Kemble Air Day 2004 - 20th June




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Kemble has gained an enviable reputation fro producing some of the best air shows in the country over recent year with some unique acts and memorable moments. Kemble is the former home to the Red Arrows, and in their 40th Anniversary Year, Kemble was one of six venues to officially celebrate this special occasion with it's home based collection of classic jet types. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports.

Home Town Heroes!

Red Arrow's Homecoming

The Red Arrows returned home to their spiritual home at Kemble as part of their 40th Anniversary Season. The Reds were based at Kemble from 1966 to 1983 occupying the hangers which are now home to Delta Jets's fleet of Hunters, Gnats and a Jet Provost. Kemble also hosted a Red Arrows reunion over the show weekend where many memories of their time at the Cotswolds airfield were rekindled.

Kemble's Home Team

Kemble pre show publicity was highly impressive, the official website and press releases boasted a formidable line up over the months leading up to the event. Despite a few late cancellations, notably the Swiss Hunter Pair (still under maintenance since their last appearance in 2001) and the Fairey Gannet T5 (still in the US at the time of publication) the show still had a strong varied list of participants. It was a shame then that the mid summer weather didn't play ball plaguing the show with cold temperatures, sharp thundery showers and sunny spells. I suppose you can't have everything. It's therefore amazing that the show ran smoothly with no cancellations due to the weather.

The show opened with it's tribute to the Red Arrows 40th Anniversary. The team was joined by Delta Jet's Gnat T1 in training colours flown by former "arrow" Andy Cubin. Andy was having a busy day. After displaying the Gnat he quickly changed to the Extra 300 of the Xtreme Team before returning to jets to take part in the Hunter finale. It was a shame the planned appearance by the Yellowjacks marked Gnat had to be cancelled, though it was only static display alongside the scarlet Hawks.  Despite this not being the "Classic Jets Airshow" which will make a welcome return in 2005, Classic Jets did make a strong contribution to the event. Delta Jets naturally supplied a solo by their Flagship Hunter T7A WV318 in it's Black Arrows markings, the forerunners to today's Red Arrows. Delta also concluded the display with a formation routine by WV318, Hunter T7 WV372 and Jonathon Whalley's Hunter F58a Miss Demeanour. The latter also provided another solo following repairs to it's rear jet pipe after a landing incident at Southend at the end of May. Earlier technology was well represented by a solo Vampire T11. Powering it's way through some storm clouds was De Havilland Aviation's Sea Vixen G-CVIX which opened the Red Bull Air Race. This was a competition between aerobatic pilots held over a course marked by inflatable pylons and set aerobatics. The quickest and cleanest runs won! The event was well received by the Kemble crowd. There's no doubting it was unique and exciting though a little work on the timing system and commentary would improve the event as a whole.

Piston military power isn't a major feature of Kemble Air Day like at many other venues. This year the only "warbirds" in the show were the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Hurricane IIc and Spitfire Vb. The show was running late as they approached Kemble and some negotiation was heard over the display frequency so the touring BBMF could keep to their Schedule. Peter Teichmann flew one if his first displays in his stunning P-51D Mustang Jumpin' Jaques. During his display he remarked on just how bad the weather was!

The Kemble Air Days are about promoting Kemble Airfield as a whole as well as celebrating anniversaries and entertainment. It was therefore fitting to see a number of microlights and light training aircraft take a slot in the flying programme. BCT Aviation provided a unique formation of Piper Warriors led by another former Red Arrow Des Sheen (Red 8 in 1974!). Pegasus Flying Club provided the cavalcade of microlights which were operated under an exemption from the CAA which meant they were unable to formate as a team.

Red Bull Gives You Wings!

The Red Bull Air Race made it's UK Airshow Debut at Kemble Air Day 2004. The Red Bull Air Race is a series of events across the world leading to a final show down at the Reno Air Races in the US.  The race brings together the best aerobatic pilots from the UK, USA, Netherlands, Hungary, Germany and Spain in familiar aerobatic types. The pilots compete in a time trial over a course marked by inflatable pylons which are just two feet wider than the wingspan of the aircraft. The pylons are 18m high. Between the pylons the pilots perform set aerobatics. The twists and turns of the 800m course exert great G-forces on the pilots, infact it is  thought the last turn may have been upto 10G! Kemble's course was designed by Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones of the Matadors display team. The Kemble round was eventually won by Kirby Chambliss of the USA. 2nd place went to Peter Besenyei of Hungary while the final podium place was taken by Steve Jones (UK).

