It had been years since I went to Clacton Air Show. I must have still been in school, so we’re looking at 15+ years. It was the last of my planned Vulcan Farewell tour, but I expect it will not be the last of this Farewell Tour post series.
My parents live in Essex so it was easy to get to, within reason, although my Dad decided to drive which meant we were stuck in traffic for a while. I imagine the trains back would have been very packed too though. Mum and I were dropped at the Martello Tower and Dad went to leave the car at his friends’. I managed to drag Mum away from the candyfloss and down to the PA Tower where we found a patch for her wheelchair (which she was walking with at the time, not in) and our chairs.
The day was cloudy, but it didn’t actually rain while the show was on and the sun arrived just in time for the Vulcan’s appearance. It was seriously windy though, and how I didn’t get windburn I’ll never know! It was a joy to see some aircraft I’ve not seen in a long time, as well as some new and exciting displays.
Top of the new and exciting are two items I can’t choose between: La Patrouille Reva and the Autogyro. I didn’t know that the lifting rotor on an autogyro is not driven by the engine, but by the forward motion of the craft. Knowing that made the display all the more spectacular.
La Patrouille Reva fly spaceships. They’re actually two AcroEzes and a Long-EZ but could pass for spaceships in a fairly decent sci-fi film. They put on a stunning display of climbs, fast passes and tight aerobatics.
Sean Maffett, ‘The Voice of the Vulcan’, was there too: he regaled us with the story of one of his relatives, uncle I think, who was among those being commemorated just down the coast on the day at Walton-on-the-Naze. I’ve noticed he always refers to XH558 as ‘Vulcan’, not ‘the Vulcan’. He’s also supremely good at silencing when the Vulcan makes a great noise. Both the Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight did a flypast at Walton, and XH558 did a pass there before she held at Frinton.
Given the devastating Shoreham crash less than a week before, no-one knew what to expect with regard to restrictions. Clacton were on the ball and cleared their event with the CAA as soon as they could on the Monday, and being an over-sea airshow was not subject to as strict restrictions. I was impressed and pleased that the BBMF pair and Red Arrows were still allowed to enter from crowd rear. The Vulcan, as we were reliably informed by the Vulcan team, is not considered an aerobatic classic jet so has not been affected much by the new regulations.
One of the groups heavily affected, I imagine, is the Norwegian Historic Display Team, who are holidaying at North Weald for the summer. I missed the MiG-15 at Yeovilton because it had a fault but was pleased to see it in Clacton’s programme. It put on a fair display of fast passes and tight turns, but with age to contend with (before we even get to the possibility of any restrictions), it wasn’t as high-powered as its stablemate Vampires at Yeovilton. It was beautiful though.
Another beauty is Sally-B. I don’t see enough of her because I don’t think she travels far. She put on her usual sterling display in decent sunshine. The Red Arrows also displayed in decent weather, managing to put on a full display despite the cloud (which didn’t look to have such a high base but evidently did).
But what we all came to see was the Vulcan: she powered over from Frinton with her 1960s smoke trail receding into the wind. I’d always planned to see her at the sea front once at least: it just so happened that this year, the National Trust are running the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ public engagement event, where people record seaside sounds and upload them. So I recorded the Vulcan: she reminds me of airshows and airshows remind me of the seaside. So now, she is preserved forever in the annals of the National Trust and British Library here.
After the airshow, we didn’t want to sit in traffic for three hours so we walked back to Jaywick to Dad’s friends, who I hadn’t seen since I was 5 or so. We had some tea and cake and talked about, well, all sorts! Then we made our way out of town and it was still pretty rammed. We stopped off in Colchester for something to eat at a little local pub down an industrial estate road alongside the Colne. The food was standard cook-from-frozen things but it was very tasty and certainly worth it: the peas were a nice texture too!
I spent the next couple of days in Essex and travelled back to Nottingham in time for the Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets Open Day. The weather was supposed to clear up through the afternoon but by midday the forecast had changed and it was set for the afternoon instead! It was so wet I even missed the second Buccaneer display, on purpose. I did get to see some of the new things though: the Tornado GR1, a Folland Gnat, a number of the ex-RAF fleet of Lockheed TriStars (in the dismantling area)…
First down was the VC-10. I’d visited the inside of the VC-10 on my last visit in 2013 while it was still technically in RAF service (they put it back on the roster for a day so we could all get inside), but never been so close to one moving before, only seen them fly (very occasionally). Turns out, I’ll be wearing ear defenders for that one next time! They ain’t kidding when they say the noise restrictions hurt them. It then whined (and wound) its way around the airfield for parking and visits, and greeting it off the taxiway was an interesting sight too.
After a couple of aircraft had done their thing, the heavens opened and it never really stopped. Various of the #twitterVforce team described it as a washout but I, like some other hardy (tight) folk, stayed until the end, when the sky brightened and a BBMF Spitfire did a few lovely passes. The aircraft are a great sight in the rain though: the Victor causing great sprays, the Lightning whipping up a storm behind it, the Hunter’s cartridge start smoke oozing into the puddles. The rain also made the minute’s silence for the two airshow crashes this year all the more poignant, as did a lone skylark.
I spent the last part of the day in the relative warm of the late afternoon brightness (it wasn’t really sunshine) perusing the Lightning merchandise cabin before heading home. But I did get some lovely pictures and not ruin my camera in the rain!