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Scottish September Sunshine
The annual RAF Leuchars Battle of Britain at Home Airshow was blessed with wall to wall sunshine, but did the show live up to its expectations?
By Andy Evans.

Tornado QRA Demo - Leuchars 2009

RAF Leuchars is the final bastion of the Panavia Tornado F.3 which, is soon to be retired from RAF service. With just a single Squadron now remaining, this years airshow was considered to be the farewell display for the type. This, coupled with the prospect of very good International participation especially in the flying display increased expectations for the this year that were only heightened by the superb weather forecast for the weekend.

Leuchars 2009

Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009
The Premier RAF Spectacular?
To different people, the question above will mean different things to different people. However for the purposes of this articles, this is defined as an airshow where most if not all the major types operated by the RAF are present, but also a major element of International participants take part to show off modern military might and how co-operation takes place between each air arm. Whilst Leuchars is usually advertised as the Battle of Britain at Home Airshow, Waddington is advertised as the RAF's premier aviation spectacular. After this year's events, this is up for discussion.

Comparing the two shows, Waddington attracted nearly all of the types operated by the RAF on to static however, do static aircraft really attract the public or afford a "Spectacle"? Waddington suffered this year with just a single afterburning fast jet display to wow the crowds in addition to formation teams. Now compared to Leuchars which saw a large number of afterburning jets in the display coupled with a varied static display. Was Waddington the RAF's primary airshow? In terms of RAF support, yes. Was it their premier spectacular? Far from it, this crown has now moved to Leuchars.

That International Flavour
Traditionally, Leuchars has enjoyed a high level of international participation especially from the USAF. This year was no exception with a static line-up consisting of a B-52, KC-135 and 2 F-15C's. The flying display showed the International flavour off to the maximum, with displays from both the Dutch and Belgian F-16 demo teams. The Dutch teams display being quite unique due to the usual display bird having gone tech resulting in the display being performed in the Tiger F-16. In addition to the F-16's, the Czech Air Force sent along their Gripen to tear the skies up as only they can. The undoubted star of the show in the air though were the Polish. Unique to the UK in 2009, the Polish sent their Mig-29UB demo team to smoke up the skies. The aircraft used was painted in a special display scheme and was making a welcome return to Scottish skies. It is highly likely that this aircraft will return next year for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain to participate in the celebrations and honour the Polish pilots that fought in the battle.

The God of War Debuts
The Vulcan was in attendance at the 2008 show however, due to the poor weather was unable to display. This made the good weather forecast for this years show even more special. Even arriving on the Friday caused a stir, in formation with an 11 Squadron Typhoon FGR.4. Of course, the Vulcan effect could be seen in the crowd on show day with not a spare space of crowd line available. They were treated to what could be considered the most extreme manoeuvre that the TVOC have displayed yet. On take-off, they performed a wingover which was taken past 90 degrees and the aircraft rolled to around 120 degrees. Which, from some angles did look inverted. Uniquely, the angle of the sun allowed for some superb silhouette photo's to be taken with the sun's rays glinting off the massive wings of this monster.

Farewell to the Tonka?
Amongst enthusiasts in particular, there was an expectation that this years show would allow the Tornado F.3 to say goodbye to the public. Unfortunately, the event left many people disappointed. Leuchars tried its best to show the Tornado off to the crowd but, murphy's law struck! Two were placed on static display; in addition, the QRA demonstration lacked lustre due to aircraft going tech. This resulted in just a single aircraft being launched which, then proceeded to make a single pass before undertaking a PAR approach to land. Plans had been made to launch atleast three aircraft and for the airshow to be closed by the old lady of Leuchars. 2010, will most likely see the arrival of the Typhoon and public debut of 6 Squadron. It remains to be seen if the Tornado will still be around to try again.

Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009
Leuchars 2009

The author would like to thank all the team at RAF Leuchars for hosting the Enthusiast Package for 2009. There is some uncertainty on whether Leuchars 2010 will take place however, any information regarding this event will be found on their website; www.airshow.co.uk. If you would like to see more photo's from this event then please visit our Gallery section.

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