Category Archives: Airshow News Europe

Complete list of pilots competing in World Championship Air Race Aero/GP1 series revealed

SYWELL | The World Championship Air Race – the successor to the Red Bull Air Race – has announced the complete line up of Aero/GP1 pilots due to take part in 2022’s debut season.

12 teams will compete in WCAR’s top tier of competition next year, with seven former Masterclass pilots taking to the track and five former Challengers. Between nine and twelve more pilots, all of whom are yet to be announced, will compete in the Aero/GT feeder series, including several who are new to the sport.

WHO WILL BE RACING IN AERO/GP1 NEXT YEAR?


May be an image of 1 person, standing, outdoors and textAustralia #95 MATT HALL   MATT HALL RACING

Reigning World Champion Matt Hall of Australia will be the pilot for Newcastle-based team Matt Hall Racing. A former Royal Australian Air Force fighter pilot, Hall joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2009, finishing third in his debut season. He was the championship runner-up in 2015, 2016 and 2018, and World Champion in 2019. He has accumulated seven wins and 25 podiums, making him the most successful pilot due to compete in Aero/GP1. The 49-year-old has hinted he will only spend one or two seasons as Matt Hall Racing’s pilot before shifting to the Team Principle role and hiring in a younger replacement.


May be an image of 1 person and textCzech Republic #8 MARTIN SONKA

Taking part in his first race in 2010, Martin Sonka, 43, is a well-known Czech competition aerobatics and airshow pilot. He also served for over a decade with the Czech Air Force, flying the L-159 ALCA and JAS-39 Gripen. As well as winning the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in 2018, Sonka has six race wins and 16 podiums to his name.


May be an image of 1 person, standing, aircraft, outdoors and text Japan #31 YOSHI MUROYA

The only Asian pilot ever to compete in the Masterclass, Muroya joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2009. It took several years for the Japanese pilot, now 48, to get into the groove, finishing near the bottom of the standings for his debut seasons. His first emotional win came at his home race in Chiba in 2016, and he took the World Championship title the following year. He came second in the 2019 standings, despite winning three out of the four races. In total, he has won eight races and finished on the podium at 14.


May be an image of 1 person, car and textUnited Kingdom #24 BEN MURPHY   THE BLADES RACING TEAM

Representing the United Kingdom will be the Blades Racing Team, with pilot Ben Murphy. Murphy, 45, is a former leader of the Royal Air Force Red Arrows who now flies as part of the Blades Display Team. Joining the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2016, he finished sixth overall in his first two seasons before graduating to the Masterclass for the 2018 season. He has since become the sport’s best-performing Challenger graduate, finishing fourth overall in 2019, with one podium finish to his name.

The Team Principle is another former Red Arrows leader, United Kingdom ANDY OFFER, who has served in this position since the team was formed at the start of the 2018 season.


May be an image of 1 person, motorcycle and text Canada #84 PETE MCLEOD

Pete McLeod, 37, is a professional aerobatic pilot who joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2009, making him the youngest competitor at the time. Despite having won one race and claimed 12 podiums, McLeod has typically finished each season towards the middle of the rankings. His best overall results saw him placed fourth in 2019 and third in 2017. Outside of the race, McLeod flies a variety of aircraft, including float planes, and is active on the North American airshow circuit.


May be an image of 1 person and text France #11 MIKAEL BRAGEOT   #11RACING TEAM

Mika Brageot, 33, is an acclaimed French aerobatic pilot who joined the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2014. Mentored by 2014 Masterclass World Champion Nigel Lamb, Brageot won the Challenger Class in 2015. In 2016, he joined the Masterclass, inheriting Lamb’s race team and aircraft. He has achieved one Masterclass podium and a career-best result of fourth in the 2018 standings. He is likely to be the only pilot competing in WCAR with an MXS-Racer, rather than an Edge 540.


May be an image of 1 personSpain #26 JUAN VELARDE

The final Masterclass pilot to join the series is Spain’s Juan Velarde, 46. An airshow pilot and A330 captain with Iberia, he joined the Challenger Class in 2014, where he finished eighth. Despite that, he graduated to the Masterclass the following year, and in 2016 began racing Paul Bonhomme’s triple-world-championship-winning Edge 540. He has accumulated two Masterclass podiums and has a career-best result of eighth in the end-of-season standings.


