As I've mentioned before, I've longed to see an Avro Vulcan in the air and XH558 was one of the main attractions, if not the main attraction. During the spring there was some question whether the Vulcan To The Sky Trust would be able to afford the airshow circuit during the summer, but a major collection effort succeeded in securing the needed funds, so everything was set for a great show.
On the suggestion of the Tourist Information officers we didn't even attempt to order a cab to get to Waddington, but instead walked there. It took us two hours in the brilliant morning sunlight, but it really seemed as if we walked faster, or at least kept an even pace with, than the car queues that stretched as far as we could see.
When we got to Waddington village we got ourselves drinks for the rest of the way but hadn't even finished them before we found ourselves inside the airbase and then on the airfield itself. And then! I'm not the only one to state that the Brits really know how to put together an airshow, and Waddington is probably the largest of them all. It is a two-day event, but I'm not sure if we could have seen it all even if we had spent both days there. (Though another couple at the bed & breakfast had arrived several days early to see all the planes fly in and would remain a couple of more days to see them fly out again. That's devotion. Not least on the part of the wife, who clearly wasn't all that keen a plane spotter. On the other hand, as I've implied, there's plenty of other things to do in the area.)
My little Exilim is not very good at photographing planes in the air, so here are some pictures of pretty aircraft on the ground (and there were probably several hundred there to look at, so imagine me rushing about going “Ooh, look!” all day, yet seeing only a fraction of what was there):
A Gazelle from the Empire Test Pilots' School, which is partly run by QinetiQ, the privatised part of the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.
An Alpha Jet.
A privately-owned two-seater Hunter.
One of several Jet Provosts, this in Kuwait Air Force markings. A four-ship formation Jet Provosts gave a very nice performance later in the day.
But, it wouldn't be a British air show without some completely unrelated displays as well, so in the middle of everything was the local stationary engine society, displaying their carefully polished machines:
A Crossley PE1060. The Crossley Brothers were strict teetotallers, so they refused to sell their engines to breweries.
And next to that, rows upon rows of carefully polished vintage cars:
This is a car, I don't know anything about those. Oh, well, the one in the background is an Audi 100, I know because we had one when I was a kid.
Of course all the armed forces were there, recruiting. The RAF brought out all the fun you can do besides killing people, such as e g joining the RAF Bobsleigh team:
Now of course, there was considerable activity in the air. The Polish Air Force display team Orlik did a very nice performance. They were then followed by the Red Arrows. When I first saw them at a Bromma air day ages ago, I first didn't get the point, they seemed to just fly round and round. Only after a while did I realise the extremely precise formation flying they did, reformating so smoothly you had to strain to see how they did it. Today, with only a few scattered clouds, they were able to do their full ‘high’ programme. Their speaker, “Red 10” kept up a constant patter, carefully introducing each pilot with humorous quips (“‘Boomer’ has flown in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, so he speaks both languages fluently. He is now struggling to learn English.”) and also stressing the combat experience of each.
Some time after lunch (Cornish pasty) I picked up that we were not going to see a Vulcan in the air. Briefly: Ex-military aircraft require a Permit to Fly. This has to be regularly renewed, and this entails demonstrating that the aircraft is in a certain defined good working order. The Permit to Fly for XH558 had expired the day before. This obviously would not have come as a surprise for the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, but what with one thing and the other, they had failed to fulfil the certification requirements and had instead just hoped that the Civil Aviation Authority would waive the requirements for that weekend, seeing as they had an airshow to do and all that. The CAA did not agree and thus the plane was grounded. To say that I and a significant part of the other roughly 100 000 attendees were disappointed is like saying it's a long walk to the Andromeda galaxy. I would have appreciated a bit more grovelling on the part of the VTTST spokesperson rather than the “Unfortunate, but we couldn't really help it.” attitude displayed. That they got their PtF renewed just a couple of days later further indicates some seriously bad planning. Boo, hiss!
Ah well, there was still plenty to see in the air and on the ground: More Hawks in the air, the aforementioned Jet Provost display, some quite interesting formation flying and simulated missile attacks by a group of Hawks and Falcons, helicopters cavorting, and then a very noisy display by a solo Eurofighter. I'd worn ear protectors all day, but when a plane like this turns on the afterburner, it's like it grips your stomach and shakes it, you have to tense up just to remain standing.
We made a quick tour of the various stands, I picked up some pre-ordered modelling supplies in the Hannants booth, and then I spent an hour in the Airfix tent.
Eventually the day wound down and we started to look for the exit. Food time! The first pub we found in Waddington was full and didn't look as if it served food either, but then we came to the Horse & Jockey, where we were welcomed and had a perfectly good dinner. On consideration, we didn't feel like walking the two hours back, but when we had finished dinner the stream of cars leaving seemed to have thinned out, so we decided to get a taxi. The pub staff recommended Discount Cabs, so I called them and they promised to have a car there in 15 minutes. 15.00 minutes later our cab turned up. We piled in and the driver sort of dove into a rabbit hole in the village, bypassing all queues, while lambasting Vulcan To The Sky in no uncertain terms and a very thick Lincolnshire accent and then deposited us by the door. And it was cheap.
Honeybuns had during the day become increasingly more agitated about the state of my skin. I for my part considered myself to be well protected by the tan I had gotten myself in Lappland, so wasn't too concerned, but it did feel like maybe it would be a good idea to apply some cream to my face and legs before going to bed.
Then. The next morning. My bright red face was oozing yellowish liquid and I'd covered the pillowcase in stains. My legs wouldn't bend properly and my skin felt too small for my body.
That day we would clearly only do shady activities…