Richard Clarke looks back at the 2005 Airshow Season with many fond memories and thoughts about how many miles he must have driven and indeed walked! But it was all worth it!
655 MaPs Wellesbourne Open Day
This was my first real Show of the year and I had my appetite whetted by being invited to the Airfield on the preceding Saturday to see ‘655 ‘going for a short walk’ to test her systems out for her big day. It is always a great prospect to hear the Olympus engines roar into life and this certainly causes a stir in the nearby Market where the stall holders must curse the 655 crew as all of their customers desert them and head off to a good vantage point! Thank goodness all was well with 655 and this augured very well for the next day along with the favourable weather forecast.
Sure enough, the day dawned bright and sunny and promised to be extremely hot – it was, but more of that later. As I arrived to set up our stand, the crowds were already arriving and it seemed certain that this would be one of the best attendances at the event, which has expanded considerably over the years, thanks to all of the hard work undertaken by the 655MaPs Committee and volunteers. The first highlight of the day was when 655 was taxied across from the far side of the Airfield and positioned in front of the crowd line, a real appetiser for what was to come.
My role at the Show was twofold; to help out on the Club Stand but also to promote Vulcan to the Sky to the crowd and this involved walking amongst the crowd to hand out information leaflets. As you may guess the interest was phenomenal and this was a pattern, which was to continue throughout the season. The Stand was also extremely busy as the spectators continued to pour in. The main question of course being – When is SHE going to fly!
The action then started with 655 carrying out a relatively slow, but none the less impressive, taxy run as a precursor of the main run, and suddenly the crowd around the Stand diminished rapidly! Between the two runs there were a number of pleasure flights on an Air Atlantique Dakota, a great sight to behold with the very distinctive engine noise. So the big moment had arrived and 655 was brought to life again, David Thomas and the rest of the crew, Mike Pollitt, Al McDicker and Barry Masefield were working hard inside the cockpit in what must have been tremendous temperatures because the thermometer outside was reaching the 90 degree + mark!
The taxy run was absolutely superb and David managed to raise the nose wheel, which is always a winner with the crowd, what a performance and as 655 was taxied back in to her stand and her engines shut down I felt an air of sadness that it was all over for another year. But there was still more to come, Paul Hartley had been promising that the Army Air Corps would pay us a visit and sure enough they did and talk about making an instant impression, as they landed you could have been in the Sahara Desert, with red dust flying everywherr, as anybody trying to take a photo or standing directly in front of the Lynx would testify! Add in a flypast by the Red Arrows and it was a truly great day not to be missed. Roll on June 2006!
RAF Waddington International Airshow 
I have been going to Waddington since the inception of the Show in 1995, when it was transferred from Finningley. Over the years it has developed considerably and the attendances have increased accordingly. The event for me is a five day commitment, from the previous Thursday, which is the Media Day through to Monday, which, of course is when the visiting aircraft return home. In 2004, we had some great news for the gathered Media because the Heritage Lottery Fund had just announced the approval of the VTST application for funding, and what a day that was, never to be forgotten. This year both Robert Pleming and Felicity Irwin attended the Media Day to give updates about the progress of the Project. The interest was very high and when Robert gave his presentation you could have almost heard a pin drop, the only sound being the frantic scribbling of shorthand notes! After which there was then the stampede by the gathered media to take ownership of the VTST press packs.
I guess that the real physical work starts on the Friday, when along with all of the other traders and participants we set up the Stand. Whilst we were doing this a local BBC reporter asked if she could carry out a short ‘live’ interview, and as luck would have it David Thomas had also come to see us so her timing was perfect, or was it, because just as we began the interview we could hear an approaching jet taxying in to the Static Display Line, it was a US Air Force F-15 so you can imagine the level of noise, and the derogatory effect that it had on the quality of the interview, but we stuck to our guns and in fine XH558 tradition finished the job properly.
And so to the Show…. we were extremely lucky with the weather on both days and we also managed to attract a lot of media interest and indeed some VIP visitors to the VTS Stand, including the Typhoon pilot, the Harrier Display pilot and last but certainly not least the Red Arrows! The flying display wasn’t half bad either!
And…..the most frequently asked question…..you guessed!
Throughout the weekend there was a great deal of media interest, including interviews with both news media and local radio stations. In addition we received good support from Airshow |radio and Robert’s dulcet tones echoed out around the crowd on a number of occasions! Once again we received staunch support from all at Waddington, nothing was too much trouble and like this Show, their support and interest in the Project has increased significantly over the years. 
