There is something reassuringly British about the Jersey International Air Display but it still feels more European. The venue, for one thing, looking out over the huge bay that dominates the south coast of the island, is stunning and it is not actually that hard to get there as there are a lot of flights from all points in the UK, and it is cheap enough if you book in advance. Everyone (mostly) drives on the correct side of the road, the police are helpful but the weather is just a little nicer, (except in 2011 and that was an exception) and the show often features aircraft that are not often, or even never before, seen at mainland airshows. It was, after all, Jersey that had the first UK display of the Viggen and the Swedish Historic flight are great supporters of the show.
Melvyn Hiscock reports from the Channel Islands. All photography by Ian Sueur/www.KandidPrints.com
This year’s show was a very well balanced show with some excellent debuts, some truly glorious weather and some old favourites. The show was opened by a 771 NAS Sea King doing a search and rescue demo. The RAF also had a Sea King, later in the show, and two SAR demos may have been a little much but they were different, with the Navy pulling someone from the clutches of ‘Man Eating Seaweed’ while the RAF took their casualty to an RNLI launch. The reason for the two services doing similar acts was they were both presented with Bronze Medals by the Baliff of Jersey,in honour of 60 years of SAR coverage for the Channel Islands.
Following the Sea King were two Piper PA28s from the local aeroclub that were being flown supporting the local charity Helping Wings that provide air experience flights for life limited children and their families and scholarships for older disabled people.
This year there seems to have been a flurry of display teams using the excellent RV series of aircraft. The Fireflies were two RV4s flown by John Gowdy and Andy Durston.
The Fireflies were followed by John Beattie flying a Harvard. This was a late addition to the show following the unfortunate cancellation of the booked Breguet Alize due to it’s pilot having to do that curse of airshow flying, the day job! Harvards were a staple at airshows for many years but it is a long time since I can remember seeing one and John Beattie can be relied on to do a good display in whatever he is in.
Local resident Brian Lesslie was flying his Magni Gyrocopter. This is a two-seat, side-by-side Gyro powered by a Rotax 914. It is a very capable aeroplane and Brian frequently flies it to the mainland and, being bright yellow, it stood out well against the bright blue sky.
A new aircraft for Jersey was the Cessna O2 from the Post Bellum Foundation based in Holland. They hope to preserve military aircraft of the post war period, as they believe that many younger enthusiasts find World War Two a little too far away in time and would like to see aircraft from the Korean, Vietnam and other, more recent, conflicts. Their O2 was the fifteenth made and served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970. It was followed by another Vietnam era aeroplane, the Bronco from the Musee European de l’Aviation de Chasse, based at Montelimar in France. Both showed how agile and well suited they were for the down and dirty role.
It was nice to see the 1930s being represented so well. Jez Cooke flew Richard Seeley’s Travellair Mystery Ship and it was nice to see a display from an aeroplane type that is historically very interesting but also great looking. The original was the first private aircraft to be faster than military aircraft at the 1929 Cleveland Air Races. This one is a reproduction and the builders were able to access an original example to improve on the available plans. Two of the originals were numbered 30 and 31 and this one has 29, not to suggest it was earlier but as a nod towards the year the type won.
Also representing the 1930s was Lufthansa’s Junkers Ju52. This is a genuine Junkers aeroplane, rather than a Casa, and it was built in 1936. It was also available for joy flights after the show and whilst it’s history as an airliner is important, it is also significant on Jersey as it was the aircraft that delivered many of the German soldiers that occupied the Channel Islands in 1940.
Another very welcome debut, and a first at any show in the British Isles, was the CAC Boomerang flown by Remko Sibjen. This is based at Antwerp in Belgium and was built using components discovered in New Guinea in the 1980s. Another Jersey debut followed with Will Greenwood flying the Yak 3.
RAF participation was limited this year, with the Red Arrows closing the show and the Dakota, Spitfire and Hurricane displaying later but Andy Preece flew another of his excellent displays in the Grob Tutor. His displays are always a pleasure to watch and always well flown.
Another Grob product was the Grob 109s from Aerosparx. These were another late addition to the show but very welcome. As with Andy Preece, the flying was precise and, of course, based on energy management. Guy Westgate and Tim Dews also flew prior to the post show party with the full firework show which was excellent. Their arrival later into the post show party was greeted with a standing round of applause. High praise indeed from other display pilots.
The noisy part of the show would appeal to any jet lover. First up was the Sea Vixen, expertly flown by Simon Hargreaves. Sadly Jersey is a little too short to take the Vixen, and so it flew in from and back out to Yeovilton, seeing it in the static park later would have been nice, but seeing it in the show was a real treat.
The Jersey show organisers and Flying Control Committee always try to produce some interesting formations and the first at Jersey was the wonderful sight of the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron MiG 15UTI and the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight Saab J29 Tunnan. These did a number of passes before splitting and allowing the Mig to display individually. The Tunnan went off and it joined up with the other three aircraft of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight, the Saab SK60, Draken and Viggen. After the split these also displayed individually. They are a fine way of converting dinosaurs into noise!
Just before the Red Arrows finale, another Scandinavian, Norwegian Cyrus Brantenburg’s floatplane DeHavilland Beaver, made some water landings in the bay. This is an interesting airframe having served in Laos with Air America, or as the commentator put it ‘the illegal trading arm of the CIA’. It is also nice to see some water landings as floatplanes and St Aubin’s bay seem to be made for each other.
As stated, the show was closed by the Red Arrows in fine style. If you have never considered visiting Jersey for the airshow the simple question is ‘Why?’ The show is midweek and in term time which has been mentioned by some as a problem, but that is due to it’s unique place in Jersey life. Schools in Jersey get the day off and it is not far off being a States holiday. It is always the Thursday nearest to Battle of Britain Sunday and it is well worth the trouble to get there.