East Kirkby Airshow

East Kirkby Airshow

The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby hosts a number of events each year with the biggest being their annual airshow. LAHC is of course most well known for their efforts to return Avro Lancaster B.Mk.VII NX611 ‘Just Jane’ to airworthy condition, but the entire site is a wonderful tribute to the personnel of Bomber Command. Their annual airshow brings together a varied mix of aircraft with a strong focus on aviation heritage but intermixed with some civilian crowd pleasers.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.

While some of the larger, more illustrious airshows still much of the limelight, it is the smaller, local airshows that are the life-blood of the airshow community. These are the venues where new display pilots and display acts are often able to gain their first bookings and get noticed by flying display directors and other organisers. The number of these events though has dropped significantly in recent years as financial pressures have started to bite. However, a few of these excellent local airshows continue and the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre (LAHC) at East Kirkby hosts one of the best.

LAHC was founded by brother Fred and Harold Panton twenty years ago as a memorial to Bomber Command, and in particular their brother Christopher Whitton Panton. Christopher was shot down and killed during a bombing raid over Nuremberg on 30/31 March 1944 in an Avro Lancaster. The centrepiece to the Museum is Avro Lancaster B.Mk.VII NX611 ‘Just Jane.’ For many years, the Lancaster has been restored and kept in taxi-able condition but two years ago, the LAHC started its own private project to return NX611 to airworthy status. They anticipate the work will take ten years. Much of the most disruptive work takes place in the winter months allowing NX611 to taxy during the summer season. This allows for a steady income as the public can buy ‘rides’ in NX611 allowing them to experience the sounds and smells of a live Lancaster. NX611 also plays a major part in all of East Kirkby’s annual events including the airshow where she completed three taxy runs. She has recently by another legendary Second World War aircraft in taxi-able condition, de Havilland Mosquito NF.II HJ711. Owned and restored by Tony Agar, HJ711 is the only known example of the NF.II in existence. Like ‘Just Jane’ the restoration of HJ711 has been a private project and Tony has gone to some extraordinary lengths over 40 years to find parts for the project. HJ711 arrived at East Kirkby in 2017 where it has been brought up to taxi-able condition. The finale to the Airshow saw the first public taxi-runs by the Mosquito in company with the Avro Lancaster – a unique sight and certainly an awe-inspiring sound.

The Museum and preserved control tower were at the centre of the ground attractions for the airshow which also included classic cars, super cars plus, military exhibits a full select traders. There was also live music performances with the D-Day Darlings, made famous by Britain’s Got Talent, performing under the wings of ‘Just Jane’ to open the afternoon’s entertainment and also in the main museum hangar.

The flying display brought together a very pleasing mix of civilian and historic aircraft displays. Opening the afternoon’s flying were the Bremont Great War Display Team with a fourship of RAF BE2c, Sopwith Triplane and a pair of Fokker Dr1s. Though slightly down on aircraft numbers, the team still put a superb display complete with ground based pyrotechnics recreating the swirling dogfights over the western front over 100 years ago.

In amongst the historic display were a handful of colourful civilian displays. Paul Freeland displayed his elegant SIAI-Marchetti SF260 tourer G-RAZI while Corinne Dennis gave a super display of aerobatics in her Pitts S-1S Special. One display that certainly caught the crowd’s imagination was Peter Davies flying the Calidus Autogyro. Peter’s very energetic and close-in display really comes alive at small intimate venues as he able to interact with the crowd.

But it was historic military aircraft that formed the background of the flying display with everything from trainers to fighters to maritime patrol aircraft represented. The Real Aeroplane Company’s Miles Magister is a very rare airshow participant these days and together with T-6 Harvard Aviation’s North American Harvard ‘Wacky Wabbit’ represented RAF training during the Second World War. Nick Houghton’s beautiful Beech 18 continued the radial theme with a beautiful display showing off the Invasion stripes applied for the D-Day anniversary commemorations earlier this year.

East Kirkby also saw a rare airshow outing for the Hangar 11 Collection’s Supermarine Spitfire PRXI flown by Peter Teichman. Peter announced last year he was retiring from display flying every weekend but has kept his display authorisation to appear at a few select events that he wishes to support. East Kirkby’s short crowd-line meant Peter was able to present some beautiful curving passes to show off the elegant lines of the iconic Spitfire. The Spitfire’s famous foe, the Messerschmitt Bf109, was also represented in the flying by Anglia Aircraft Restoration’s Hispano HA1112-M1L Buchon ‘White 9.’ This particular aircraft was one of the Spanish Air Force Buchons used in the Battle of Britain movie and has been recent been restored by Air Leasing Ltd. It carries the markings of a Bf109 flown by Uffz Edmund Roβmann in 1941 as part of Jagdgeschwader 52 The Buchon is a little too fast to land at East Kirkby so Steve Jones flew his display from Air Leasing’s base at Sywell.

One of the most impressive performers of the afternoon was Plane Sailing’s Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina ‘Miss Pick Up.’ Matt Dearden and his crew operated from East Kirkby which meant the crowd were treated to some really impressive short field take-offs and landings from the big maritime-patrol amphibian as well as a full display.

British Army Co-operation aircraft also featured in the flying. Kevin Hale brought his lovely Taylorcraft Auster AOP6 and gave a very nice display of the type’s agility and ability to fly very slowly. But the star of the flying display was the Aircraft Restoration Company’s stunning Westland Lysander III V9312. First flown after an extensive restoration in August 2018, ARCo’s Lysander made its public flying display debut earlier this year wearing the colours of 225 Squadron. This was one of the units V9312 served with before it found its way to Canada as a target tug. V9312 is the only airworthy Westland built Lysander as the others were all built in Canada. At East Kirkby the Lysander was put through its paces by ARCo’s boss, John Romain before joining the Lancaster and Mosquito on the flightline for a special photo-opportunity in the late afternoon sun.

At anytime the LAHC at East Kirkby is a worthy day out, but their Airshow is one of the hidden gems on the UK airshow circuit with its unique atmosphere and superb selection of flying displays. It was the perfect celebration of Lincolnshire together with its aviation and military heritage.