Biggin Hill Battle of Britain Weekend - 18th-19th September 2004

 

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Award Winners:
Best Solo -
Flt Lt Martin Day - RAF Tucano T1
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Award Winners:
Best Team -
Army Air Corps Blue Eagles and Historic Flight
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Show Stoppers: 
The Flying Boats
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Show Stoppers:
The  Scramble
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Show Stoppers:
Naval Warriors
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Arrivals Day Formations
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Biggin Hill this year held a "Battle of Britain Weekend" rather than it's traditional Air Fair. However, in the end, it was really the Air Fair in all but name with perhaps a little more focussed look on Warbirds and Military aircraft. The show was also much later in the year to be as close as possible to the traditional Battle of Britain Day - September 15th. As ever, Biggin managed to pull in the best of the UK airshow regulars with some very exciting debut acts. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK heads to the bump. All photography copyright author.

As with many other shows in 2004, the weather did the dirty on Biggin. Things started off full of promise on the press day with clear blue skies. Things started to go peat shaped on the Friday arrivals and practice day as heavy showers blew across southern england. Still, most of the expected participants turned up. However, Saturday saw an early end to flying when the clouds came down low with some persistent rain with two hours and most of the show stars yet to fly! Thankfully Sunday saw a dry day with sunny spells and everything flew providing an excellent days flying.

With the show moving to September and adopting Battle of Britain titles, it's no surprise than Biggin saw a large collection of Spitfires and Hurricanes. Billed as a dramtic scramble, 11 aircraft took off in stream followed by a few formation passes before a display by the BBMF Hurricane and two Spitfires - all this was well commented on by Brendan O'Brien, one of the many commentators at the show. The collection was further enhanced on the ground by complete recreation of a Battle of Britain airfield in front of the gathered aircraft. While such a re-enactment is large and expensive project, we couldn't help thinking that something was missing and it was over all too quickly.

It seemed a day for putting big formations together as the Army really did manage something special. The Blue Eagles formed up the the Army Air Corps Historic Aircraft Flight for a massed fly-bu of fixed and rotary winged army aviation. So well receieved was the formation that it won the award for best team display. No doubt the two teams still can't decide who really captured the award! Another team winning high praise were the Breitling Jet Team who manged to get their display on Saturday in before the weather closed in.

The winner of the solo display award was Flt Lt Martin Day for 2004's account of the Shorts Tucano T1. An award that is long overdue in your scribes opinion as this has probably been the best display by the Tucano yet seen.

The variety of the award winners is really just a reflection of the event itself. Few shows managed this level of variety and entertainment during an afternoon. One of the opening items was Guy Westgate in his Fox Glider giving a typically extrodinary account of itself - how often do we see "towed" aeros or flick rolls during a glider display? He was closely followed by a complete contrast - the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon blasting it's way around the downlands. In fact, it was a special day for F-16s at Biggin. The Dutch example, operating from Manston, was joined by the Belgian team. The Belgian's marked a first for F-16s at Biggin becoming the first to actually use and operate from Biggin's runway during a display. Technically this wasn't the first ever F-16 to land at Biggin as a Dutch F-16B was on static display in the late nineties.

Royal Air Force participation was somewhat subdued. Both the the Nimrod and Hawk displays cancelled at the last minute leaving just the Tornado F3, Harrier GR7 and Tucano T1. The Red Arrows were only present one day, but their attendance was one of the major highlights of the show. After arriving after the crowds had left on Saturday evening during a perfect sunset, Sqn Ldr Spike Jepson received a commemorative sword from Air Fair creator Jock Maitland in the presence of Ray Hanna, the second leader of the famous team. The Reds had given their first public UK performance back at the Air Fair in 1965.

Foreign Military participation was much better. we have already mentioned the pair of F-16 displays. Further to that, the French Air Force made the short hop over the Channel to present a rare solo display by a Dassault Alpha Jet E. Despite seeing the Belgian example fairly regualarly at UK shows, a displat from the French Air Force is actually quite a rare event, the last display by one was at Leuchars in 2002. The United States Air Force also made a rare outing at Biggin presenting a three ship of F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath to mark the Eagle Squadrons of the Battle. Personnel from the United States Air Force were also on the ground to meet veterans and mark the US's involvement.

