The Apache was next up. The AH-64D displayed was a Westland Apache Mk1 and its display of aerobatics and speed must have been a refreshing change for the crew who must be more used to hiding behind trees! The display was made all the more impressive by its being performed with the gunship fully fitted out. HAL’s latest creations then got a chance to show their wares. The pretty Intermediate Jet Trainer and the beautifully liveried Advanced Light Helicopter demonstrated just how far India’s aeronautics industry has come and there is no doubt that the products produced can vie with anything the developed world has to offer.
The Gripen was next. Its incredible display demonstrated just how nimble and light the aircraft is and it was easy to see why Saab is stealing export sales from its competitors with an awesome display and its ease of use and maintenance being demonstrated to all and sundry. Next up was a black Tucano Mk1 from the RAF’s intermediate training school in Wales, it did its best to entertain the crowd but seemed to be fighting a losing battle as most people’s attention seemed to be firmly fixed on the Harrier GR7 slowly taxiing onto the runway for the next display! The Harrier duly took center stage and produced its usual awesome display of fast run ins and hovering to show why it is one of the most versatile strike aircraft in the world today (it needs to be — the display aircraft was departing to rejoin the rest of its squadron currently being deployed on HMS Illustrious heading towards the Lebanon!). The RAF showed its new toy in the Eurofighter Typhoon and its display of aerobatics gave a good account of why this aircraft is seen by its pilots as the best fighter in the world. The aircraft it will eventually be replacing was next up. The Tornado GR4 was loaded out in ferry configuration in order to show off its swing wing capability which it did with a series of passes with wings in different configurations as well as some tight loops and rolls.
Before the next display started the Red Arrows passed over the airfield, the ten red Hawks (9 in the team plus one commentary/spare aircraft) trailing smoke in perfect arrow formation before the aircraft came into land. A slight piece of excitement was Red 5 having to do a go around due to his coming in too fast. Once they had cleared the taxiway the Merlin and Chinook produced their display — the Merlin’s display was worthy of note due to the power of the aircraft and its incredible agility given its size. The Chinook was from RAF Odiham (where all RAF Chinooks are based). As Odiham is a 15 minute drive from Farnborough the crew must have had a wonderfully restful week!
Another distinctive design followed in the shape of a Block 50 F-16C Fighting Falcon. The vortices on the leading wing edge helped amplify the agility of one of the world’s great fighter jets as it pirouetted around the sky. One of the world’s great fighter was then replaced by probably the world’s greatest ever fighter as a Spitfire owned by Rolls Royce graced the sky with its distinctive lines. Maybe I am fussy but I found it odd that the commentator should stop talking to allow the crowd to listen to its distinctive Merlin engine when the aircraft was an MkXIX and therefore fitted with a Rolls Royce Griffin engine! Even so it was a beautiful aircraft to watch and the gray photo reconnaissance color scheme showed the lines off beautifully.