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A Review Of The 2014 Bray Airshow By Kevin Byrne FCILT

By far the largest free open air event in the Republic is the annual Bray Air Spectacular in County Wicklow. The 2014 display took place on Sunday 20 July and was held in perfect weather, with light winds and temperatures in excess of 23 Degrees Centigrade. So successful has it been in recent years that no less than 88,000 people turned up in order to see, and indeed hear, the various aerial activities.

As has become the norm, the Irish Defence Forces’ Black Knights parachute team jumped from an Air Corps AW139 at an altitude of 4,500 feet, landing on their feet and saluting the crowd after lining up with military precision. From then on it was three hours of a constant stream of arrivals, comprising very spirited displays from an Aer Lingus A321and a Stobart Air ATR72, the latter also in the colours of the national airline.

The Irish Historical Flight made its local debut, comprising a pair of Chipmunks in Irish Air Corps markings of the 1950s. The third component of this group, the DH.84 of Aer Lingus, was unable to attend because of a late technical snag but no doubt the trio will be in demand at future shows in Ireland and in the UK.

Aerobatics were the order of the day, and the Aer Dynamics made a welcome return to the area, fl ying a pair of RV7s. Gerry Humphries, the Flying Farmer, fl ew Harriers in the RAF, while his partner in fl ight, Eddie Goggins, the Flying Dentist, runs a dental practice in South Dublin. With their smoke trails in the blue sky, these local lads were very well received. Gerry had also popped up in a MIG but not the jet kind; instead the crowd saw a most pleasant microlight display.

Another very popular pair of returnees to the seafront from the UK was the Trigg Team Pitts, which, as the name suggests, fly Pitts Special biplanes with some abandon, using a plentiful supply of trailing smoke. Their rates of climb and cross-over passes were especially pleasing to the crowds, some of whom broke into spontaneous applause from time to time.

The Irish Air Corps had been allocated a large time slot in the show and did not disappoint, bringing the four ship Cessna formation team back on line. These are always popular as they never stray far from the crowd line and most people associate them with the type of light aircraft seen at the many flying clubs. It seems incredible that they first entered service in 1972, with no mention of an imminent replacement!

The CASA arrived from behind the crowd, escorted by four PC-9s and calling itself Neptune Section. A good demonstration was given by this maritime type over its natural environment but it must be mentioned that the formation fl ying of the PC-9s was of a very high order, while the singleton was highly reminiscent of the Fouga Magister, although much quieter, of course. Rumour has it that smoke pods might appear some year but this may also be little more than wishful thinking in the current financial climate.

To the surprise of many, the AW139 was demonstrated in its fire fighting role, with the crew employing an underslung Bambi Bucket to firstly collect and then release up to 1,200 litres of water onto a forest fi re or something similar. This has been employed very much inland during forest and bog fires but would not be familiar to most city folk, which is just as well.

An air display is never really complete without a few military jets and this year there was nothing to disappoint; the Norwegian Air Force Historical Flight arrived in style with their pair of DH Vampires, one a single-seater and the other a T.55, precisely the type used by the Air Corps way back in the 1950s. Indeed, when the fi rst two touched down at Baldonnel in 1956, in may be said that the Irish jet age was born. The distinctive whistling noise of the Goblin turbojets brought back many happy memories to the late middle-aged members of the audience!

There were other assorted aerodynamic treats, including the new-to-Dublin Sikorsky S-92 of the Irish Coastguard, which arrived on the display axis with little or no advanced warning, its colour scheme gleaming in the bright sunshine. Another surprise was the 7/8 scale replica of the SE5A biplane, more familiar to those who have seen Hollywood movies such as The Blue Max, Darling Lily, Zeppelin and so forth. Flown by Captain Declan Curtis, he had earlier displayed his Chipmunk as part of the historical flight.

A comprehensive ground display was provided, including Defence Forces armour and other equipment actually on the beach, an artisan food market and funfair, an executive helicopter stand and a model flying club demonstration. The most surprising and well received static item was surely the Gazelle helicopter of the British Army which flew down from Belfast, via Baldonnel, landed on the green before the show opened and departed only after the show closed. It would be nice to see an aerial display sometime in the future but that is an entirely different consideration.

The highlight for many was the sudden and dramatic appearance of Miss Demeanour, a Hawker Hunter painted in colours which cause outrage and admiration in equal measure. Its unique engine whine and impressive rate of climb to 12,000 feet endeared it to young and old alike. The lack of an afterburner in no way lessened its acoustic value and its classic shape was easily followed through the sky, despite its speed of 450 knots at some point.

The Bray display continues to be a tremendous success and for the first time it was streamed live through, a great innovation for those who could not make the trip to this popular County Wicklow resort. It is estimated that many thousands more watched the display in all parts of the world. The date for 2015 is all but agreed and is certain to be bigger and more spectacular than those shows which have gone before; let us hope that the weather behaves.

By Kevin Byrne FCILT

Main photo: Making a splash: this surprising arrival from Weston Airport was a Cessna amphibian which can land on dry land, or as seen here, on the water using its two floats.


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