From One Year to the Next

Planning the 2014 RAFA Shoreham Airshow

Words by John Periam (Press Officer)

WHEN THE last aircraft has taken off on the Sunday night, to return to base, the organising team start the mammoth task of clearing the airfield ready for it to be returned to normal operational status on the Monday afternoon.

Derek Harber, the Airshow organiser, supported by his wife Lesley and Sue Halfpenny, then set about paying the many bills and collecting ticket sale money from the different outlets. This process takes about two months.

There is then the all-important ‘Airshow De-Briefing’ where the committee go through the show in fine detail, discussing any issues that caused some concern. This can cover all aspects from car parking to the flying display. Nothing is too small. Once approved by the shows Directors, interim budgets are agreed for the next airshow.

[img src=8486 align=left]Number one priority is the flying display. Rod Dean, our Display Director, contacts the RAF Events Team to book all aircraft on their schedule. He will not know until March what has been allocated. The same will happen with other military services, as well as some of the important civilian display teams. Schedules have to be worked out as there are other displays around the UK. We always try to go for the same weekend every year. Bournemouth’s Seafront show is on also then. It is a different catchment area, and we can share aircraft. The fast jets base themselves at Hurn and have the slower aircraft that can work out of Shoreham’s airfield. One word describes this ‘logistics’!

Many civilian display pilots class Shoreham as their favourite event – often resulting in a waiting list of aircraft wishing to participate. What we try to do is vary the show each year with a set theme, whilst at the time retaining some of our favourite scenario slots, such as the Airfield Attack and Scramble.

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Each team member has a specific role. Andrew Lamb is Derek’s second in command and looks after the budgets, as well as many other hidden tasks. The way to describe Andrew is that he is a ‘Networking Specialist’ who has an endearing way of communicating with people that bring positive results!

As Press Officer, I set the ball rolling with booking adverts in the media for the year, working with our sponsors, planning the programme schedule with Geoff Lee, my assistant press officer, and working with Dean Cook our all-important Art Designer in planning the programme. Colin Baker looks after all the advertising and getting new sponsors on board.

Ian Taylor is our Airshow Safety Officer having a proven track record in this specialist field. His brief is to see that the airshow runs to plan without any incident in the air, and on the ground. He works with the fire, police and ambulance services as well as security and the CAA. Shoreham is respected by all for its stringent safety procedures!

[img src=8484 align=right]By the end of December we know how much we can give to our charity, The Royal Air Forces Association. To date we have given almost 1.9 million pounds – a record equalled by none! RAFA celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2013 and has over 65,000 members world-wide with over 430 branches. Our donations go to helping past and present members of the RAF and their families.

Paul Johnson (Flightline UK) works on the Airshow Website along with James George – this is updated on a regular basis with any airshow news. As the event gets closer, meetings are held with caterers, marquee builders and the dreaded toilet providers (always a bone of contention).

Ken Bird liaises with the trade stand owners who always want the best site. Planning the static aircraft display is left to the experienced Alan Mates. Rod Dean is now at the stage with the display planning where he is working out time slots for each aircraft or display team. As one flies off – another arrives. Fast jets like the Typhoon have limited fuel on board, so need to fly into their display before returning back to Hurn. Tickets, car passes, programmes, posters, flyers and passes for all and sundry, disabled badges and airfield fencing and markings have to be scheduled along with the important airfield grass cutting. No rest!

Our excellent commentator Terence Henderson (Retired Concorde Captain) starts to work on his schedule with Rod, so that on both days his commentary goes to plan. If anyone has to look out for last minute changes, Terence does!

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The media team are doing radio interviews, providing editorial, planning ticket competitions and working with regional radio and television to get some valuable air time. Press Day comes and goes – an important part of pre-planning with presentations to the media from Rod, Derek, RAFA HQ and me – supported by Geoff Lee behind the scenes.

[img src=8483 align=left]It is all go right up until the week before, when our dedicated helpers arrive to help set up the fencing, and entrance areas. Friday sees an influx of people waiting for the arrival of most of the display aircraft based at Shoreham. The look-a-likes set up their areas – always popular with the crowds.

The organisers are going through last minute panic attacks re the advance weather forecast, cancelled display slots, etc. Hotel accommodation is looked after by Margaret Wards (we take over most hotels in Worthing for aircrew).

Andrew Lamb changes into his ‘shorts’ for the duration of the airshow and commences to consume the odd pint or two of Spitfire Ale between a work schedule most would run away from. Derek Harber and his wife Lesley seem to take on the pressures without a murmur – supported by dedicated family members

[img src=8482 align=right]A big thank you must go to the many Air Cadets under the control of Squadron Leader Kevin Tucker, who one day could well be the future RAF.

The Executive Marquee is looked after by Pauline Webb and her team, whilst Maureen Meadows manages the VIP Guest area. The onsite zone managers and gate managers prepare for the many issues that will come their way over the next 2 days. Their patience, at times is stretched to the limit trying to meet many public requests!

Then there is the Hush!!! The first display aircraft arrives for the 2014 Shoreham Airshow. Total budget is in the region of £450,000. We go through the next two days counting to ten, hoping that all goes to plan.

Running such a large event is a mammoth task. We also need to thank Kenny Wards MBE, Ivor Lewis (both long standing team members), Chris Scriven, Gerald Prince, Bob Easterbrook ,Bob Webb, Alan Jones, John Place, Bill Nicholson and Anne Bean plus many others, who have now taken a back seat, and yet still find time to help on both days. Also a big thank you to our absent friends who were, and are still so much part of what the show is all about – ‘A Family Event’.

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