with a Whimper?
As the only RAF organised show in Scotland, RAF Leuchars Airshow, commonly known as the Battle of Britain Airshow has a strong reputation for attracting very rare acts including Mig-29s and B-52s. Therefore, with the announcement that the base was going to be closed shortly in the future there were high expectations that the event would pull out all the stops and provide a spectacle everyone would remember for years to come. What really occurred, mainly thanks to the weather and an African country called Libya wasn't the spectacle that was hoped for however no-one can say they didn't try their best!
The scourge of the 2011 Airshow season.
It is a safe bet to say that the 2011 UK airshow season was extremely unlucky with the weather. Nearly all of the major shows experienced at least one day of bad weather curtailing flying for most of the day. No-where was this felt more than at RAF Leuchars being a single day show.
Perhaps unfairly, RAF Leuchars caught the tail end of the remains of a Hurricane which resulted in very strong winds prior to the event combo'd with low cloud and rain on show day. As a direct result, many of the billed acts had difficulty making it to the airfield, many having to cancel.
A particularly nasty squall hit on show day and all credit has to be given to the pilot of the Gripen who tried his upmost to display in the awful conditions but alas, they were too bad and flying had to be curtailed for a short while!
Farewell RAF Leuchars
As part of the Governments austerity measures, RAF Leuchars will be closed and the local residents were told of this shortly before the airshow was going ahead.
Open since 1911, the airfield has been at the core of the air defence strategy for the United Kingdom. In recent years, the Tornado F3 has made Leuchars it's home with a number of Squadrons present. However, in March 2011 the final Tornado F3 unit, 111Sqn, disbanded ending the bases love affair with this aircraft. All was not lost however as 6Sqn now reside at the base with their shiny new Typhoons providing the Northern QRA element of UK air defence.
When Leuchars finally closes, there will be many sad faces however the RAF will live on in Scotland with based Typhoon force moving further North to RAF Lossiemouth to continue their mission.
Understandably, it was thought that 2011 would now be the last show however it has now been confirmed that a show will take place in 2012 with the base closing in 2014. Will this be the final show? Who knows!
Remembering Jon Egging
On the 20th of August 2011, a tragedy befell the UK airshow scene and the RAF when Red 4, Flight Lieutenant Jon "Eggman" Egging lost his life in a terrible accident at Bournemouth. The Eggman was proud to be a member of the Red Arrows and an entire nation mourned one of its best pilots; almost in a joint state of shock. As a mark of respect for Jon, the Red Arrows resumed training and decided to fly the rest of the season, as an 8 ship.
RAF Leuchars was the first public appearance by the Red Arrows since the tragedy that would result in them landing, and operating, from the same airfield that they were displaying at.
Arriving out of the gloom, ten aircraft landed at Leuchars (one carrying Red 10 and one spare) and the flight promptly parked on the cross runway in front of a the crowd. What happened next was unexpected, the entire crowd surrounding the cross runway erupted into a standing ovation for the team acknowledging their bravery to carry on and honour their fallen companion. The applause was almost a symbol of unity with them, sharing that grief. It was nice to see that this was acknowledged by the team with the pilots waving and nodding in response.
The Red Arrows were not the only team present at Leuchars, the French Air Force's Patrouille de France were also present at the show. In a show of solidarity with their friends in the Reds, the team dedicated their display to Jon and his memory. This was something that was not lost on the crowd who gave the team a heroes welcome at the end of the display.
Their is something strange about seeing a flight of eight aircraft perform a display meant for nine however the Red Arrows pulled off the display perfectly. It is safe to say that not one member of the crowd did not have a lump in their throat seeing that gap in the formation, knowing that someone who has bought so much joy to so many was no longer with us. At the stage of the display where Jon would be announced by Red 10, a moments silence was held in his memory. At the end of the display, the Reds were treated to their own heroes welcome.
Home team send off!
As is tradition at Leuchars, the home team (this year in the shape of 6Sqn) provided the end of show entertainment. Whilst this was somewhat confusing for the crowds due to a complete lack of commentary in the build up to the finale (which was quite poor and left many people bored), it was worth the wait.
As a number of Typhoons departed the airfield seemingly having a competition to see who could use the least runway possible, they then departed to join Tornados from RAF Lossiemouth. When they returned, a joint flypast was held to celebrate the (very recent) victory in Libya providing the penultimate event to the sunset fly-by by the based Typhoons and the end of the show.
When Leuchars finally leaves us, it will be a very sad day and a much loved airshow will have left us forever. The dedication of the men and women at RAF Leuchars will never be forgotten, nor will Jon Egging. Airshows seem to be rapidly in decline in the UK and for one, I hope this trend doesn't continue.
If you would like more information on the RAF Leuchars Airshow that will be back in 2012, please visit www.airshow.co.uk . There are many photos from this event in our Gallery, please feel free to check them out. Andy Evans would like to thank everyone at Leuchars for putting up with him in 2011.
In memory of the Eggman, the Jon Egging trust has been set up to help disadvantaged children, for more information, please click here.