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Date: 26 July 2014

Today's Topic: Yeovilton Air Day 2014

Triggers: I was there

My Grump: Not a bit like the old days

I've been going to Yeovilton Airday since the 70's and seen some brilliant displays over the years. I have grown up and marvelled at the skill of the pilots who chuck planes around the sky like toys, making it seem so easy and matter-of-fact. And I appreciate the vision and diligence of the engineers and designers who build such wonderful birds of the sky and keep them flying.

We are so lucky in this country to have such expertise. Some of the best designed and built planes that have ever left the runway. Remember Concorde, the Harrier, the Vulcan, the Lightning, the Nimrod, the Buccaneer and many many more. I know at least four of these make me a cold war dinosaur, but that's what I love to see.

Anyone who saw the Harrier hover feet from the crowd and bow couldn't fail to miss a heartbeat or two. The noise and scene was breathtaking. The Lightning would roar along the runway, tip up and just go straight up through the clouds like it was on a wire. One of my best friends flew Lightnings and even trained the Saudi pilots when we sold them all to the arabs.

But who could forget the Buccaneer? I remember the chest rattling power of the Buccaneer as the pilot seemed to invariably fly away from the crowd so that you got the full force of the engines and noise that would make you stutter if you tried to talk. These planes flew low over Beirut in the 80's, a presence intended to intimidate insurgents during some peacekeeping mission, which I'm sure did the trick. The Buccaneers also flew 218 missions during the first Gulf War.

That's a feel for the love I have of air shows, not just military, but commercial too as until recently, I went to Farnborough every other year for many years. So I decided to take my youngest with me (he's 15) to the Yeovilton Airday 2014.

This was the promise on the website: Over five hours of spectacular flying displays will include fast jets, historic warbirds, helicopters, formation display teams, aerobatics and will culminate with the world renowned Commando Assault Finale featuring troops, aircraft and pyrotechnics galore!

I'm sorry, but for 2014, they must have been talking about another show, not the one I saw.

We got into the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton quite early and immediately looked in the hangers and the static displays around the site. This was all very interesting with lots of new things to look at, and several of the technical and engineering stands caught my lad's attention, for which I was grateful.
Burned out crispie toastie
A little later we were a bit peckish and went to one of the food places. It was too early for lunch so approached a toasted sandwich stand with the promise of lots of delicious fillings on the menu board. So we ordered one with bacon and one with cheese. I had to pay before seeing the goods and so handed over 11.30 for two toasted sandwiches (2 x 4.50) and a coffee. The order went to the next bod behind the counter and he got busy making them.

The thing that got handed to me was a crispy, crusts burned black, crushed thin wedge of two bits of bread sealed with a breville toaster and with tiny bits of chopped up bacon, about half an egg cup full, if that. The person behind me, who by now had already paid, looked very despondent, and he hadn't even received his toastie yet! The pictures are here to prove it.

The supplier of the burned out crispy toasties
So now we start hearing over the tannoy that flying will start at 11.00am and go on all through the day. I know it's been like this for some time, but I still prefer the days when flying was non-stop from 14.00hrs - 17.00hrs. Back then planes were in the sky constantly. One would even take off before the previous one landed so there was no break in the display.

I was sat on the grass near the runway, just in front of a group of americans who complained bitterly that the breaks between the planes was far too long. And to be fair there were lots of extended breaks, something that didn't use to happen. So many would get up and walk off.

Is this a ploy to get more people looking around the commercial tents and spend more money? I don't know, but I don't like it and neither did quite a few around me. Yeovilton, what does your feedback tell you? Would you even admit it if I were right?

What NO RED ARROWS? Come on, really? What kind of air day is it without the best flying display team on the planet? Perhaps they saw the display line-up and thought they'd give it a miss too. I really mean it. I've seen several aerial display teams from around the world, including the Thunderbirds, over the years, and there is nothing that is as good, or entertaining to watch as the Red Arrows.

Thankfully, out of the previous list of my personal favourites, some of which can no longer be with us, the Vulcan is still flying, even after 60 years in the air.
XH558 The Spirit of Great Britain. The Last flying Vulcan

Lastly, we come to the Commando Assault extravaganza. I'm afraid this fizzled out like a damp firework display.

Look, it can't be that difficult. Someone, somewhere, MUST have some video of how it used to be done. I can't decide if it's too expensive to put on, if modern equipment is less manoeuvrable than it used to be, or if someone is afraid that too many explosions and too much smoke is going to upset the pollution brigade. But I can tell you now, last Saturday wasn't a patch on how this used to be done. Sorry.

If anyone needs a reminder of how good the bash and crash at the end used to be, they can borrow my photo albums which show 8 helicopters in the same photo, with 2 Harriers hovering in the background. You had soldiers dropping from helicopters all over the runway, Chinooks bringing in land rovers and supplies, dropping them at various points, Harriers straffing the runway, and smoke and explosions and noise that rivalled any Hollywood movie.

There was none of that. Well, there was, but a very toned down version. Quite a disappointment really, as I had dressed the finale up to be a worthy highlight to keep the lad interested until the very end.

Just one more thing I think someone should think about for next year. The day was a scorcher from start to finish. You had 35,000 people on the grounds. But you only had two stand pipes. Two stand pipes for 35,000 people? The queue looked like a refugee camp in the Sudan. Please for next year, bring the stand pipe up to a board and run out 4, 5 or 6 taps at each location. You can even keep the same board year on year and just connect it up. Lots of people were moaning they were missing the flying because of queuing for ages to fill their bottles. This would be really helpful, thank you.

If you went, please share your thoughts on the event below, thank you.

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