May be an image of 1 person, standing and text that says "HART HARTZELL FLORIAN BÉRGER AeroGP1 Pilot"Germany #62 FLORIAN BERGER   MATTHIAS DOLDERER RACING TEAM

A 32-year-old Lufthansa pilot flying the Airbus A320, Berger was taught to fly aerobatics at Matthias Dolderer’s flight school and joined the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2015. He is the most successful Challenger in history, winning the series three times (2016, 2017 and 2019) and coming second in 2018. He has nine race wins and 16 podiums from just 23 race starts.

May be an image of 1 person and textBerger will race for Matthias Dolderer Racing under team principle Germany MATTHIAS DOLDERER. Dolderer, also from Germany, joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2009. In 2016, he became the first Red Bull Air Race pilot in history to win the World Championship before the final race of the season. More recently, Dolderer seems to have struggled to match his 2016 successes, finishing towards the bottom of the standings in 2018 and 2019. Dolderer himself will not fly in WCAR.


May be an image of 1 person and textUnited States #48 KEVIN COLEMAN

Former Red Bull Air Race Challenger pilot Kevin Coleman will also move to Aero/GP1, and at the age of 30, he will be the youngest pilot in his class. A regular on the US airshow circuit, Coleman has received mentorship in the air race from fellow Texan Kirby Chambliss. Joining in 2016, Coleman finished third in his debut season, and third again in both 2018 and 2019. He has three wins and 12 podiums from 19 races.


May be an image of 1 person, standing and textFrance United Kingdom #33 MELANIE ASTLES

Melanie Astles will be the first woman to participate in the top-tier of the air race. Living in France, but born in the UK, Astles, 38, is the reigning British Unlimited Aerobatic Champion as of May 2021. She joined the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2016 and has since claimed five podiums, including one win. She was second overall in the 2019 standings.


May be an image of 1 person, standing and text Italy #32 DARIO COSTA

Dario Costa joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2013 as the sport’s Flight Operations Manager. A flight instructor and aerobatics pilot himself, the 40-year-old Italian qualified to compete in the Challenger Class in 2016, racing for the first time in 2018. He has since taken two podiums, including one win, from seven race starts, and his career best season result is fifth. Along with Patrick Davidson, he will be the least experienced race pilot in the Aero/GP1 category.


May be an image of 1 person and textSouth Africa #77 PATRICK DAVIDSON

Another relative newcomer to the sport, Davidson also joined the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class in 2018 and has taken part in seven races. Despite not having won a single race, he has claimed four podiums and shares Costa’s career-best season result of fifth place. Davidson entered – and won – his first aerobatic competition at the age of just 12, and has been a prolific airshow and competition aerobatic pilot since adulthood.


WHO HAS MISSED OUT?

With the top tier of air racing shrinking from 14 to 12 athletes, and incorporating several new graduates from the Challenger Class, it is inevitable that there are some noticable omissions. Old versions of WCAR’s website stated in 2020 that all 14 existing Red Bull Air Race Masterclass teams had expressed an interest in competing in the new sport, and it is not known whether some of these teams later withdrew their interest or if they were rejected by WCAR at the pilot selection stage.

No longer racing are Americans Kirby Chambliss and Michael Goulian or Frenchman Nicholas Ivanoff, all of whom were rumoured to be close to retirement before the collapse of the Red Bull Air Race. All three had been with the sport for many years and had seemingly struggled to achieve consistent results in recent seasons, however Goulian put in an unusually strong performance in 2018, finishing the year ranked third.

Two up-and-coming Masterclass pilots have also been dropped. Czech racer Petr Kopfstein, who won the debut Challenger Cup series in 2014 and joined the Masterclass in 2016, will not race in WCAR, at least for 2022, despite having a career-best season result of fifth. Former World Aerobatic Champion Francois Le Vot, who joined the Challenger Class in 2014 and the Masterclass in 2015, has also not been retained. He had never finished a race season ranked higher than 11th.

Chilean pilot and former Halcones team leader Cristian Bolton, who, after three full Masterclass seasons, has never finished higher than 12th overall, has not been selected either.