You would have been mistaken for thinking there was something of a naval and maritime theme at Biggin. Not only did the North Weald based AD4 Skyraider and TBM-3E Avenger put on a spirited duo routine, but naval warbirds and classic jets and aircraft generally associated with water were the major taking points of the weekend. Making a welcome appearance over the bump was Brian Grant in the Red Bull adorned Sea Vixen D3. The Royal Navy itself was a major contributor to the flying with the stunnoing Black Cats duo of Westland Lynx HAS3 helicopters. Biggin also hosted the debut display away from base of the Royal Navy Historic Flight's duo of Sea Fury and Sea Hawk FB6 again putting on a "restricted" display having made their first flights in the week running up to the show.

Utterly Swansong

Intrepid Wingwalkers Kirsty Joly and Marie Duguid flew their last display together at the Biggin Hill show. While it was Kirsty's last show, Marie still had one performance left at Sywell a week later. We wish them well for the future

But the aircraft grabbing all of the limelight was a very rare bird indeed - Iren Dornier's Dorner Do24ATT amphibian. The aircraft itself was first built in the 1930's and used by the Spanish Air Force for search and rescue duties. It was subsequently purchased by the new Dornier company as a research aircraft for a new amphibian. The aircraft went through a major modification gaining retractable undercarriage, a new high technology wing and three Pratt and Whitney PT6A turboprops and forst flew in April 1983 before again being grounded and placed into a museum. It was from there that Iren Dornier aquired the aircraft and refurbished it in the Phillipines where it made it's post restoration flight on February 5th 2004. During 2004 it has been on a world tour visiting many airshows and cities. Before Biggin it appeared at the Jersey International Airshow and was due to continue it's tour to the United States after Biggin Hill. It was joined in the air by Plane Sailing's PBY Catalina for a unique formation display - an historic event at a UK show.

Amphibians weren't the only big props in the display. Air Atlantique once again display the elegent DC-6C growling it's way around the skies. There was a certain feeling of "what could have been" as at one point both European based Constellations were due to fly in the display. Unfortunatly, a combination of funding problems and unservicability meant the DC-6 was the only propliner left. Still, there's always next year. Joining the civilian heavy metal were a pair of military heavier types. Making it's traditional visit to Biggin Hill was B-17G Sally-B. Biggin was the former home of Sally-B when she first arrived in the UK and has been a regular at Biggin ever since. Perhaps making one of it's last UK appearances was the former TFC B-25D Mitchell Grumpy  before it departs for the states. The current home of the B-25 is North Weald and was display by Andrew Dixon. Being a Battle of Britain show, there were many more warbirds at the Show. Making a welcome appearance was Historic Aircraft Collection's Fiesler Storch. The stiff winds made sure that it could ably display it's STOL abilities. Another Duxford resident at the show was ARCo/Golden Apple's T-33 Silver Star in the hands of John Romain.

Spitfire Finale

Closing the show on Sunday was Spitfire maestro Ray Hanna with a typically emotional display in Spitfire LFIXb MH434

The early days were represented by the Great War Combat Team, though numbers in the team were slightly down. One sole SE5a was put up against the two Junkers CL1. Something that doesn't happen very often!

The show came to a perfect end with a masterful display by Ray Hanna in OFMC's Spitfire. All in all, this was perhaps the highlight of the 2004 season. A superb line up of rare and interesting types along with some old favourites combined with a unique atmosphere makes this show stand out from the rest. It was just a shame the weather continued it's trend of disrupting saturday's display.

Fun of the Fair!
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 Threat From Housing Development

Bromley council have sanctioned the building of 139 homes on the site of the former RAF married quarters, this site is designated as green belt and requires the approval of the Government Office for London before construction can begin. Our fears are that the increase in the density of housing could jeopardise the use of fast jets at future shows. 

How can you help?

We need you to tell the Government Office for London your feelings on this matter.

Do we want Green Belt land built on for no reason other than profit?

Surely Green Belt land is a precious commodity that should only be used as a last resort?

Should the public of Greater London and the South East be denied the enjoyment and excitement of fast jets, such as The Red Arrows at the most famous RAF fighter station in the world?

Please do not delay, time is short, act before the 
rubber stamp comes down

write to

The Planning Division
Government Office for London
Riverwalk House
157 - 161 Millbank
London
SW1P 4RR

or e-mail

The Divisional Manager of the planning office Mr Andrew Melville

amelville.gol@go-regions.gsi.gov.uk

copyright Flightine UK 2004