“ RAFBF Annual Airshow East Kirkby „
Each year the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF) holds an annual airshow at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirkby, this year the airshow was held on the 15th September 2012. The day after we had been to Waddingtons Annual Airshow I popped online to search for another airshow within a couple of hour's drive of where I live, I had seen this show advertised on www.lincsaviation.co.uk for the past few years but had never been able to book tickets as they had all sold out. Luckily this year I was able to book tickets, an adult ticket (15+) is £13.50 and a child ticket (5-15) is £5, a postage fee of £4.50 per order can be added to the total ticket costs. Booking on-line was a simple process and the site happily accepted all cards, my tickets arrived within a couple of days, I was slightly annoyed that the tickets were sent by regular post costing 60p rather than signed for which would of easily been covered by the £4.50 added postage costs. When the 15th September finally arrived I was relieved to wake up to good weather, I then looked on-line to double check opening times and the distance we needed to travel. The gates opened at 10am and flying commenced at 1.30pm, we set off at 9am with the intention of arriving at 11am; we felt there was no rush as this was a small event for which only 4000 tickets had been sold. Happily we were correct, the satnav easily found our destination using the postcode supplied on the event website, the airshow is very under signposted and we only saw one sign for the show as we entered East Kirkby. When we arrived at the Aviation Heritage Centre we were directed onto a field by a slightly grumpy member of staff. When we arrived at 10.30am there were very few visitors already parked up, there was a nice laid back feel to the place and we were more than happy to sit in the car and eat some of our picnic for breakfast. The walk up to the air base was nice; there were plenty of staff on hand to tell us where to go and to encourage us to watch our footing as the ground was quite uneven. At the entrance we were greeted by a cheerful pair of chaps who checked our tickets and encouraged us to take a free site map. Immediately I could see that this airshow was a world away from the very commercial Waddingtons Airshow. On the left there was a large hanger with displays related to WW2 planes, there was a lot of information on the digs that had taken place to recover downed aircraft, the displays were very interesting, if slightly dusty. Towards the end of the hanger there were some old military vehicles, the one I found most interesting was a Green Goddess which is a seriously massive truck. Up the other side of the hanger were more museum style displays about WW2, what I liked most off all were the old model airplanes hung on the hanger walls. Dotted around the airbase were some charity tombola stalls, I won a jar of Ginger Marmalade, which I have to say made me smile as I never win anything on tombolas. There were a few commercial stalls, selling militaria, fudge and cheese. I found that to be a bizarre combination but did not mind as it was nice a nice walk around. There was not much for the children to pester about, there was a small bouncy castle, face painting and some miniature tanks (the ones that were on the gadget show a while back) that were £5 to ride in. The catering facilities onsite looked very good and seemed to be of the burger, hotdog and chips variety. Other snacks such as ice cream, crisps and chocolate bars were available. As we had brought a picnic we did not partake of the food but if drinks prices were anything to go by it would not have been a cheap meal. Cans of pop were 90p and a large tea was £1.80. My husband was very happy to see Just Jane, the Lancaster Bomber that is based at the heritage centre, unfortunately the Lancaster is not fit to fly but does do a couple of Taxi runs throughout the day. It is possible to book a place on a taxi run, but from what I remember this costs in the region of £250, which I consider very overpriced to ride up and down the run way. We watched the taxi runs and my husband was disappointed as they did not run the engines to full capacity, he loves the sound of a Merlin engine. Dotted around the base were a few other buildings housing very interesting WW2 displays, we took the time to check all these out as to visit the museum on a non event day costs £7 per adult and £3 per child, so we wanted to make the most of our airshow tickets. There was also a small display of classic cars, I enjoyed looking at these as you can see the time, effort and love the owners have poured into the vehicles to bring them back to there former glory. My particular favourites were the Morris Minors. The toilet facilities were very nice and clean, there were no extra facilities despite this being a show, but at no point did I or my family have to queue to use the toilets. After a steady walk round we went back to the car and collected our picnic and blankets. On exiting the base our hands were stamped with the word paid so we could get back in without digging our tickets out. We chose a nice spot on the grass alongside the run way to spend the rest of the day. We had an excellent view of all the planes on the ground and when they were taxiing up the runway. I liked that we could get so close, with the event being small there were no crowds pushing and shoving to get to the front, it was very nice. Flying commenced at 1.30pm. There were a lot of planes flying so I will talk about the ones that have stuck in my mind. There was quite a long display of model aircraft, they were all expertly piloted by there owners but to be honest it was not my thing. One thing I was looking forward to was the flying circus, for some reason I had built this up in my mind to involve lots of amazing displays, while I did enjoy the flying I can honestly say I was not wowed. Taking part in the flying circus were a Thruxton Jackaroo, Chipmunk, Queen Bee and a Tiger Moth. First off they inexpertly "bombed" a person sat on the middle of the runway, this was quite good as the pilot had to lean out of the plane to try and drop there flour bomb on the person. Next helium balloons were released and they each took it on turns to fly around and try and pop the balloons with the planes. I found this quite boring. Last of all the circus did some low flying, this was where they flew under two "washing lines" they came very close to the ground before pulling back up, to be honest I think the members of the Flying Circus had more fun than the crowd. The next thing that stuck in my mind was the wing walking, this was done by a young lady stood atop a plane; I honestly don't know what type of plane it was, but it was an older style plane with a propeller. The young lady was quite impressive flapping her arms and legs around while the plane zoomed back and forth above the runway. She was tethered to the plane for safety but it did not make it any less interesting. The last thing of note was a fly past of the memorial flight Spitfire, I would of liked to of seen the full memorial flight, which compromises of a Lancaster bomber, a Spitfire and a Hurricane. There was over 3 hours of flying and all of it was quite interesting, it is worth noting though that the planes are all propeller driven, you won't find any Red Arrows, The Thunderbirds or other types of modern display teams. The planes that flew are as follows 2 x Lancaster taxi runs, Spitfire Mkxvi. BBMF Spitfire, Dennis Nevilles flying circus, Sbach, DH2, Yak52, Taylor Titch, Aerosuperbatic solo wing walking display, Auto Gyro, Bird-dog, Trig Display team, large models, Me108, 2 x P-51 mustangs, Fieseler Storch, Edge 360 and Gyro air displays. All things considered I would say it was an excellent family day out, my children are 17 and 12 and there was enough to see and do during the 7 hours we spent at the airshow to keep them occupied. The museum displays are very informative and well laid out, the charity and commercial stands provided a bit of fun. I did not see many families with small children; it was mostly older couples and families with teenage children. I have to admit the amazing weather helped make the day, I don't think we would have enjoyed ourselves as much in the rain. The grass at the side of the run way was great for picnicking on and we ensured we picked up all our litter afterwards, dogs are not allowed on site due to health and safety. The overall feel of the day was very casual, most members of staff were happy to chat about the planes and displays and help out where they could. My husband and I really enjoyed the lack of commercialism; this was a real aircraft enthusiast's day out. When tickets appear again for next years show I will be purchasing. Thank you for reading.