Of the biggest surprises in the Aero/GP1 class is the absence of Swedish pilot Daniel Ryfa, one of the most successful Challenger pilots in history, second only to Berger. With eight race wins and 19 podiums to his name, he was four times the runner-up in the end-of-season standings. It would be hugely surprising to see much less experienced and less decorated Challengers like Davidson and Costa graduate to Aero/GP1 ahead of Ryfa, perhaps suggesting that the Swede has left the sport.

WHO ELSE COULD STILL PARTICIPATE IN WCAR NEXT YEAR?

There are still a minimum of nine and a maximum of twelve pilot places that remain unannounced, which will make up the Aero/GT class: a feeder competition for less experienced pilots, racing in a Le Mans-style relay format.

Many of those spots will likely be taken by the seven remaining pilots who made up the 2019 Challenger Class: Kenny Chiang, Sammy Mason, Luke Czepiela, Patrick Strasser, Baptiste Vignes, Vito Wyprachtiger and possibly also Daniel Ryfa. However, there will also have to be at least two entirely new faces – and possibly many more than that.

Series Director Willie Cruickshank told This is Flight in March that all WCAR applicants were holders of Red Bull Air Race licenses. This means other potential Aero/GT contenders will be pilots who had already qualified to take part in the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class, but were either yet to race or bowed out before progressing to the Masterclass.

More news is on the way, including the identities of Aero/GT Team Principles, which will be announced soon. This could include well-known ex-Red Bull Air Race competitors.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WCAR’S PILOT SELECTION?

Pilots were selected in March 2021 by a panel of officials and experts, such as former World Champion Paul Bonhomme and the Red Bull Air Race’s Head Judge, Steve Jones.

Of course, race officials will be looking at more than just results when considering who gets a place in WCAR’s opening season. Competition bosses likely considered the technical and financial viability of a pilot’s team, their safety culture, the potential longevity of their racing careers and their ability to bring fans to the sport, among many other factors.

However, WCAR will have less of a say in who races in their sport in the future, as pilots will ultimately be hired and fired by the various Team Principles during an annual transfer window. All Aero/GP1 pilots will have to be suitably qualified (a process now controlled by WCAR), but it may not be out of the question for a former Red Bull racer to be roped in to fly in future seasons, or for some of them to return as Team Principles themselves.

For more about WCAR, read our exclusive interview with Series Director Willie Cruickshank.

New manoeuvres and old favourites: what will the 2021 Red Arrows display look like?

TANAGRA | With the Red Arrows conducting their traditional pre-season training in Greece, Red 5 David Simmons said the fair weather was allowing the team to practice “full displays and new manoeuvres.” But what will the 2021 Red Arrows display look like?

Thanks to lockdown measures in place through most of the winter training season, we have much less of an idea what the team’s new performance will look like than in normal years. However, by piecing together small snippets of video and images posted by spotters and on the team’s social media accounts, we have been able to establish most of this year’s sequence.

This year’s display will start with the “Wall Arrival” – a large, spread-out formation last used by the Red Arrows in 2017. Arriving from the rear with coloured smoke, the team will then pull up into a loop, changing to Nine Arrow formation as they do. This will be followed by a barrel roll in Short Diamond, on-crowd loop in Swan and barrel roll in Big Vixen.

The Wall Arrival in 2016. This year, as in 2017, it will include coloured smoke. Photo: Alex Prins

The first half of the display will include the usual mix of nine-ship formation aerobatics, featuring formations such as Phoenix and Diamond. The most popular first half manoeuvre is Tornado; created in 2016 but much improved over the next two seasons, this popular move sees seven jets fly directly towards the crowd while two more fly barrel rolls around their smoke trails. The formation will then turn away from the crowd, with two jets continuing to roll.

Tornado being performed in 2018. The 2021 version of the maoeuvre will be the same. Photo: Alex Prins

Starting the second half of the show will be the Hammerhead Break, a little-used manoeuvre that featured briefly in the team’s display in 2016. The team will pull up into a quarterclover in the intricate nine-ship Hammer formation before splitting apart on the way down.

In the flat and rolling shows, the Hammerhead Break will be replaced by the Detonator, which has occupied this slot in the flat and rolling shows for well over a decade. It was also used in the full show during 2010 and in the simplified 2020 performance.

