| Having spent Saturday night at Windermere, Blackpool was reached by road early on Sunday afternoon by way of Carnforth and Lancaster. Due to various issues en route – some related to the wind and rain left over from Hurricane Bertha – we missed the Red Arrows and Sea King Search and Rescue demonstration but did see the rest of Sunday’s air display against a leaden sky. Contributors included the Rendcombe based Breitling Wing Walkers, Peter Troy-Davies in his Calidus Autogyro, the TRIG Team in their Pitts Special S-1D biplanes and Short Tucano from RAF Linton-on-Ouse. Sadly weather issues also meant that the RAF Falcons parachute team, Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight as well as Avro Vulcan XH558 could not appear but we were treated to an energetic display by Eurofighter Typhoon ZK308 with black and white invasion stripes painted over its grey livery as a tribute to the Hawker Typhoons (largely built by the Gloster Aircraft Company) that took part in the D-Day landings in Normandy 70 years ago in 1944.Having used 2011 vintage Bombardier Flexity 2 five section trams 007 and 014 to reach South Pier from Norbreck on Sunday night, Monday dawned bright but still windy, and as such remaining a challenge for all display aircraft. Indeed, weather is always going to have a particularly intense effect on a show like Blackpool as it is held over the sea (low and high tide in turn affecting rescue options in case of any aircraft ditching) and is focused on the 900 metre stretch of Promenade between Central and North Pier. As such, Blackpool Air Show always favours aircraft that are either slow or nimble enough to fit into this arena, many of them traditionally being historic and / or low powered. Fitting in to the fast, powerful but nimble category once again was another Eurofighter Typhoon, this time ZK343 from RAF Coningsby based 29 Squadron with a paint scheme to reflect the unit’s centenary. This includes the red on white “Triplex” (apparently based on a misunderstanding over the application of “two exes and one ex” in the 1920s) and also the eagle’s head from the squadron badge of an eagle attacking a buzzard to symbolise air combat. This paint scheme also marks the first time that the canards of an RAF Typhoon have been painted, these inclining forward when the aircraft is inert and parked. Apart from being an unusually weather-dependent and tight air display arena, Blackpool seafront also suffers from facing west so that spectators are often forced to look into the setting sun during an afternoon air show. As such, photographs tend to portray the aircraft as being darker than they really are – whereas a similar event on Britain’s east coast would have light more conducive to good pictures. Despite this, modern digital cameras allow photography on a “monkeys writing Shakespeare” principle so that as many snaps as possible should yield at least a few worthwhile images – something that would have been prohibitively expensive back in the days of chemical films and prints.Similarly, digital photography can also be enhanced by computer software, such as the shot above of the Breitling Wing Walkers which has been slightly darkened and contrasted to enhance the smoke trail and cloud effects. By the same token, it was possible to use the sunlight behind the aircraft to create “glint” on wings and rotors in the right positions. This happily worked well with Peter Troy-Davies in his Calidus Autogyro, who used the wind to put on a particularly exuberant display of swoops and turns as well as hovering with smoke pouring landward!
Former Microlight World Championship star Peter Davies has been behind the controls of a gyroplane for 22 of his 32 year flying career. Originally a helicopter engineer, he learned to fly in 21 days at the age of 21 and has since broken world records and won medals all over the globe. G-ULUL is a German built tandem seat enclosed Calidus Autogyro optimised for low drag and a comfortable spacious cabin for cross country flights. The design was certified by the UK Civil Aviation Authority in January 2011 and over 1 000 have been sold worldwide. G-ULUL is seen here sharing the sky with one of Blackpool’s older types of biological flying machine.
The Blackpool Air Show programme had promised visitors an appearance by a locally based restored example of the Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopter made famous in the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1975. However, this was in fact substituted by a more rotund McDonnell Douglas MD 500.
The successful Hughes 500/MD 500 series began life in response to a U.S. Army requirement for a light observation helicopter. Hughes’ Model 369 won the contest against competition from Bell and Hiller. The OH-6 Cayuse first flew in February 1963.
The 500 series design features shock-absorbing landing skid struts, a turboshaft engine mounted at a 45-degree angle toward the rear of the cabin pod, a fuel tank cell under the floor and the battery in the nose. The engine exhaust port is located at the end of the cabin pod underneath the tail boom. It has a short-diameter main rotor system and a short tail, giving it an agile control response and is less susceptible to weather-cocking.
Hughes won the U.S. Army’s LOH contest with its OH-6 helicopter by submitting a very low and aggressive price per airframe (without an engine). Due to rising prices, the U.S. Army later re-opened the contest, where Hughes offered the machine at a more realistic price, but was undercut by the redesigned Bell OH-58 Kiowa (the military version of the Bell JetRanger). OH-6 helicopters were still ordered by the U.S. Army, though at a much reduced number.
Leaving Blackpool after the Air Show there was a chance to look at the redeveloped eastern part of the town near Blackpool North Station, seen here with diesel hydraulic multiple units 158 758 and 185 123 standing in front of the new and very dramatic Sainsburys, a superstore so big that it has its own separate multi storey parking.
Blackpool North and the line to Preston is also due for overhead electrification in 2016 so time was made to record the impressive selection of mechanical semaphore signals guarding the throat of what were once just Blackpool North’s excursion platforms. It might have been the last time I would see them. I don’t know.