More advanced sports flying and another Kemble resident were the duo of Extra 300s flown by Ultimate High under the banner of the Xtreme Team. Ultimate High operate the Extras along Bulldogs to give a number of different experience "profiles" for private individuals as well as corporate days. As well as aerobatic experiences in the extras, the company provides training in the art of formation flying to more experience pilots and safety training. They also have a "Top Gun" profile teaching people Air Combat Manouvring in the Extras though the use of smoke.

Local Barnstormers!
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The Utterly Butterly Barnstormers also displayed during the early afternoon. Like many of the participants it was a busy weekend for the team. Prior to their duo display a solo Stearman took off to display at another local event before joining up with another Stearman over Kemble and displaying. If that wasn't enough they immediately departed Kemble to refuel at their home base RFC Rencombe before flying down to Switzerland! A flight which would last for some six hours in a Stearman! - That's dedication to airshows! In complete contrast to the 1930's barnstorming Stearmans was the immaculate De Havilland DH89a Dragon Rapide flown by Pete Thorn. Managing to avoid the squalls, the Rapide displayed  in sunny conditions with the silver wings shimmering in the light to great effects.

Kemble always enjoys strong support from the Royal Air Force, and 2004 was no exception. Most of the usual suspects were there despite cut backs in the amount of display flying this season which lead to the loss of the Jaguar solo. The RAF's frontline was represented by XV sqn's solo Tornado GR4 and 1(F) sqn's Harrier GR7 role demo display which did it's best to dry out the sodden runway. The Harrier was also represented in the static park by 4(AC) sqn as was a Jaguar GR3 from 54(F) sqn. A rare appearance by a 39sqn Canberra PR9 was another highlight of the impressive and well laid out static park, something which is not often seen at civilian shows. Also in the static were a VC-10 and Hercules C4 from nearby RAF Brize Norton and Lyneham respectively. The RAF Hercules crews clearly enjoy the added power and agility in the second generation Hercules. The crew supporting the Falcons Parachute Display Team arrived and departed in a dramatic fashion with steep climbs and wing overs. The static example made a similar departure after the show. Training was typically represented by the Tucano T1 and Hawk T1 solos with further examples in the static park joined by a Tutor T1. The Hawk display from 208(R) sqn marked the UK debut of the patriotic new paint scheme to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Hawk's first flight.

However, the highlight of the RAF's contribution had to be the two Chinook HC2s that were displayed in the flying and static displays. The departure of the static example was a spectacualr example of the taxying abilities of the large helicopter backing away from the fence standing on it's rear wheels before lifting and flicking round. But the new solo display from 18 sqn simply stole the limelight in the flying display show the unique characteristics of this heavy lift helicopter and some superb agility. The wheelie landing and reverse take off on the main runway is perhaps the party piece of the Chinook. It's a welcome return for the Chinook, particular after so long away from the display

This years only foreign military participation at Kemble was supplied by the Belgian Armed Forces solo Fouga CM170 Magister which is in the twilight of the it's career in Belgian hands. The last instructor on the type is to leave the service in the near future and the remaining aircraft are likely to be retired soon after. Hopefully a number will find their way into private hands willing to display the types.

Kemble Air Day 2004 lived up it's reputation and pre show interest despite the best efforts of the British weather, which like the flying display and ground entertainment was well varied. The display survived wind, rain, sun and hail. High praise indeed must go to all pilots, particularly of the more weather restricted types for putting on entertaining and safe displays. Also of note was that despite the huge traffic problems at the recent Duxford and Cosford airshows, the traffic management at Kemble caused little delay to the public getting in or out. Glen Moreman and everyone else behind this event can be proud of their achievements in 2004 and we look forward to the return of the Classic Jet Show in 2005. The next airshow at Kemble is the Kemble Open Day on the 12th September :



Kemble's Hot Shots
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 copyright Flightline UK 2004