The Hammerhead Break in 2016. Photo: James Connolly

The second half of the show will feature many familiar manoeuvres, and at least three new or modified ones. The team have been seen practicing the Gypo Pass, Heart, Rollbacks, Slalom and Gypo Break, all of which have been consistently part of the show over the last few decades. A new, flatter version of the Heart, known as the Rolling Heart (and seen in the video below), will now allow this crowd-favourite shape to feature in the rolling display, too – although the iconic full-height heart will be retained in the full display.

Making a return this season after a lengthy absence is the Mirror Roll. Red six will roll inverted while Reds seven, eight and nine will fly erect, and the complete formation will execute a barrel roll as they fly past the crowd. It is being reintroduced to the display for the first time since 2015.

In the case of the flat display, the team will perform Mirror Flat, a simple four-ship mirror pass that was included in the display as recently as last year.

At least one more new manoeuvre will be featured: a new Synchro Pair move featuring two opposing passes, seperated by a Half Cuban. Cockpit footage of the manoeuvre, which has not been publicly named, has been posted to the team’s Twitter page. It seems this move may replace the Carosel, which saw Reds six and seven perform opposing minimum-radius turns. It has been rumoured that Carosel can no longer be performed within UK airshow regulations, although we haven’t seen any specific changes that would prohibit such a move.

Getting an upgrade this year is Python, a pair of barrel rolls flown with the first directed at show centre, and the second flown away from the crowd. This year, Reds eight and nine will join Enid to increase the size of the formation beyond the usual five-ship Leader’s Benefit shape (see below post, photo three). The team have been seen flying Python both as a six and seven-ship manoeuvre, perhaps suggesting that it may be a struggle for one of the Gypo jets to join up with Enid in time.

Several popular manoeuvres have not appeared this year; Corkscrew, performed most years by Gypo in the second half, and the previously-mentioned Carosel appear not to be included. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its similarities to the Hammerhead Break, the seven-ship Vertical Break is also not featured. The display will end, as usual, with the Vixen Break.

The Gypo Break will return to full July 2019 glory, rolling back simplifications made for the team’s North America tour and simplified 2020 sequence. Photo: Alex Prins

Typically released at around this time, the Red Arrows’ 2021 display schedule is yet to be announced. Assuming training progresses on a normal timescale, the team should be display-ready by late May or early June, but few major UK airshows are scheduled until at least July.

Last year, the team were able to perform at only two public airshows, neither of which were on the UK mainland. This, combined with the team’s North America tour in 2020, means most Brits will have faced at least a two-year gap between Red Arrows displays by the time the team return to the circuit this summer.

Scottish International Airshow to attempt revival in Stranraer

STRANRAER | The Scottish International Airshow is set to get a new home in Stranraer, but plans for an event this year have had to be scrapped in favour of a show in 2022.

The airshow was forced out of its former home in Ayr after an extraordinary row with Ayrshire County Council. Initially, the council agreed to fund the airshow just one in every two years, forcing the event to look for a new home in 2019. Several venues were considered, including Kirkcaldy in Fife, but the plan was later set back until 2021.

2020’s event, again due to be held in Ayr, was cancelled pre-pandemic, when airshow organisers allegedly refused to pay back £80,000 in council funding which the authority said had been paid in error. Airshow bosses denied the payment was a mistake, and said the funds had already been spent. As a result, all remaining funding was witheld, forcing organisers to pull the plug on the show last year.

Now, the airshow has made a surprise announcement that plans were afoot to revive the airshow this year in Stanraer, a small seafront town of 11,000 people in Dumfries and Galloway 60km south of Ayr. The team had been on the brink of announcing the event, with participants due to include the Red Arrows, RAF Typhoon solo display and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, they said.

“The show was to be combined with a major family ground event and be ticketed so we would have control of the number of attendees,” they explained. “Sadly our partners in organising the new show have had to put everything on hold for 2021 and we now cannot go ahead.”

“We will now look at organising an Airshow for Stranraer in late May or early June in 2022 and expect to make an announcement in the autumn. A strictly limited number of tickets will go on sale shortly afterwards.”

The Scottish International Airshow was held between 2014 and 2018, with every edition of the event so far taking place along the seafront in Ayr. Admission to previous shows was free of charge.

Themes and first performers announced for Duxford’s 2021 Flying Days

DUXFORD | The Imperial War Museum has announced themes for all eight of its 2021 Flying Days, as well as aircraft due to perform at the first three events, as tickets are put on sale.

