Text: Bruno Ghils - Translations: Marc Arys & Danny Carels
Pictures: Bruno Ghils - Royal Canadian Air Force
© sbap 2018
 

It is always a great pleasure to attend an airshow we never attended before. We discovered this airshow with the eyes of a kid discovering his Christmas gifts. An unknown airbase (although we visited her and the Fleet Air Arm museum some years ago), an unknown organisation, a neat piece of work, in short, a great airshow, in the expert hands of the Royal Navy.
The configuration of the premises is somewhat different from the Royal Air Force bases. Not only other uniforms, but also other customs and practices: we are with sailors here, British spirit complemented by the high seas spirit.
The Fleet Air Arm was created on 01 April 1924 as the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force, retaining the traditions of the Royal Naval Air Service, created on the eve of the First World War.
Indeed, at the creation of the Royal Air Force on 01 April 1918, the terrestrial and naval aviation forces of the United Kingdom were unified. On 24 May 1939, the Fleet Air Arm moved to the British Admiralty, except for the coastal surveillance units, gathered under the Coastal Command. Baptised Air Branch of the Royal Navy, she was reduced to 232 aircraft spread over 20 squadrons.
At the end of the Second World War, she relied on 59 aircraft carriers, 3.700 aircraft and 56 naval airbases (Royal Naval Air Stations) for a head count of 72.000 men. In 1952 the British Naval Air services became the Fleet Air Arm.
Since then, things have evolved. Less aircraft carriers, less aircraft also, but the change is actually occurring with the arrival of the F-35B. Moreover the Fleet Air Arm is in complete resurgence thanks to the HMS Queen Elisabeth, on trials in Scotland, and which will be rejoined by a second carrier within the next years.

  

The Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton (RNAS Yeovilton), also called HMS Heron (like a ship) is an airfield dedicated to the Royal Navy, but also to the British Army (Army Air Corps) and located a few miles to the north of Yeovil in the Somerset. It is one of the two active bases of the Fleet Air Arm (together with Culdrose) and home to the Wildcats HMA2, the Wildcats AH1 of the Army Air Corps, the Commando Helicopter Force, equipped with the Merlin HC3/3A as well as the Navy Wings (former Royal Navy Historic Flight).
The site with an area of 4 Km² is a big multirole airbase, also home to the Fleet Air Arm Museum, and for a long time synonym of the naval airborne group using along the years Seahawk, Sea Vixen and F-4K Phantom squadrons, not to forget the Sea Harrier during the shining era of the Royal Navy and the Falklands War.
When listening closely, the tarmacs, taxiways and runways still echo the engine noises of these glorious navy jets.
Let us come back to the 2018 airshow… This year, the organizers and the Royal Navy, prepared a magnificent program, combining traditions, history, warbirds and jets in flight as well as on the ground.
The displays were all fantastic, but some had the power to stand out. The first was the demonstration of a Mig 15 (Norwegian Historic Squadron) and the Hawker Sea Fury T.20 from the Navy Wings. This twosome was a perfect evocation of the aerial fights of the Korean war, where the Sea Fury was one of the only piston engine aircraft to have shot down a jet.
Although retired some time ago, the demonstration of a Seaking ASC7 left numerous visitors with a twinge in their hearts as this was the last official public appearance of a British Seaking before the final retirement on 30 September 2018. Once again, a great aircraft that disappears…
As, by necessity, Yeovilton became an helicopter base, much were presented. Ancient, modern, from classic to exotic and from all over Europe.
An Alouette III from the Belgian Air Component and always pleasant to see, the collection helicopters such as the Westland Wasp HAS1, Westland Scout or Westland Wessex HU5. Also present, a Lithuanian Air Force Mil-Mi8 Hip, a Westland Whirlwind HAR10 in flying conditions and in the yellow colours of the RAF. Various ambassadors from the actual armed forces were evenly present, Wildcat, Merlin, Chinook, Cougar and Caiman.
Training or combat jet aircraft were also present in flight as on the ground. Historical or modern, all were marvels, just asking to be admired. A Sea Vixen, a Sea Harrier, a gorgeous F-4K Phantom II, and all in the colours of the Fleet Air Arm. These are indeed old glories, but what a joy could they all be flown again one day (dreams are for free, restorations on the other hand…). And then we had jets in the forefront of technology static and flying as well.
First of all, the "Viper" trio. Three very different F-16's, three dynamic demonstrations: one Belgian, flown by "Vador", the new official Belgian demo-pilot, powerful and swift; the Danish demonstrator and his Greek counterpart. Always a joy for the eyes and the ears to see this 40 year old fighter jet going through its paces.
Followed by two Dassault Rafale from the French Navy, very impressive and quite different from the one of the Armée de l'Air (French Air Force). Moreover, the Marine Nationale (French Navy) presented also a Falcon 50 Mer (a maritime patrol aircraft flying like a jet), another Dassault's floweret and, as the French Navy was well represented, we had two bygone jet aircraft : a MS.760 Paris and a Fouga CM175 Zéphyr.
And of course, the almighty Typhoon FGR4 of the Royal Air Force, powerful and master at home, without forgetting the much appreciated Red Arrows, without which an airshow in Great Britain would not be a real airshow (it is always pleasant to see the zeal of the British public towards their national team). These few lines allows us also to congratulate the Royal Air Force with her 100th anniversary.
But the star of the show was, without a doubt, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CF-188A, flown in directly from its base at Bagotville (Quebec). A gorgeous airplane decorated to celebrate the 60 years of the Canadian integration in NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). Since the Canadian left the European soil, at the end of the Cold War, they became a very rare sight. The 2018 display was flown by Capitaine Stefan Porteous, who gratified us with a breathtaking display. But the real surprise, embedded with nostalgia, was when we discovered the presence of a friend within the Canadian team. In fact the pilot responsible for the flight safety is none other than Captain Renaud Thys, who is well known to us. Sometime ago, Cpt "Grat" Thys was the Belgian solo display pilot, who thrilled the public flying his F-16AM. "Grat" has left the Belgian Air Force to rejoin the Royal Canadian Air Forces.
And if we dreamt to see him become the display pilot on the CF-188? His uniform has changed, his pilot wings stayed Belgian and his smile stayed the same; always on hand, always open to communicate; for sure, a beautiful and nostalgic meeting !
At Yeovilton you always have a grand finale and as by tradition, the show ended with a power demonstration. In one scene, the Seamen of Her majesty demonstrated their capabilities. This demonstration exists already for a long time, and even if she is not as big anymore as some years ago, even if the Sea Harrier do not give aerial support anymore, even if the Westland Seaking and Westland Commando were retired, this global demonstration of the Royal Marines and the Fleet Air Arm is still a great moment.
This year scenario was close to the actual geopolitical reality, when a group of terrorists tried to attack the base. The salutary bombing by two Hawks allowed two Wildcats and two Merlin's to land their commandos to give cover for the counter-attack of the Special Forces. Sounds, smokescreens, a wall of fire, explosions, jets, men and machines… What a sight for this grand finale!

