Review: Premature ejection at Scampton!

As promised, here is my review of the “inaugural” Scampton Airshow 2017.   Now I might be completely off track, but I’m guessing that Scampton picked up the gauntlet when Waddington Airshow pulled the plug.    Which should be a blessing;  I had never been to an airshow before until we saw the advert for Waddington back in 2014, and spent a thoroughly enjoyable day with my brother and some of our children.  So it wasn’t surprising that when I saw the advertisement for Scampton, I was eager to attend again.

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They say timing is everything and just lately it seems my timing is out on most things I try to organise – on this day most of the family were already pre-booked with some baby gendering function, and that left just me and the future son-in-law up for a ‘roaring’ day out.

I also came up with the crazy idea of taking along my seven year old granddaughter – I thought she might be pleasantly surprised with all the noise and action, although I realise she is a total girl and it would be 50:50 whether it was her thing.  But the promise of a day out with Grandad and ‘Uncle Alan’, a fairground and vintage stalls was enough to have her standing by the car ready to go.

While the adult tickets were £39 each, fortunately the children tickets are free so it would be no great financial loss if she hated it – although of course I much prefer that people actually enjoy their days out with me!

Scampton holds a particular interest for me, as it is both the home of the Red Arrows display team, and many years before, the home of the equally famous Dambusters squadron.   I had re-run “The Dambusters” movie complete with now politically incorrectly named labrador in preparation (considered making the granddaughter sit through it but decided against, luckily for her).  And with photography being an equal ‘love’, I always look for a chance to combine the two interests.

I was also hoping for an opportunity to visit the Dambusters exhibition in the heritage centre, which you had to book on arrival.

I signed up for the Scampton daily e-mail and every day received the ever increasing list of exciting exhibits, both on the ground and in the air.  Of particular interest to me was of course the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (I just love the finely tuned sound of those Merlin engines) and also some of the heavier aircraft on display – the B17 ‘Sally B’, the Catalina and an oil spill busting 727 amongst others.

As we neared the day, the excitement started to wane slightly.    The Memorial flight was on hold pending repairs to the merlin engines.  And the weather forecast was going down hill fast.

Not to be outdone, I ordered my granddaughter a junior pair of ear defenders, and took her last minute shopping for glittery wellington boots and lots of goodies to feast on during the day.

Bonus – the last email from Scampton announced the BBMF was back on, although it would be restricted to the Lancaster, Hurricane and a single Spitfire.   Enough for me.

We had booked the Sunday display, and set off a little later than planned and arrived at 10 a.m. – the field had opened a couple of hours earlier but we didn’t particularly relish dragging the little one out of bed.  I was concerned we would hit the bulk of the queues, but we didn’t have to worry – arriving at the Lincolnshire showground, we were expertly directed to our parking spot, and a short walk took us to the speedy ticket checking area, grabbed a special security band for the granddaugher on the way through, which had my name and mobile hiding underneath, and then straight on to a fleet of double decker buses which were cleverly circulating between the airfield and parking zone – the buses didn’t wait to fill up – as soon as one arrived on the back of the long queue (we counted seventeen in total), the front one pulled away, which really did keep the whole process fluid.  Hats off to the staff in charge – I heard some people had been complaining about parking on the previous day – we certainly didn’t have any issues.

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On arrival at the field, we were faced with a good spread of various stalls, although if I’m being honest, it wasn’t that easy to define where the various “villages” were – we don’t think we found the vintage village, or if we did we didn’t recognise it as such – and that was one of the things I was interested in seeing.

There was a decent spread of static aircraft on display, but not quite as good as the ones I remembered at Waddington.

Our main problem was that it was very overcast, with a slight but chilling breeze, and we hadn’t really come equipped for artic conditions.

The granddaughter wasn’t overly enthralled with the static displays but she HAD spotted the huge slide at the back of a reasonably sized fairground, and kept directing our attention to it.

Scampton organised a bag drop off zone, which was really handy for leaving the chairs and rucksacks while we had a wander around.  The flightline was already full, so there was no need to rush to set up our seats on the front row – any bit of grass was going to have to do.  But there was plenty spare, it wasn’t overcrowded.

Next to the drop off zone was the information tent, and a downside was that there was no timetable published for the various flights – I know that it can change during the day but it would have been nice to have an idea of flying order.  Luckily the guy on information kindly went through his own extensive flight timetable, and I worked out we needed to be sat down for 12:50 when the real big displays started.  The downside was that the BBMF had been cancelled entirely as it was too windy at Coningsby for them to take off.  What where they doing there anyway?  Everything else seemed to be taking off from Scampton.