Held from May to October, Flying Days are small air displays intended to highlight the many airworthy aircraft based at Duxford, while also offering a chance to explore the museum itself. Each event will feature an approximately two-hour air display, according to IWM’s website, including “the best of flying, aerial choreography, storytelling and conservation success stories from IWM Duxford.”

The Flying Days will be similar in size and format to the museum’s Showcase Days, which were launched in 2019. Standard tickets cost £28.50 per adult (up from £23 last year) and £14.25 per child (up from £11). IWM members and young children under the age of 4 can attend for free, but must still reserve their place on the IWM website event capacity has been capped in line with coronavirus restrictions.

With IWM Duxford partially re-opening on the 19th April, tickets have already gone on sale for the first three Flying Days of the year, the first of which takes place in late May. Several performing aircraft have also been announced for the first three events, while all eight have been given specific themes.

They are:

  • Saturday 22nd May: Standing Together (bringing attention to mental health problems, particularly post-pandemic)
  • Sunday 6th June: Commemorating D-Day (with special focus on American fighters used during Operation Overlord)
  • Sunday 20th June: Thank You Dads (Fathers’ Day airshow with a focus on warbirds)
  • Saturday 3rd July: Behind the Scenes (recognising the important work of Duxford’s partners)
  • Wednesday 4th August: 19 Squadron Heroes (paying tribute to the arrival of the first Spitfires at Duxford)
  • Wednesday 11th August: Showtime (a day of “drama, storytelling and ‘showtime’-inspired entertainment”)
  • Thursday 19th August: Young Aviators (colourful family-focussed aerial displays)
  • Saturday 9th October: Best of 2021 (highlights of the 2021 season, hand-picked by the Flying Display Director)

The first flying display aircraft have also been announced:

  • Saturday 22nd May: PBY-5A Catalina
  • Sunday 6th June: Spitfire Mk.IXb MH434,
  • Sunday 20th June: Hurricane Mk.I P3717, PBY-5A Catalina, Spitfire Mk.Ia N3200

The Aircraft Restoration Company’s “NHS Spitfire” (Spitfire PR.XI PL983 “L”) is also listed for all three events, but it is not explicitly confirmed whether the aircraft will be flying, or if it will appear on static display.

Additionally, Duxford will hold two major airshows this year: the Summer Airshow on the 24th-25th July (previously known as the Duxford Festival) and the Battle of Britain Airshow on the 18th-19th September.

For more about Duxford’s Flying Days, read our review of one of last year’s events here and read our guide to Duxford here.

Gusto Tactical Display: New French Air Force Mirage 2000 demo team to debut in 2021

VAUCLUSE | The French Air Force will debut a new tactical demonstration team in 2021 flying two Dassault Mirage 2000Cs.

Mirage 2000N at RIAT 2015 (file image). Photo: Jim Lucas

Escadron de Chasse 2/5 Île-de-France, based at BA115 Orange – Caritat, will field the new demonstration team, which will perform a 12-minute pairs demonstration, according to the squadron’s website.

It will mark the end of a two-year hiatus, during which the French Air Force has not demonstrated the Mirage at airshows. Couteau Delta, flying two Mirage 2000Ds, was disbanded in 2018. Since then, the French Air Force has begun flying two-ship Rafale tactical displays.

The Rafale Tactical Display has already gone through three iterations, In 2021, it will be provided by two units depending on availability: 4 Escadre de Chasse at Saint Dizier will perform with two Rafale Bs under the name Requin Mike, while 30 Escadre de Chasse at Mont de Marsan will fly two Rafale Cs under the name Bravo Vautour.

The French Air Force has a strong legacy of staging two-ship tactical demonstrations, but if all goes to plan, this will be the first time in recent years that they have fielded two-ship tactical demonstrations by two different aircraft types in a single display season.

While display dates for the Rafale Tactical Display are yet to be published, the new Gusto Tactical Display already list three dates for 2021. According to the squadron website, the display will be seen at the following shows:

  • Sep 11-12: Air Legends, Melun – Villaroche, France
  • Oct 3: Meeting Aérien de Gap – Tallard, Gap – Tallard, France
  • Oct 14: 80th Anniversary of EC2/5 “Île-de-France”, Orange – Caritat, France

No RAF Tutor solo display in 2021 due to “technical issues”

The Royal Air Force will not field its Grob Tutor T.1 solo display this year due to unspecified technical issues, it was announced today.

