One way to sum up the spectacle that was the Yeovilton International Air Day 2019 could be helicopters, harriers and all things that hover.
Held at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, in Somerset, England recently the flying display featured a large number of rotary-wing aircraft old and new.
The only airworthy Westland Wessex HU5 and a pair of Westland Wasps were joined by Royal Navy Wildcats and a Merlin to provide the opening flypast, before the immaculately presented Wessex, making its airshow debut, peeled away and entertained with a solo display.
Merlins and Wildcats would return later in the display and again for the explosive show finale; the Army Air Corps brought the pyrotechnics for their AH-64 Apache display and the Historic Aircraft Army Flight contributed the Westland Scout and Bell Sioux AH1 alongside the fixed-wing Auster and Beaver aircraft.
The ability to hover is not the sole preserve of the helicopter. Lockheed Martin’s F-35B Lightning II is also a member of this exclusive group of machines; its VSTOL capabilities ably demonstrated at the show now the type is beginning to enter service with the RAF and Royal Navy.
The Harrier, always popular with the audience and much missed at UK airshows in recent years, made a welcome appearance later in the show in the hands of the Spanish Navy; the sleek lines of the Harrier in the hover contrasting with those of the Lightning II in a similar configuration.
Like something out of science fiction or superhero film, Gravity Industries’ JetMan certainly proved popular and was possibly the most unusual act seen at a UK airshow for some time. Watching someone fly up and down the crowd line at speed and hovering, with jet engines strapped to their back and arms, was certainly not something that many of the audience had seen before.
Fast jet displays courtesy of the RAF Typhoon and Belgian F-16 and aerobatics provided by the Red Arrows, Blades and Rich Goodwin’s Pitts Special provided further excitement and historic items like the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Hawker Sea Fury all helped entertain the large crowds.
The traditional and much-anticipated show finale at Yeovilton, the commando assault, featured numerous helicopters in a simulated attack and culminated in a very impressive wall of fire.
International participation at the show came from many European countries along with representation from Canada, USA and Qatar. In the static park, C-17 Globemasters from both the USA and Qatar proved particularly popular, with large queues forming to look inside these leviathans of the air.
A number of aircraft from the adjoining Fleet Air Arm Museum were wheeled out to take part in the static park, alongside those of the Fly Navy Heritage Trust, providing a glimpse into the heritage of British Naval aviation whilst numerous other aircraft could be found representing modern naval aviation both in the UK and abroad.
With numerous ground activities taking place including field gun demonstrations, marching bands and various hangar displays along with the varied, dynamic and explosive flying display, the International Air Day at RNAS Yeovilton delivered a fantastic day of aviation-related entertainment; one to add to the calendar of any aviation enthusiast.
By Steve Crompton