RAFA Shoreham Airshow 2014

30-31 August 2014


Every summer, there are countless seaside airshows around the UK. Shoreham-by-Sea, not too far from Brighton and Hove, despite the impression the name could give you, is not among these seaside shows, as the show is held at the local airfield and is therefore more akin to the airshow layout we know in Belgium. Over the years, the show has earned the reputation of doings things a bit differently though. Time to find out what that means!


The airshow at Shoreham is organized in aid of the Royal Air Force Association, an organization that helps past and present members of the RAF family with services or financially. The past few years, it is held towards the end of August, during the same weekend as the enormous Bournemouth Air Festival. Whereas Bournemouth sees more extensive military support over its seafront, Shoreham offers a more varied programme, leaning more towards the warbirds side. Shoreham airport cannot accommodate heavy jets so these fly over from elsewhere, usually Bournemouth airport nowadays. The venue is also restricted by its location which means some of the more popular military displays are not even allowed to display there. Rather being held back by it, the organizers seem to take this as an opportunity.


Upon entering via the airport terminal where the welcoming restaurant served delicious food and drinks throughout the day, people pass by the static display, which consists mostly of the flying display participants that can use Shoreham’s runway. Around the static park are some reenactment groups and car clubs, sometimes with some outrageous vehicles.


More towards the display line is an assortment of stalls and a fun fair, though these do not distract from the flying spectacle as they are still positioned away from the crowdline and facing away from the crowd with their speakers. It should also be mentioned that Shoreham has perhaps the finest catering I have seen at a UK airshow, with some good offerings dotted around the showground which makes a nice change from the usual charcoaled affair at most shows. The stalls are located around “showground avenues” which also have appropriate aviation names. While it may seem a bit corny to some, it does add to the experience of the show. There are also some concerts before and after the show by vintage music bands. The showground really does do a good job of flinging visitors back in time, in a good way.

One final thing about the showground: I didn’t see any ladders along the crowdline. Whether this is the result of a regulation, I cannot say, but it was striking how very different the look of the crowdline was from other major airshows with the absence of ladders. The entire line seemed to be a rather relaxed affair, not quite as territorial as at most shows nowadays. Long may that continue!


Certainly, it’s not because there’s nothing worthwhile to see in the air, quite the contrary. The programme at Shoreham is among the most varied and entertaining in the UK, and all that with a lovely setting of English countryside and the majestic Lancing College opposite the crowd, creating the typical Shoreham backdrop.


Display director Rod Dean had come up with 3 major themes for the flying programme: A celebration of DeHavilland Aircraft, with the Tiger Nine display team, the Miller Dragon Rapide and a rare Dragonfly appearance, US Navy aircraft, with a Hellcat and Corsair but sadly without a Bearcat due to technical problems (all aircraft of The Fighter Collection), and the 70th anniversary of D-Day. This celebration meant the usual Battle of Britain scenario was reversed, with the allies attacking the Germans. The scenario involved Hangar 11’s Spitfire PrXI solo display by Peter Teichman, an airfield attack by Mustangs Ferocious Frankie of the Old Flying Machine Company and Miss Velma of The Fighter Collection, alongside a Spitfire MkIXT, tailchasing around the sky with 2 Buchons, and 2 C-47 Skytrains by Dakota Heritage and Aces High. Further warbird action around this centerpiece were Planesailing’s Catalina, Sally B, the Royal Netherlands Historic Flight’s B-25 and the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, sadly without the Canadian Warplane Heritage Lancaster due to a problem with their aircraft. Another highly anticipated appearance by the Irish Historic Flight was scrubbed for the same reason. There was also a sequence of Battle of Britain fighters with a Hurricane MkI and Spitfire MkI, led by a Gloster Gladiator.


Modern RAF hardware at the show was provided by the Tutor, the Falcons parachute display team and the Typhoon solo display.


Aerobatics were also plentiful, with GliderFX’s Ian Galagher flying a Fox MDM1 glider, the Blades, Justyn Gorman in his Extra 300L, and perhaps most of all, Chris Burkett flying an Extra 300S in a display alongside a 40% scale replica of the Extra 300, controlled from the ground by freestyle aerobatics chaamion Mike Williams. This followed some exciting model displays during the lunchbreak. Add to that some jet noise of a Hunter T7, Strikemaster and the Vulcan, and barnstorming with the Breitling Wingwalkers’ Stearmans and the Turbulent team, and you have a terrific aviation day out!


The commentary team of Ben Dunnell and Terrence Henderson guided visitors through the day expertly and gentlemanly with a presentation that catered to capsular visitors and enthusiasts alike.


Yes, Shoreham does do things differently, by necessity and design, and it simply works. Don’t expect lots of fast noisy items, though there will be some of that. Don’t expect endless formation aerobatics, though there will be some of that too. Go to Shoreham for a leisurely day, away from stress, with a warm welcome, lots of aircraft buzzing around the sky, bringing the magic of flight to the audience. If you love aviation in all its different facets, with emphasis on days gone by, in a fitting setting, you will definitely enjoy a trip to the Shoreham airshow.