Photo: James Connolly

A post on the team’s official Twitter account read: “It is with much sadness that I must announce that there will be no RAF Tutor display this year. Due to ongoing technical issues with the Tutor aircraft it is not feasible to run a display this year. Hopefully we will see you all again in 2022!”

The Grob 115E Tutor is the UK military’s elementary flying trainer, and is one of the RAF’s longest-standing solo display teams. The RAF has around 90 Grob Tutors in service, with the type entering service in 1999, but it is being replaced in some roles by the Military Flight Training System’s much newer fleet of Grob Prefects.

This year’s display pilot was once again due to be Flt. Lt. Neil Owczarkowski, who has been the team’s pilot since 2019.

World Championship Air Race partners with air sports governing body

LONDON | The governing body of air sports, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), has formally agreed to partner with the fledgling World Championship Air Race (WCAR), with racing to begin in 2022.

More than a year after rumours began circulating, WCAR and the FAI this month announced the official successor to the much-loved Red Bull Air Race (RBAR) series, which ended in 2019. Racing is due to resume in the first quarter of 2022.

WCAR series director Willie Cruickshank, who previously served as RBAR’s head of aviation and sport, said: “We are delighted to announce this exciting new agreement between the FAI and World Championship Air Race to bring city-centre air-racing back to the public.”

“World Championship Air Race now has the commitment from the best race pilots in the world, flying the best aircraft, under the exclusive jurisdiction of the world governing body, putting us in a very strong position as we build towards Season 1 which we plan to debut in early 2022.

The FAI have granted WCAR with exclusive staging rights for manned air-gated air racing for at least the next 15 years. They will also provide safety oversight and governence for the new series.

RBAR pilots including Cristian Bolton, Juan Velarde, Mika Brageot, Kevin Coleman and Matt Hall took to social media to celebrate the announcement. Yoshi Muroya’s race team said they were in talks with WCAR and will announce their official participation when possible, while Matthias Dolderer posted: “Time to retire from retirement!”

Ben Murphy said: “The fastest motorsport on the planet is back & we’re excited to see the return of a new series! Since our 4th place finish in the RBAR 2019, we’ve been desperate for a chance to get back in the track & climb higher. We hope that chance comes in 2022.

Many RBAR competitors and organisers are expected to take part in the new series, with Jimbo Reid, Paul Bonhomme, Jim Dimatteo and Nigel Lamb all confirmed as members of the advisory board.

Initially, WCAR will have two tiers of competition: Aero/GP1, consisting of 12 race pilots, will be similar to RBAR’s Masterclass series, and Aero/GT will serve as a feeder competition, with less experienced pilots competing in three teams. Competitors will fly raceplanes familiar to fans of RBAR, such as the Edge 540 and MXS-R, but organisers hope these will run on sustainable, low-emission fuel in future seasons.

By the fifth season, WCAR plan to add two further tiers: VTOL/J, for jet-powered Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft, and VTOL/E for electric VTOL aircraft.

They will also establish the WCAR Academy, helping to introduce new talent to the sport. The academy will be headquartered in the UK, with training facilities across the world.

Another major aim of WCAR is to expand the event to include side acts and live music performances. In advance of each race, an Aviation Tech Village will be established in each host city, to promote careers in the aviation industry.

Late last year, the sport got a boost from Greenpro, a capital investment company from Malaysia. Greenpro said the new series will be flying into cities around the world, with races planned in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, India, China, South Africa, United Kingdom and France. WCAR say they are “in discussions with lots of potential locations,” and plan to announce the first locations for season one in “the coming months.”

UK government paves way for airshows to return as PM announces plans to end lockdown

LONDON | All restrictions on social contact could be scrapped in England as early as June, according to plans laid out by prime minister Boris Johnson in Parliament today.

Subject to four safety tests being met, non-essential retail, public buildings and leisure facilities will be allowed to reopen on the 12th April, which could pave the way for the reopening of museums and socially-distant drive-in airshows, at which the “rule of six” can be enforced. Outdoor sports and performances will then be allowed to resume on the 17th May. Private outdoor gatherings will be limited to 30 people, but up to 10,000 will be able to gather at the largest seated sports venues and 4,000 at all other outdoor events. Social distancing will continue to be enforced.