No doubt, this will certainly not be the last time the SBAP team is to attend Yeovilton for the show and the museum. The only minor thing we are allowing us to say, is that the show is such a rich experience, it is physically impossible to see everything in one day. Pay a visit to the various exhibitions and the full static display is not evident if you are keen to find the right spot to immortalize the flying demonstrations. Choices are to be made, knowing the most wanted spots are those right in front of the grand finale display line.
In fine, this little remark is all to the honour of the organizers, who offer everything to the numerous visitors. But let us not sulk our pleasure. Too much airshows offers just a limited interest, shows where we get bored… For sure, the Seamen at Yeovilton are there to prevent every gloominess and the SBAP team would like to congratulate and above all, thank the organizers for this fabulous and much appreciated airshow.

 
 
Navy Wing Fairey Swordfish Mk I
 Belgian Air Component Alouette III Lithuanian Air Force Mil-Mi 8 "Hip"
Royal Navy Westland Seaking ASaC.7 Royal Navy Westland Seaking HAS.1
Operated on loan from the UK Ministry of Defence by Heli Operations for the training of German Navy Seaking crews
Royal Air Force Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 in airworthy conditions ! French Navy NH90 Caiman
Navy Wings Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 Navy Wings Hawker Sea Fury T.20
The pistons and the jet... All sailors...
 De Havilland DH-87B Hornet Moth Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1
Mc Donnell - Douglas F-4K Phantom FG.1 Phantom and Sea Harrier...the golden wings of the Royal Navy
De Havilland DH-110 Sea Vixen FAW.2 British Aerospace Sea Harrier FA.2
 Royal Air Force Grob G120TP-A Prefect T.1 QinetiQ Grob G120TP-A Prefect
Ready for the show in the heat wave
 
Royal Navy Agusta - Westland AW159 Wildcat HMA2
 
 Royal Navy Westland Seaking ASaC.7
 
Korean War duo: 
The Sea Fury is the last propeller aircraft to have shot down a MiG-15 jet, this victory was held by the Commander Peter Carmichael on August 9th, 1952
SB Lim-2 (MiG-15UTI) The Mig and the Sea Fury
Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR.4 Solo Display Simply powerful
Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" aerobatic team
 
 
 
 
 
Navy Wing Fairey Swordfish Mk I
Danish Air Force F-16AM Solo Display  Flares effect
 
Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188A Solo Display 
 The bird in flight... (Courtesy RCAF media) (Courtesy RCAF media)
(Courtesy RCAF media) (Courtesy RCAF media)
 
 
 

 
 A splendid and mostly rare demonstration at this side of the Atlantic Ocean
A RCAF member with the BAF wings... Our national "Grat" was there also !  Captain Stefan Porteous and CF-188A leaflet
 
The French Navy wa also largely represented  Paris, Zephyr, Rafale, Falcon...simply nice
Dassault  Falcon 50 Mer
A business jet for naval puposes 
  Dassault Rafale M demonstration
Belgian Air Force Lockheed-Martin F-16AM Solo Display 
 
 
 
The great final..
 
British Army Agusta - Westland AW159 Wildcat AH1
Royal Navy  British Aerospace Hawk T.1A Some friends who do not want good
Agusta - Westland Merlin HC.3 The gunner covers the area before the arrival of special forces
Generally they drives Toyota cars and they are not "child of heart" A Merlin bringing the Special Forces vehicles
Special Forces deployment  Intervention
 Supacat Jackal armoured vehicles covered by a Wildcat Land Rover Defender XD "Wolf" W.M.I.K
Air and ground actions  The Wildcat always in low level cover
The strong way to eradicate the plague Merlin...the wizard...
The power of His Majesty Navy... So simply Splendid conclusion for the Yeovilton International Air Day
 

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