Website contributor Matt Sudol was at the Weston Air Day 2015 and provides his report from the beach lawns where he was located to catch the helicopter action on behalf of South West Aviation Photographers.
Helidays… A Blast From The Past
Many thought the days of a line-up of helicopters on Weston Super Mare beach lawns had long gone after funding from North Somerset Council was withdrawn in 2010. Whilst two attempts at recreating the event at the superb Helicopter Museum brought in some very nice participants in the shape of a Czech Mi-34 Hind and Mi-171 Hip in 2011 and Germany Navy Lynx in 2012, these events lacked the passing trade of the general public on the sea front.
Roll on a couple of years and the event has been brought back, tagged onto the back of the immensely successful Weston Air Festival a two day seaside airshow. With crowds reaching 150,000 on the Sunday. Now in its second year back on the lawns, The Helicopter Static Display as its now billed had a wide range of civil, ex-military and current military helicopters ranging from Robinson R44’s & Bell Jetrangers through to the National Police Air Service Eurocopter EC135 and a wide range of Westland aircraft in their centenary year including 5 Gazelle’s over the course of the weekend and single examples of the Scout, Wasp, Whirlwind & Sea King Mk4.
At the southern end of the lawns was what some may say were the stars of the static display a Westland Sea King Mk4 from RNAS Yeovilton. Having Positioned into the Helicopter Museum on the previous afternoon and arriving on both mornings at just before 11 o’clock although the Royal Air Force Mk3a Sea King’s of 22 Squadron have been regular visitors to the previous Heliday’s, this is believed to be the first (and last) visit by the Junglie which is due out of service by early 2016. Soon after arrival the crew opened up the aircraft for the public to inspect and quiz the aircrew. Parked next to the Sea King was the magnificent Westland Whirlwind HAR10 XJ729 based out of a private site further down the coast, although arriving on the Sunday of Weston Air Festival from RAF Search & Rescue HQ at RAF Valley, Anglesey where it had participated in their families day/reunion. It was at the 2014 Weston Air Festival that XJ729 made its first public appearance in a long time, since then it has had numerous bookings for shows up and down the country.
Two aircraft which were also appearing at Weston for the 2nd time was The Gazelle Display Team operating a mixture of Marks and colour schemes, the display team support a number of charities including BLESMA; The British Limbless Ex-Serviceman’s Association not only by selling merchandising and collecting donations at shows but also education and training veterans in aircraft restoration skills. Making a dramatic entrance on the Sunday mornings stiff breeze was pair of aircraft from Middle Wallop both of which have not been seen in a while. The first a privately owned Westland Wasp HAS1 marked up as HMS Endurance’s rotary asset. The second the recently civilian registered Westland Scout of the Army Historic Aircraft Flight Trust.
One of the great benefits of Weston’s lawns as a photographer is the close proximity and different angles you can get during the arrivals and departures due to the elevation of the area. The flying display also included a wide range of rotary acts including RAF Chinook Display which gave a superb pass to the crowds on Brean Down, The Calidus AutoGyro which gave a interesting formation flypast with the Stampe bi-plane. Along with a Squirrel from Central Flying School bringing in the Red Arrows Team Manager.
In conclusion over the last two years Weston Air Festival and the Helicopter Museum have made great steps to recreate the success of the original Heliday’s, the visitor numbers, quality and quantity of the civilian participants show the potential. The static display and the show as a whole have however lacked the international participation that the legacy Heliday’s were so renowned for.
|Bell 206B JetRanger II||G-BEWY|
|Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III||G-RUCK||Sunday Only|
|Bell B-206B JetRanger II||G-OCST||Sunday Only|
|Boeing Chinook HC4||ZA713||Flying Display|
|Eurocopter AS-350BB Squirrel HT1||ZJ264||Saturday Only, Red10’s transport|
|Robinson R-44 Raven II||G-DKNY||Sunday Only|
|Robinson R-44 Raven II||G-CEMC||Sunday Only|
|Rotorsport UK Calidus||G-ULUL||Flying Display|
|Westland Gazelle AH1||XZ327||Army Air Corps Static Exhibit|
|Westland Gazelle AH1||ZB686||Helicopter Museum Static Cockpit Exhibit|
|Westland Gazelle HT2||G-CBJZ||Saturday Only|
|Westland Gazelle HT2||ZB627 (G-CBSK)||Sunday Only|
|Westland Gazelle HT3||XX436 (G-ZZLE)||Sunday Only|
|Westland Scout AH1||XT627 (G-CIBW)||Sunday Only|
|Westland Sea King HC4||ZA299|
|Westland Wasp HAS1||XT787 (G-KAXT)||Sunday Only|
|Westland Whirlwind HAR10||XJ729 (G-BVGE)||Sunday Only|
© Matt Sudol/South West Aviation Photographers 2015