If all goes to plan, the government hopes to end all legal restrictions on social contact on the 21st June, although social distancing and mask-wearing may continue to be enforced.

Enabling a free flow of airshow spectators and participants across borders, the government are also planning to allow international leisure travel from the 17th May at the earliest. With new varients of coronavirus continuing to emerge around the world, the details of any new travel restrictions are not yet clear, but official documents state that this decision will be made based on the path of the pandemic and vaccination programmes at home and abroad. Last summer, the UK introduced a list of low-risk countries with no quarantine restrictions.

The prime minister’s announcement marks a shift in policy compared to last year, when lockdowns were eased or implemented based on infection rates and the R number. With vaccinations taking place at great pace, the number of infected individuals experiencing severe symptoms is expected to fall, meaning that this time around, decisions will be based on the likelihood of overwhelming health services and the UK’s vaccination programme.

The plan is dependent on infection rates remaining low enough to avoid a surge in hospital admissions, as well as the continued fast pace and effectiveness of the vaccination programme. New varients of coronavirus will also be taken into account. The government says that all its tests are currently being met, allowing the first stage of lockdown easing to begin on the 8th March.

The government will also consider whether those who have been vaccinated could be allowed more social contact than those who have not, although the prime minister stopped short of supporting the plan.

Some restrictions are expected to remain, potentially including border restrictions and social distancing in some settings, as the government predicts that around a third of the population will either choose not to be vaccinated or are ineligible to recieve the jab.

So far, four major 2021 UK airshows have been cancelled due to the coronavirus: the Royal Navy International Air Day, Torbay Airshow, Royal International Air Tattoo and Eastbourne International Airshow. Two others, the Abingdon Air & Country Show and RAF Cosford Airshow, have been postponed from June to September. Other event organisers are continuing to advertise public flying displays as early as April.

The devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as Crown Dependencies such as Jersey, will continue to set their own coronavirus laws.

Airbourne, the Eastbourne International Airshow 2021, cancelled due to coronavirus

EASTBOURNE | Airbourne, one of Europe’s largest seafront airshows, will not take place in 2021 in the interest of public safety.

In a statement on the Visit Eastbourne website, organisers said: “The decision to postpone the 2021 event has not been taken lightly, however we know that it is the responsible one to make taking into account the continuing forms of social distancing to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors.”

Airbourne is the fourth major UK airshow of the year to be cancelled due to the coronavirus. They said they hope the show will return in 2022. The event, scheduled for the 12th-15th August, usually attracts over 250,000 visitors to Eastbourne. It is organised by Eastbourne Borough Council.

Recent editions of the show have included performers such as the Red Arrows, Breitling Jet Team, The Blades, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, RAF Typhoon, RAF Chinook, Belgian Air Force F-16, Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron and more.

Swiss Hornet Solo Display 2021 airshow schedule

The Swiss Air Force’s F-18C Hornet solo display has released its 2021 airshow schedule, with dates in the UK, Malta, Belgium and France, as well as the team’s native Switzerland.

SWISS HORNET SOLO DISPLAY 2021 SCHEDULE

Date Show Location Country
Jun 26-27 Belgium Belgian Air Force Days Florennes Belgium
Jul 24-25 United Kingdom Duxford Air Festival Duxford UK (ENG)
Aug 14-15 Switzerland Air Festival 2021 Lommis Switzerland
Aug 20-22 Switzerland Sonchaux Acro Show Villeneuve Switzerland
Aug 28-29 Switzerland Dittinger Flugtage (Dittinger Airshow) Dittinger Switzerland
Sep 10-12 Belgium Sanicole International Airshow Hechtel Belgium
Sep 18-19 France Open Doors Day BA116 Luxeuil Saint-Sauveur France
Sep 25-26 Malta Malta International Airshow Luqa Malta
Sep 30 Switzerland 100 Years of Payerne Air Base Payerne Switzerland
Oct 1 Switzerland Parents’ Day, Ecole d’Aviation 81-2/21 Payerne Switzerland
Oct 19-20 Switzerland AXALP Flight Demonstrations Axalp Switzerland