Southport Airshow is unusual for a seaside show in that the display takes place over the beach rather than the sea so the date is set to coincide with the lowest times of the season. When the tide is out, it’s really out and was barely visible in the distance as we arrived on the beach at a leisurely hour (for an airshow at least). Opening the display was the Tigers Army Parachute Display Team who landed on the beach and formed up to salute the assembled dignitaries as the regimental gun fired to signal the start of the flying display. Despite the numerous warnings it still makes you jump as that monster goes off.
With a large cold war line up, first in was Martin Tesli in the Lockhead Martin T-33 Shooting Star. This was a nice close display with several top side passes across the sweeping crowdline.
With very few gaps between the displays the Gazelle Squadron Display Team moved in with their pair of Westland Gazelle HT2/3’s to perform an impressive duo display.
Sharing its performance with The Victory Show, P-47 Thunderbolt “Nellie” flown by Jon Gowdy put in a soaring display throwing this heavy beast around the sky whilst also putting in his signature topside final pass to keep the photographers happy.
Southport Airshow regulars the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight provided their Douglas C-47 Dakota (ZA947) initially flanked by the Hurricane MK IIC LF363 and Photo Reconnaissance Spitfire PM631 Mk XIX in a series of memorial formation passes before the fighters broke to provide individual displays. Squadron Leader Mark Sugden in the Hawker Hurricane Mk.II, LF363 opened with a tribute to a local Hurricane pilot who recently passed away at the age of 97 followed by Flt Lt Andy Priest in the Spitfire Mk XIX Photo Reconnaissance (PM631). PM631 was one of the founding aircraft of the BBMF but only recently returned to flight status in 2018.
Returning for the first time in 3 years were the Royal Navy Black Cats display team. Flying the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat HMA2 in a solo display for this season.
Continuing the Cold War theme and a very welcome return to the UK airshow scene for the Swedish Air Force who provided two jets from its stunning collection. First in was the SAAB J29F Tunnan. This short, stubby first-generation jet fighter who name aptly translates to barrel was flown by Col. Ole Noren who put in a short but powerful display making full use of the available airspace.
Despite the negative feedback online about Saturday’s display from the Viggen, I was impressed by the Sunday display with only the weather letting it down as the sun mostly hid behind the clouds (or was the smoke from OTTO the Helicopter). This was the UK debut for the two seat trainer variation of the Swedish Historic Flight’s Saab Sk37E Viggen in the dramatic camo scheme and easily the headline act for the aviation enthusiasts in the crowd.
For 2019 the Tucano Display Team were back to show the aircraft off in its final year in RAF service. The Tucano T1 is due to retire from the Royal Air Force after 30 years’ service with Southport as the last ever display by the aircraft of 72( R) Squadron. Flown by Flt Lt Liam Matthews, a Qualified Flying Instructor on 72( R) Squadron who put in a very slick and fitting display.
As the focus moved back to the jets, Mark Petrie and Ollie Suckling put on a role demo in a pair of BAC Strikemasters. Arriving from the right in a paired canopy topside pass showing off the Omani Air Force Grey training scheme of G-SOAF and the Royal Sultan of Oman’s 1970’s brown and grey scheme. The role demo for this combat version of the Jet Provest finished off with several strafing and bomb runs over the beach complete with pyrotechnics.
The RAF are great supporters of the Southport Airshow and with the Red Arrows on their North American tour, it was down to the RAF Typhoon to close the show. Fl Lt Jim Peterson flew the Eurofighter Typhoon in an impressive display of Bringing the Noise over a soundtrack of AC\DC’s “Thunder Struck”.
I’ve always resisted seaside shows but Southport’s combination of over the beach display area which keeps the crowds on the crowdline down (with most families choosing to view from the promenade) and the stunning line up of cold war jets made this a winning combination for me on what was a busy weekend for airshow enthusiasts.