Yeovilton air day.

Posted in Features