There’s something nice about going back to somewhere you’ve enjoyed flying previously, and for me North Coates airfield is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever based out of to fly an airshow. In fact it’s probably the friendliest airfield I’ve ever been to full stop. Add to that a weekend of near perfect, beautiful clear and sunny weather, some fantastic people, a display line running along a truly beautiful section of English coastline, and a flying line-up of a perfect mixture of aerobatic talent, warbird grace and jet engined might, and you might just make a great airshow.

Cleethorpes this year was the first big airshow I’ve attended where I’ve actually had ground support, in the form of my long-suffering partner Alan. Whilst I whizzed up by air in around 40minutes, the poor chap spent nearly 4 hours trudging up in the car with my stash of smoke oil and various tools. He then spent the whole weekend thankfully enjoying the company of the majority of the display pilots and organising committee, and also made the effort to collect me post display flight on Sunday, to take me down to the sea front so I could actually watch the rest of the show. This is no small thing actually, I was the only pilot to make the effort to head over (which is by no means a slight on any of the others, without a car/ground coordination it is virtually impossible to attend a show where the air base is several miles away), and ‘suffered’ the illusion of a degree of fame after the commentators cottoned onto my arrival, promptly announcing my presence and encouraging the 200,000+ strong crowd to come over to meet me and get a photo/brochure signed.

cleethorpesautographs

There is for me, even now, something deeply strange about being asked for an autograph. I don’t feel like I am anything special, I’m privileged to be in a position where I have some of my flying funded by performing on the show circuit and in my mind the whole experience is nothing but an honour and something I love doing. Meeting people, shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for photographs are not things I am naturally good at and sometimes I do struggle, however there is something uniquely special about inspiring people and seeing the smiles on peoples faces because of my flying. It really is fantastic and deeply moving.

The flights themselves were great, joyous outbursts of pent up enthusiasm. I’m still learning how best to handle the aircraft with it’s new propeller so some of the more ‘extreme’ maneuvers I often fly were either replaced or adjusted, but in general the sequences felt like they flowed well and all was good. I also felt infinitely more comfortable flying for such a large crowd (I believe the estimates are that nearly half a million people attended the show across the two days) than I had done last year. Experience really does make a big difference and I think it must have showed in the flying too – I certainly heard lots of good things, which is always nice.

IMG_0230-1600© Daniel Kennedy

TOM_4721© Tom Blake

TOM_4782© Tom Blake

TOM_4833© Tom Blake

I will be posting up some in-flight video of the show very soon so do please keep an eye out.

Meanwhile next up is the Little Gransden Airshow on the 24th August, hope to see some of you there!