Paul Barker joined the Team for the start of a Great Britain tour, that in 8 days included both Scotland and the tip of Cornwall with the Swift glider spending 15 hours on aerotow covering almost 1000nm.
The marathon started with the mid week RAF Families’ days at Henlow and Wyton. RAF Henlow airfield and our base at Halton are significant as the RAF’s last remaining grass airfields. Congratulations must got to Sqn Ldr Paul Tuite for organising both events on a shoe string budget. Star of both shows was undoubtedly Phil Burgess in his distinctive DR107 One Design.
The weather stayed fine and from RAF Wyton on Friday afternoon, we aerotowed the Swift to Fishburn airfield, just south of Newcastle for a short Friday evening display to open the 22nd Sunderland airshow. The display featured Miss Demeanour, (Jonathon Whaley’s Zoom Lolly Hunter), our glider and the Royal Netherlands Air Force F16 flown with re-heat and decoy flares leading into fireworks.
We swapped our wingtip smoke for pyrotechnics for probably the World’s first ‘roll-on-tow’ display with wingtip fireworks over water, to Vangelis’ moving theme from the 1982 movie ‘Missing’ staring Jack Lemmon. Our twilight display was choreographed for maximum effect, with the wingtip pyrotechnics timed for 10 mins after sunset leaving enough time to land at Newcastle International airport at 21:50, still just within ‘day’ time.
The show at Sunderland has been plagued with poor weather over the past few years, but better forecasts saw thousands flock to see the fireworks and almost a million spectators over the weekend.
From Newcastle we towed up the Northumberland Coastline the following morning past RAF Boulmer for their Families day and then found hundreds of Grey Seals basking on sand dunes around the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Further north we past St Abbs Head lighthouse, famous for its 1876 foghorn and on to East Fortune, home to the East Lothian national Museum of Flight.
Almost 10,000 spectators watched both our Swift and Twister Duo displays under cloudy skies. We operated from the disused runway at East Fortune, now converted into a go-cart track. Commentator was George Bacon who chose Clannad’s theme from Harry’s Game for our display and then we started the long haul home.
Matt Robain ferried the S1-Swift south with Paul Barker stopping at Sutton Bank for fuel.
The last part of the epic week was a trip to the West Country, lead by Ian Gallacher. We departed Bicester at 08:30 for Cornwall via a refuel stop at North Hill in Devon. Despite cloud base lowering to 1000ft over the moors and a few light showers en-route, the traditionally wet Culdrose Airday enjoyed a mainly sunny day. The Navy show had some real treats, with the new AV8ers and Vulcan XH558, but we couldn’t hang around and found a reasonable tailwind to return to Bicester in one long flight.