We duly set off and arrived at the fairground as promised as the first of the flying displays started up.  So it was one eye on the granddaughter and one on the aircraft displaying overhead.  She almost looked up when the Red Arrows took off, heading for a fly past at the Great Northern Run, but only almost – not quite.

The slide was calling to her.

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After an extended bounce on the trampolines, ‘granddaughter’ announced she was hungry so we now had to find the food stalls.  Fortunately, they where close to the drop zone, and with the weather deteriorating even further, with growing breeze and darkening skies, we decided to grab our bags on the way.

On route, the Falcon parachute display team suddenly dropped from the sky.  It wasn’t particularly enthralling due to the bad weather – I’m certain they must have dropped from a lower height than they had at Waddington, due to the low cloud – they didn’t seem to be in the air two minutes.

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Again, the little one hardly batted an eyelid as they floated down to earth, too eager to find something to eat.

On the way to the burger stall the Red Arrows arrived back and did a fly past with smoke trailing, again, no reaction from the little one – until they suddenly started peeling off and for a moment I thought a little excitement was starting to stir.  But it was short lived.

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A few minutes later and we were twenty pounds lighter (money not weight) with two burgers, a hot dog and a handful of chips to our name.  Not the nicest of meals we’ve had for that price – I do get annoyed at how these venues rip you off.

As we sat and ate in the bitter cold (I was hoping the warm hot dog would brighten the little one’s spirits), the first real jet screamed overhead and this gave her the excuse to don her ear defenders, which then stayed on the rest of the day, more to keep her ears warm than anything else.

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It had started to spot with rain, and we decided now was the time to set up camp for the big display so we got out the chairs, wrapped the little one up in kagoul and loaned coats, but stopped short of putting the brollies up when the first one ripped inside out with the now gusting wind.

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‘Sally B’ had lined up (although we couldn’t see it beyond the crowd on the front line)  but gave a beautiful display overhead, an amazing sight and so different to the sleek lines that modern aircraft have these days.

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The Catalina that followed was equally graceful.

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If I am being honest it was difficult to enjoy the scene while battling to keep stuff from blowing away – I stood up and my camping chair immediately rolled away from me.

And from a photography view, the lack of sunlight reduces the aircraft to dull tones when they should be alive with bright colours and shiny reflections from the glass and aluminium.  I packed my camera away knowing that the imagines shots would not be forthcoming today.

It was now 1.45, and we endured a couple more exhibitions but by now I was chilled to the core, and we knew that the little one must be feeling the same, despite her protestations that she was ok and having a nice time.

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On the promise that she could have a ride on the Red Arrow simulator, we reluctantly forewent the Red Arrows display at 2.30 (apparently also a man down for some reason), and set off back for the bus to the car park about 2 p.m, some two hours early than expected – the display finishing off at 4.

We were good to our word and gave the little one her ride (about breaking my knee in the process), pointed out the wing walkers flying around behind us as we walked, which ALMOST brought a smile to her face but not quite enough for her to turn around and watch, and then we gratefully climbed into the car and turned on the heater.  The outside temperature gauge read 16’C – I don’t know where it was getting that from, it felt more like 6’C.

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So, was Scampton a washout?  Well, no, we hardly has a drop of the promised showers – but the freezing wind just made it too difficult for us to wander around and enjoy the displays in the baking sun like we had at Waddington.   Not Scampton’s fault of course and I’m sure they did their best to persevere on.

I think a few more bigger aircraft would have been good – we seemed to be missing something like a Chinook,  but then to be fair we saw very little of the display so don’t really know what else we missed.  Apart from the Vampire jets that I had been looking forward to see.

Our biggest mistake was thinking we could do everything on our agenda – it’s impossible to sit and watch the displays AND tour the stalls – what we have decided is that next time this would need to be a family outing – set up camp on the flight line, and have enough bodies so that we can take it in turns to go for a wander without losing our place.

Anyone who knows me also knows how much I love aircraft in general, so for me to walk away from an airshow, it must have really been unpleasant.  And in fairness, it wasn’t just due to concerns over the little one – Uncle Alan and myself had both had enough well before the end, and were glad to get back on the bus out of the wind.

And given the choice of the bus back to the car, and visiting the heritage centre, the car won- that tells how cold it was.

I’ve got  feeling that had this been a bright sunny day it would have been a totally different experience for her.

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Any outside event is always going to be subject to the weather – but for me, an airshow only comes into its own in blue cloudless skies.   Ironically the weather on Saturday appeared to be marginally better based on the news footage.

Thumbs up to a good job by Scampton – maybe next year the weather will be with us!

Watch our youtube channel for more video footage from the show.

Robert

 

 

 

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