The Royal Air Force Cosford Air Show 2017 was launched to the media on Tuesday 29th March. Cosford is the Royal Air Force’s only Air Show of the year and this year marks four major themes; Battlefield Support, International Cooperation, Space and the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from a slightly foggy Shropshire. Photography as credited.
Though it may lack a huge sprawling concrete airfield, RAF Cosford remains a very important station within the Royal Air Force’s organisation. It is the home to RAF Engineering hosting No 1 School of Technical Training, he Aerosystems Engineering and Management Training School and No 1 Radio School. Other notable unit include the RAF School of Physical Training and the Defence School of Photography. The relatively small airfield is still in use too with the University of Birmingham Air Squadron (UBAS) flying a small fleet of Grob Tutor T1s.
The Cosford Air Show is an important part of the station’s annual calendar. The RAF footprint in the West Midlands is very small, so the service sees the air show as a very important engagement opportunity in part of the country that does not often get exposed to RAF activities with upto 60,000 spectators attending. The show also plays a very important part in the promotion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to young people. It is recognised that in the past, STEM has been poorly presented to young people and that has led to skills shortages. Visitors to Cosford Air Show in recent years will no doubt have seen some very impressive Stem exhibitions in the hangars during the show using not only Cosford’s own engineering teams, but also those from associated industries. They’ll be back in 2017, but a more permanent STEM centre for local schools and colleges will be launched at the show. Group Captain Mark Hunt, Station Commander RAF Cosford said, “The STEM experience at the Air Show is superbly interactive. Members of the public can get hands-on experience of state of the art military technologies and learn more about exciting education and career opportunities.”
The primary aim of the show may well be as an engagement opportunity for the Royal Air Force, but it also raises funds for RAF Charities. Over the past five years the event has raised more than £1,000,000 for the charities it supports. These include the Royal Air Forces Association, RAF Benevolent Fund, Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and the RAF Museum which is based on the site. As well as these four big and well known good causes, some money is also allocated for RAF Cosford use supporting its own RAF family and also for other local good causes. Money from the airshow has been used to build outdoor play areas in local schools and an annual pensioners Christmas party hosted at the station. During the Media launch, Station Commander Group Captain Mark Hunt OBE was able to present a cheque for £117,725 to the RAF Charities which was the total raised from the 2016 show.
The airshow chairman for 2017 is Wing Commander Chris Jones, Officer Commanding of the No 1 School of Technical Training. Chris gave a very enthusiastic introduction to Cosford’s plans for the 2017 which include a number of unique themes are attractions.
Returning visitors will notice that two of the most popular ground attractions, the RAF Village and Vintage Village, have both been moved to enable them to be increased in size. The Vintage Village will be set in the the 1960s, with attractions to include a display by the RAF Mini Club, 1960s aircraft cockpit sections and Vintage Tea Room. Complimenting this area will be a variety of static aircraft from the period, including the Postbellum Foundation’s Cessna O-2 Skymaster.
With Space as one of the three major themes of the show, an entire hangar to display the advancement of Space technology. Displays from RAF Fylingdales, Liverpool John Moore University and UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space will highlight the UK’s world class satellite development and its role at the forefront of the Space industry
“Battlefield Support” is the main operational theme of the show. The finale to the days flying will see a unique scenario of battlefield support aircraft supporting ground forces on the field complete with some spectacular pyrotechnics. Part of this will see a pair of BAC Strikemaster jets in the colours of the Royal Air Force of Oman fly a role demonstration over Cosford.
On the ground, the centrepiece for the theme will be a recreation of a forward operating base hosting a number of aircraft including a Belgian Air Force NH Industries NH90TTH. The ‘FOB’ is set to include equipment and personnel from units such as the RAF Regiment, Ground Based Air Defence and Tactical Supply Wing, to give visitors a flavour of what deployable assets the UK military has available. Air Show Operations Manager, Peter Reoch, said, “The new Forward Operating Base display is shaping up really well, and we think it’ll be a must-see attraction for all our visitors on the day. We are still talking with a number of overseas Air Arms who hope to provide helicopters for display in the area alongside those already confirmed such as the NH90.”
Royal Air Force aircraft will of course feature in various displays throughout the day. Cosford’s own collection of aircraft training aids will be on show with the likes of the SEPECAT Jaguar GR3/T4s, Panavia Tornados and Helicopters. UBAS will also be show with a Tutor T1. Amongst the visiting types will be examples of the Squirrel HT1 and Griffin HT1 from nearby RAF Shawbury and a Shorts Tucano T1 from RAF Linton-on-Ouse. In the air all of the RAF’s various display teams will be show including the Red Arrows, Typhoon, Tutor, Falcons Parachute Display Team and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The BBMF will be celebrating their 60th Anniversary with a special sequence featuring the Avro Lancaster and four Supermarine Spitfires. The static displays will also see some unique contributions from the RAF Museum and this year will see the British Aerospace EAP, Hawker Hurricane IIc and BAE Systems Harrier GR9 on show.
Headlining the “International Cooperation” theme will be the Swiss Air Force’s PC-7 Team. This will be the team’s first ever performance at Cosford and their appearance is highly anticipated. At the time of the launch, Cosford were still in talks with a number of overseas air arms to boost the line-up of international displays.
As always, Cosford will feature a rich variety of displays from civilian operators. A special “then and now” scenario will hopefully see a historic Westland Whirlwind HAR10 display alongside a modern Leonardo AW189 from HM Coastguard. Rich Goodwin will also be returning to Cosford with incredible Pitts S-2S Special wearing the colours of Customer Experience company, Anana.
The Breitling Wingwalkers, one of the most display acts in the UK, will be returning to Cosford this adding their unique brand of daring wingwalking and glamour to the show. 2017 sees two new wingwalkers join the team, Gina Marshall and Katie Hobbs, with the RAF Cosford Air Show being one of their first displays on the UK calendar. Katie said, “I’m really looking forward to my first performance at the RAF Cosford Air Show – it will be an amazing experience and I’m really excited!”
With the Air Show quickly approaching, and with no tickets available at the gate, those wishing to attend are encouraged to purchase their tickets to guarantee entry. Air Show Tickets, priced £25.00, are currently available from the Air Show website and selected retail outlets including the RAF Museum at Cosford and Hendon. Accompanied under-16s enter the Air Show for free, making the event a superb family day out.