With only a few days to go, the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset is all set to open its gates to 35,000 visitors for its annual International Air Day. As one of the South West’s most notable single-day events, having been staged most years since 1947, it promises to be another entertaining, informative and unforgettable day out for families and enthusiasts alike.
On 18 June 1940, RNAS Yeovilton was commissioned as HMS Heron. Initially, the Air Station was a base for training naval aviators and fighter controllers. Since then, it has witnessed the significant evolution of fixed-wing carrier aviation from propellers to jets, supported frontline squadrons in major operations worldwide and is today the home of the Commando Helicopter Force and Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force.
RNAS Yeovilton’s 75th anniversary will be the main focus for this year’s event. Types representing naval aviation past, present and future will feature in the show’s static displays and in the action-packed five-hour flying display, alongside a host of other aircraft, vintage and modern, slow and fast, military and civilian. It will also be a show of ‘firsts’ and ‘lasts’ with some aircraft making their final appearance and others their debut at Air Day.
Air Day will also be supporting AgustaWestland’s 100th anniversary. The Yeovil-based company has the strongest of links to RNAS Yeovilton, via both its nearby location and its ongoing provision of helicopters (and, before them, aircraft) used by the resident squadrons.
With so much to see at Air Day 2015, in the air and on the ground, here is a list of highlights not to be missed:
RNAS Yeovilton’s 75th Anniversary Celebrations – Memories of a bygone era will be relived with displays from historic naval aircraft types that resided at RNAS Yeovilton. These include the Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Swordfish W5856 making its first public display since 2003; very rare examples of the Sea Hurricane and Seafire and the world’s sole airworthy Sea Vixen. The static display features two former fleet defence aircraft – the mighty Phantom FG1 and the game-changing Sea Harrier FA2.
Vulcan XH558’s Last Air Day Appearance – In its final display season, the ‘Spirit of Great Britain’ will perform its own magnificent routine as well as take part in an exclusive special ‘V-Jet Formation’ flypast with the Sea Vixen and two Vampires. ‘Underwing’ guided tours, once it’s back on the ground, will also be available.
The Revolutionary AgustaWestland AW609 – The world’s first civilian tiltrotor aircraft will give its first public display at a UK military Airshow. The state-of-the-art AW609 spearheads AgustaWestland’s 100th anniversary commemoration. A special section of Air Day’s static display will feature many of its most famous and successful designs to commemorate the firm’s centenary.
Commando Sea King’s Last Assault – This year’s Commando Assault demonstration will be one of firsts and lasts, with the Commando Helicopter Force’s outgoing Sea King HC4s performing alongside its replacement Merlin HC3s. At least 14 aircraft are expected to take part including a pair of Apache AH1s.
The French Navy’s Role Demonstration – Involving two examples each of its Rafale M and Super Etendard carrier-launched fighters, an intensely powerful setpiece is in prospect for this UK debut. Months away from retirement, the Super Etendards are making their last appearance at an airshow in this country.
Fastest Ever Field Gun Crew – A full programme of Arena & Hangar Displays will feature HMS Heron’s Brickwood Trophy winning 2015 Field Gun Champions. In winning the title they also beat the record for the fastest time by a Field Gun Crew. The world famous Band of HM Royal Marines will also be performing in the Arena.
World-class International Display Teams – A triple line-up featuring the RAF Red Arrows plus past Air Day award-winners the Royal Jordanian Falcons and the Spanish Air Force’s Patrulla Águila who are also celebrating their 30th anniversary year.
The Norwegian Air Force Historical Flight’s MiG-15 – A UK airshow flying display debut for this classic Cold War fighter of Korean War fame. A jet engine aircraft type that was famously shot down by a piston engine Royal Navy Sea Fury during the conflict. Both aircraft types will also be on static display side by side.
Wings & Wheels – Alongside the large array of static aircraft on display Air Day’s ever popular vehicle exhibition will feature a range of classic cars, ‘supercars’, military vehicles and motorbikes. Key exhibits include Bumblebee and KITT – the four-wheeled stars of Transformers and Knight Rider.
US Air Force Returns – Two A-10 Thunderbolt close air support combat aircraft and a huge C-17 Globemaster transporter are set to be the most popular participants on static display. See these modern day airpower icons up-close as the USAF participates in Air Day for the first time in eight years.
Europe’s Largest Collection of Naval Aircraft – Air Day visitors can take advantage of half-price entry to the Fleet Air Arm Museum. Take a unique look at the Royal Navy’s proud aviation heritage and experience life on an aircraft carrier. All show visitors can redeem this offer on the day or up until 31 December 2015.
Ticket information can be found at www.royalnavy.mod.uk/yeovilton-airday or by calling the Ticketline on 0330 100 3656.
Twitter: @YeoviltonAD & #YeoviltonAD15