Abingdon Air and Country Show – Bob Jackson

It was a memorable sunny day as, at 14.00 hrs on Friday 10th September 2021 when the VTST Events Unit rolled out of its home base at Stratford upon Avon. Why so specific? and why memorable?

This was because for the first time in 2 Years the Events Team were attending an Airshow. With all but a few Airshows taking place since the start of the pandemic it was deemed appropriate that with restrictions being lifted a few steps to attend a “local” event, especially as the Midlands area had seen Cosford and RIAT cancelled. Abingdon being only an hour or so down the road from home base.

There was another reason for going and that was that the Events Unit had been modified over the past few months. The unit has been changed to a walk-in unit, with steps to the trading side leading directly to the improved sales area without compromising the available space outside. There have always been those called, rather disparagingly, the unit “the burger van” well no more. Much more self-service and friendly.

Following the closure of the airfield in 1992 Abingdon Airfield was renamed Dalton Barracks as base for the 3 & 4 Army Logistics Corps. Sadly the army base is due to close completely by 2029. The airfield continues as a training airfield for RAF helicopters and tactical support aircraft.

So it was a clear bright setup before departing for home and an early night. An early rise, a swift trip down the M40 and we were ready for the event. Now just to say Abingdon show is a friendly, local country show with aircraft as a bonus. This year was no exception. We had dog displays and motorbike kids in the Arena, we had a Craft Marquee and the usual array of traders from all walks of life. What made this year special was the number of our trader friends who had come out of hibernation for the first time in a long time… and it was really good to see them all again after 24 months.

Then there was the flying… Abingdon Air is what is called a fly-in show, which is what it says. A lot of aircraft both ex-military and civilian arrive early morning and are parked up to allow public inspection so it was great to see the Hurricanes, Spitfires, Wasp, Sea King and Wessex helicopters, the B-17 Sally B, stunt aircraft like the Pitts Special all parked up. Some of these would be displaying later in the day.

First into the air were the large model aircraft (LMA) if you have never seen these then you don’t know what you are missing, once airborne you can hardly tell they are not the real thing at a distance and the stunts and displays they give are spectacular and captivating.

Of course whilst all this is going on we were focused on the customers visiting the Event unit and with a specially invited small team we were do a brisk trade as well as answering questions on the position with the Hangar, condition of the aircraft and when would we be in a position to bring our second Canberra from America. So the interest remains for our collection with support for our aims.

What was especially nice were the number of old friends who came to visit, even if for chat… because we do a lot of that whilst we serve. Do you know that even after 24 months our friendly supporters look the same, well nearly all of them. It should be said that over the past years we have seen lots of children being brought to airshows or running mini events with their parents. So it should not be a surprise when these same children turn up and they are suddenly, it appears, taller than you are. The great thing is it doesn’t matter, what matters is that they are still as enthusiastic for the Vulcan and Canberra as they ever were and we are please they take the time come and say hello.

The afternoon flying brought out the big guns, so to speak, for whilst we had Spitfires and helicopters buzzing around it was the arrival of the Red Arrows for a fly-past that brought the Showground to a standstill. This was followed by some spectacular stunt flying by the Anana Muscle Pitts aircraft against a Car, no I don’t know how they do it but there was a lot of smoke. The Sea King took off for its display which gave a large section of the audience the opportunity for exercise as a nearby marquee attempted to join it in the air help to stay own only by people power. an RAF Tornado flew through with a noisy fast speed run and returned for a slow pass with classic climb out under power and The Blades gave a thrilling 4 ship aerobatic display.

We can’t forget Peter Teichman, who operates the Hangar 11 Russian Spitfire Mk.IX nor the Take-off, Display and Landing of the B-17, Sally B. It was interesting to see Sally B as across the other side of the airfield were the world War II design of Control Tower along with two other B-17’s and a series of WWII bell tents… why? Well Abingdon is currently being used for location filming of Masters of the Air, an upcoming television series from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The tower and the replica B-17’s being made from timber and hardboard.

So as the day drew to a close it was time to wend our way home, it was a great day out, nice to meet so many people again, great to see that we still have support for our activities. So with a fair wind we will be back on the circuit next year.

As a footnote every member of the team had airshow throat the following day… From talking too much and fortunately this had worn off by the following Friday when we all met up again for the wedding of Laura Johnson and Martin Frampton in Portsmouth. Laura has been an Airshow Volunteer for many years, she started when she was too young to serve customers so used to busy herself folding clothing merchandise and scrounging donuts from food stalls at the end of shows to feed those of us breaking down the stand. Progressing to selling she has a sharp eye for display and has hardly ever failed to sell an item of clothing to a customer, fortunately for us she has said she wants to continue volunteering for us at events next year. So, our congratulations to Laura and Martin and our very best for the future.

Bob Jackson

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