As on previous occasions, the 2012 event, which takes place on 23 June, will consist of an outstanding and diverse flying display, an extensive static display and a range of other attractions and ground-based entertainment. Celebrating the multiple achievements of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, both contemporary and historic, it will provide visitors of all ages with a thrilling and memorable day out.
Air Day 2012 aims to build on the success of previous years and takes as its main theme the 30th anniversary of the Falklands Campaign.
Staged between April and June 1982, the Falklands Campaign was one of history’s shorter conflicts but one that put the spotlight well and truly on RNAS Yeovilton’s men and machines. Every single RNAS Yeovilton-based Naval Air Squadron – 800, 801, 809, 815, 845, 846, 847 and 848 – participated in the Campaign and, ultimately, the base supplied a total of 126 aircraft and more than 1,400 Royal Naval personnel.
The Sea Harrier FRS1, having then only recently entered Fleet Air Arm service, was used operationally for the first time and led the air power contingent deployed to the South Atlantic region. The Sea Harrier FRS1 and the models that succeeded it have since been retired but a trio of preserved Sea Harriers will form an integral part of Air Day 2012’s static display. Their presence will give visitors their only chance of the year to see, at close-quarters, examples of this iconic, combat-proven V-STOL (Vertical Short-Take Off and Landing) aircraft on external display. The static display will also include a recently-repainted Westland Wessex HU5 of the type deployed to the Falklands and appearing on the ground and in the air will be other rotorcraft associated with the Campaign, including Westland Lynx and Sea King helicopters. Many of these will participate in Air Day’s unique Commando Assault finale, alongside BAE Hawk T1s from the Naval Flying Standards Flight (Fixed-Wing) based at RNAS Culdrose and, hopefully, additional types supplied by other elements of the UK armed forces. The Falklands 30 theme will be spearheaded by the mighty Avro Vulcan B2 XH588: a genuine Campaign veteran and – making its third consecutive appearance at the show – one of the most popular airshow acts of them all.
The spectacular Commando Assault is a multi-layered role demonstration, blending flying assets, armoured vehicles, troops and explosions in an all-action set-piece that illustrates the vital contribution to the preservation of global stability made by the Royal Navy both 30 years ago and in the present day. The same was true throughout much of the 20th century and the Royal Navy Historic Flight’s RNAS Yeovilton-based fleet supplies a powerful reminder of the service’s achievements during WW2 and the immediate post-war years. Its involvement in Air Day 2012 includes Fairey Swordfish LS326 – of the type used in the Sinking of the Bismarck and the Battle of Taranto Harbour – and the Sea Fury T20 – a two-seat trainer version of one of the most potent piston-engine fighters ever built. Other Royal Naval contributions will include the Westland Merlin HM1 and the award-winning Royal Navy Black Cats Lynx pair, whose intricate and fast-paced display is always an Air Day highlight. Privately-owned, the world’s only airworthy De Havilland Sea Vixen is another regular Air Day participant and will give a sweeping display reminiscent of the Fleet Air Arm of the 1960s, during which time Sea Vixens charged skywards from RNAS Yeovilton. It will be joined by Kennet Aviation’s brutish Douglas Skyraider, appearing at Air Day for the first time since being repainted into an attractive new US Navy scheme last year.
So, once more, Royal Naval firepower past and present will be at the heart of the Air Day flying display but support from the Royal Air Force and the British Army will be comprehensive, too. The RAF Red Arrows – reduced, this year, to a seven-ship formation – lead the RAF’s contribution, joined by the RAF Tornado GR4 Role Demo, the ever-popular Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane and the solo Hawk T1 and Tucano T1 trainers, the latter presented this year in a vibrant scheme honouring the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Army Air Corps will supplement its planned involvement in the Commando Assault with a rare solo display from a Lynx MK9.
A number of foreign air arms plan to participate in the show including a dynamic solo display by a French Navy Rafale making possibly it’s only UK appearance this year. While other final confirmations are awaited, one extremely exciting item has already been announced. The Royal Saudi Air Force Saudi Hawks are the Arabic equivalent of the Red Arrows and will be making only their second ever UK appearance at Air Day. Equipped, like the Red Arrows, with BAE Hawks, they’re a world record-breaking and award-winning six-aircraft team painted in the vibrant green and white colours of the Saudi Arabian flag. Air Day’s organisers are very much looking forward to welcoming, to the show, its first Royal Saudi Air Force participation of any kind and are pleased to host the team at the start of its UK tour.
There will also be strong civilian content courtesy of many of the UK’s best display pilots. Already confirmed are the SWIP Team of two Silence Twister homebuilt aircraft and the legendary US-built North American P-51D Mustang WW2 fighter, owned and flown by Peter Teichman’s Hangar 11 organisation. Air Day will also host the first ever display by the newly-formed Red Star Rebels team of Czech-built Aero L-29 Delfin jet trainers. This promises to take the form of a Cold War-themed, airfield attack-style set-piece of a kind never before seen in the UK.
The Flying Display is the centrepiece of Air Day but around it lie a vast array of other attractions. Open throughout the weekend, the Fleet Air Arm Museum houses Europe’s largest naval aircraft collection and Air Day ticket holders can enter it at a 25 per cent-reduced rate. A selection of RNAS Yeovilton’s hangars, used daily for aircraft maintenance and repair, will be opened up, providing a rare behind-the-scenes look at the base’s operational work, while others will be used to showcase the latest defence industry innovations, some with interactive elements and, especially, the future of the Royal Navy. Arena performances will be given by the Royal Marines Band and the HMS Heron Field Gun Crew and there’ll also be an impressive quota of classic cars and motorbikes, simulators, a funfair and a host of trade stands selling everything from military paraphernalia to local produce.
Air Day 2012 can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. A standard entrance ticket costs £23.00 for Adults, Senior Citizens and current/past UK Armed Forces personnel and £8.00 for children on the day but significant discounts exist for advanced ticket purchases (£18.00, £16.00, £16.00 and £5.00 respectively). There are also upgraded packages covering entrance to the Grandstand, Flightline Enclosure or Swordfish Enclosure. Details of these, along with the latest aircraft participation information, can be viewed at www.royalnavy.mod.uk/yeovilton-airday or by telephoning the Ticketline on 08445 781 781.
In all, Air Day 2012 promises to be a captivating and unforgettable family day out, with a cavalcade of action, both in the air and on the ground.