With the demise of the Mildenhall Air Fete the season opener for the Red Arrows has fallen to the Southend Airshow. The first Southend Airshow was held as the climax of the Spring Festival in 1986, the show was a one day event on Monday 26th May 1986, the show proved such a success that the council decided to make it a stand alone event, in 1990 it moved to a 2 day event and picked up the Largest Free Airshow in Europe label with attendances reaching 250,000 + visitors.
2005 being the 20th Anniversary the organizers promised something special and we were not disappointed with the Eurofighter Typhoon as star of the show. Although I had to laugh when I saw the show leaflet describe the Typhoon Eurofighter as the latest RAF aircraft. On the Sunday we were presented with grey skies but at least the cloud base was about 2000ft.
First up were the Falcons, but no Hercules beat up, this was followed by the first fast Jet display, the Tornado F3 F3 which thrashed along the seafront setting off the car alarms, I am always impressed by the Tornado F3 and the 2005 display routine really shows off the aircraft. Most unusual the Red Arrows were up next, their 2005 display is very slick and we have the welcome return of the red heart and arrow that brought a round of applause from the crowd.
The Sea Vixen was next (No Royal Navy Historic Flight this year, I hope they fly the Vixen, Sea Hawk and Sea Harrier in formation), what can I say but the Vixen is star of the show. The pilot really shows the aircraft at every angle and the performance is quite breathtaking well done all the Sea Vixen team. Jaguar took over where the Tornado F3 left off and carried out a low level attack on the pier which again set off the car alarms, this year is the last year of the Jaguar so make sure you get to see her before she's gone. Aerostars were at the 2004 display again another good show. Poor chap in the Su26 started his routine and had to call an emergency so headed back to Southend Airport. 20 Sqn Harrier, again another good show, with the added sea spray coming up during the hover sequence.
The Red Bull Matadors are a new item on the display circuit, Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones in their Sukhoi 's gave a superb display of precision aerobatic flying. Lynx pair flew the same routine as 2004, you need to be show centre to really appreciate them.
DHL provided a Boeing 757 200F for the next item. I first saw this aircraft displaying was at Duxford 2004 and I swear if they had smoke the CAA would have a fit, the bells and claxon must have been going off for 90% of the display. The Breitling Team, 6 x Aero L39C Albatros just get better each display well worth watching. After the Royal Marines beat up the waterfront with their rubber boats and a Sea King flitted in and out were were presented with the finale. Eurofighter Typhoon T1 of 29 Sqn, the display was superb up to the sequence where the Eurofighter turned towards the crowd, I think the pilot lost concentration for a moment because he immediately pulled into a climb which by this time was over the crowd.
In summary the Southend Airshow might not be everyone's cup of tea but if you have a family who don't share your enthusiasm for Airshows they can toddle off to the fun fair and stalls, while you can get the strategic spot up by the pier for some action
Review & photos by Mike Blakesley.