The Royal International Air Tattoo
Once again this was a weekend long commitment, starting on the preceding Thursday at the Media Preview Day when Felicity had arranged for Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden fame, who is also a qualified airline pilot which must be a unique dual career, to attend the event to help to promote the Project for which he has a great deal of affinity. Bruce arrived in style being ‘chauffered’ in style by David Thomas in his Jet Provost. Their arrival caused quite a stir because they delayed the arrival of a USAF U2 Spy Plane!
Bruce did us proud and took the opportunity to promote the project to the full carrying out numerous interviews and posing for innumerable photographs. It was a highly magnanimous gesture by Bruce to give his time because he had delayed his departure to a US Tour by Iron Maiden by 24 hours to be with us. 
And so to the Show….. VTST and the Club had joined forces to enable us to publicise and market the project and to take advantage of the tremendous audience that is attracted by RIAT. One of the highlights of the weekend was the VTST Raffle Draw which had attracted a great deal of support and a large crowd gathered when the Draw was being made and Rusty Drewett had the pleasure of contacting the lucky winner – well she had done all of the work!
Yorkshire Airshow
This was my first visit to Elvington although I knew of it by reputation. Once again the interest levels were phenomenal with encouraging levels of merchandise, particularly wrist bands which were flying out of the door! From a personal viewpoint I was very keen to see the Elvington Victor and they really did put her through her paces! It was also good to see the Buccaneer roaring down the runway. I didn’t see a great deal of the flying display, but then again why should I because I was there to work, but what I did see was very impressive particularly the Typhoon which was making its debut on the Airshow circuit. Many thanks to Bob and Sandra Pharo for letting me take up residence on their stand.
Cold War Jets Open Day 
This is an event that I always enjoy because it is so unique and an opportunity to see aircraft that you will not see anywhere else in the Country or indeed the World. It is a great tribute to the hard work and dedication that is put in by all of the volunteers. It is great to see these iconic aircraft come to life and roar down the huge runway at a rate of knots. Bruntingthorpe seems to have a ‘micro climate’ and always seems to be colder and wetter than the surrounding area as those of you who have been there will surely testify!
However on this occasion the Gods smiled and the weather was excellent and a good crowd gathered to watch the proceedings. I mentioned earlier the Elvington Victor, saying how impressed I was by her performance and ‘Teasin Tina certainly did not disappoint even raising her nosewheel which is a sight that I had never seen before and which was greeted with audible sighs from the crowd!
I was also fortunate to be invited to ride in the Comet when she carried out her fast taxy run – an experience not to be missed. The acceleration rate of this stalwart of the Cold War  is particularly impressive when you are seated near to the cockpit and you see the ground rushing by and this experience was intensified when an alarm bell sounded indicating a fire in engine no 2 but thank goodness this was a false alarm and we returned to the pan without further incident!
Leuchars International Airshow 
This was another ‘debut’ for me and my first visit to this beautiful part of Scotland and the stunning St Andrews coast. I had made the long drive up on Thursday so that I could attend the Media Preview Day which was taking place on the Friday and which attracted a large number of journalists and broadcasters. We were treated to a fine flying display with a large number of aircraft carrying out practice displays and this was interspersed with the arrival of the aircraft which were participating in the static display. The arrivals included the Typhoon, a USAF F15 and a special performance by the Luftwaffe Phantom, carrying out a mini-display with her afterburners in full evidence creating a great deal of activity from all of the photographers!  The weather in this part of the country is usually unpredictable and can change very quickly as was demonstrated when a monsoon like shower appeared without warning!
As the Media event drew to a close the rest of the team had arrived and Rusty Drewett was able to admire, at close quarters, her second favourite aircraft, the B52 which was on static display.
The day of the Show dawned and thank goodness it was at least dry if unseasonably cold. As I arrived at the gate I noticed that people were descending from all points of the compass and realised that a lot of these people had arrived by train at the nearby station which is a great way of reducing congestion.
This was also the debut of the Club stand at this Show and we were very busy throughout with interest in the current status of XH558 being particularly popular. It was very evident that our appearance was very welcome and we were asked many times why we had not been before! The flying display itself was excellent with the resident Tornado F3’s carrying out an impressive formation flypast, it was just a shame that the Phantom was not able to display because that would have been the icing on the cake.
There was a ‘great welcome in the hillsides’ from the Scottish public with the hospitality being second to none, particularly in the saloon bar later that evening and I am looking forward to sampling this again in 2006 – we will be back and hopefully will be bringing XH558 with us sometime in the near future. 
Well what a year, I clocked up many miles and wore out some shoes but it was well worth it. The overwhelming interest in XH558 was most gratifying and everywhere that we went we were bombarded with questions and enthusiastic support. All I can say is if this is an indication of the support that we can expect when SHE flies again then roll on her return to flight when she will surely steal the hearts of many thousands of people.
Richard Clarke
(Originally published in Vulcan News - The Club Magazine)