Rhyl Air Show 2011

This year, 2011, is the third year that the Rhyl Air Show has been run at this seaside resort. The event is totally free and this year was staged over the 6th and 7th August, with flying displays from the Royal Air Force Red Arrows, as well as the Breitling Wing Walkers, to name but a few. Right enough of the talking, let’s get some photographs on display…..after all it is a photography blog.

Although not something you would expect at an air show the lifeboat from Rhyl was launched as later in the day it would play an important part in the show with a Royal Air Force Rescue Helicopter from RAF Valley. As the tide was out the lifeboat has to be towed down the beach and into the sea.

First up, or should I say down, were the Royal Air Force Falcons, Parachute Display Team. We could see their aircraft circling but the weather was starting to get really bad. Looking over to Llandudno and Snowdonia there was low cloud and heavy rain falling. Importantly it was sweeping our way so they had to get the jump in as soon as possible or cancel. At this point a light aircraft passed right over the Rhyl seafront and the area were the parachutists were due to land. Somehow I don’t think he was supposed to be there. Round the Falcons aircraft came again and this time they jumped.

The RAF Falcons perform their unique and colourful aerial display at numerous venues nationwide and are renowned for their famous 11-person non-contact canopy stack display routine. Based at RAF Brize Norton as part of the No. 1 Parachute Training School, the RAF Falcons undertake extensive preparation as display parachuting requires hard work, a high level of skill and trust in other team members and their equipment. Members do a 3 year tour on the Display Team. The display season is from May to September and during the off-season the team spend 3 months in Southern California training for both the Display Season and gaining qualifications appointments after the Falcons. Unfortunately due to the weather we just didn’t get to see their full display so I’ll leave you with this final image from one of the Falcons coming in to land.

Next we were due to see a flying display by a Dakota but it was cancelled and instead we were treated to a display from a Jet Provost from the Royal Air Force. By this time the rain was coming down pretty heavy and many people were just leaving the seafront to go home. My kit was getting wet, but the Samsung GX10 is weather sealed, although the Sigma !50 – 500mm is not. Fortunately I always carry a waterproof cover for my gear. However, in the end I had to seek cover because the rain was getting on the front of the lens, making everything blurred. Moving on, the next display was from Steve Carver but it was still raining quite heavy. As Steve was scheduled to fly on the Sunday I took the time to dry myself and gear ready for O’Briens Flying Circus. This display is a demonstration of crazy flying, where the aircraft will appear to be totally out of control and yet it is under the control of an immensely talented pilot.

O’Briens Flying Circus is the brainchild of Brendan O’Brien a renowned aviator and airshow commentator, who uses his considerable showmanship and flying skills to create a versatile act wows crowds throughout the UK and Europe. The aircraft used, a Piper J-3 Cub, is an iconic aircraft. Between 1938 and 1947 approximately 19,073 J-3 Cubs were sold, the majority of them for military roles. Post war the aircraft proved popular with the civilian market for flying training and touring. The aircraft flown on this display, G-BPCF, is a clipped wing Piper J3-65 Cub. The wings are clipped at the centre of the span by 4ft per wing which increases the roll performance. Combined with a superb environmentally friendly smoke system, “CF” is the perfect barnstorming machine.

By now, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and it started to rain quite heavy. Shame really as we were expecting a display from a spitfire and possibly a hurricane.

I managed to get some these two of Hurricane YBW but the Spitfire proved rather elusive.

Not long after their display was over the weather started to clear and I got down to drying my gear and making sure the front of the lens was nice and clean. The problem was that both my lens cloths were wet by now and every time I tried to clean the lens it left horrible smears on the front glass. Fortunately I always keep alcohol wipes in my camera bag and I was able to achieve nice clean glass for the next display which was to involve that lifeboat I showed you earlier.

Flying from RAF Valley on Anglesey the Sea King Search and Rescue Helicopter from 22 Squadron was going to give a demonstration of an up and down winching operation with the RNLI Lifeboat “Lil Cunningham” based at Rhyl.

After doing a successful pick-up from the sea the Sea King matched speed with the Lifeboat and prepared to winch the rescued person onto the deck of “Lil Cunningham”

The 7th August dawned bright and breezy. By now, I knew a good vantage point to get some good close-up photos without someones head getting in the way. However I had to ge there early to make sure I secured the spot which meant for a lot of waiting around, especially in that cold wind. I knew it was going to be busy because the “Arrers” (RAF Red Arrows) were the star attraction and unlike yesterday where the flying display was spread over about four hours, todays program was going to be one display after another. The Red Arrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, is the aerobatics display team of the Royal Air Force.

Dead on 13:00 the Red Arrows started their display with a magnificent flyover the coast and the crowds

The Red Arrows do not use front-line aircraft because of operating costs. The team uses the RAF’s advanced jet trainer, the BAE Hawk T1A, built at Brough in the East Riding of Yorkshire. While the Hawk is very basic compared to the much more modern Eurofighter Typhoon, it is still fast enough and very manoeuvrable, ideal for low-altitude aerobatics. The plane does not have a sat nav, radar or onboard computer. The Red Arrows normally cruise at 360 knots (one nautical mile every 10 seconds)

The smoke trails left by the team are made by releasing diesel into the exhaust; this oxidises straight away, leaving a white smoke trail. Dyes can be added to produce the red and blue colour. The diesel is stored in the pod on the underside of the plane; designed to carry a 30 mm ADEN cannon, it now houses three tanks: one 50-gallon tank of pure diesel and two 10-gallon tanks of blue and red dyed diesel.

The smoke system uses ten gallons per minute; therefore each plane can trail smoke for a total of seven minutes – 5 minutes of white smoke, 1 minute of blue and 1 minute of red.

No sooner had the Red Arrows cleared the display area and in flew the Breitling Wing Walkers.

AeroSuperBatics Ltd is a British aerobatics and wing-walking team. As of 2011, they perform as the Breitling Wingwalkers following a sponsorship agreement with the Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling. They previously performed as Team Guinot, the Utterly Butterly wing-walking Display Team and the Crunchie Wing-walking Display Team according to their sponsors at the time.

AeroSuperBatics was founded in 1989 by Vic Norman, a veteran aerobatics pilot. It operates four Boeing-Stearman Model 75 biplanes and employs five pilots. The team’s shows consist of two or four planes performing aerobatic manoeuvres while female athletes, attached to a post above the wings, engage in acrobatics

Steve Carver flies an aeroplane designed by German engineer, Walter Extra. His aeroplane is the first of a composite airframe design built in 1991 and is one of only two examples flying anywhere in the world. Steve has been flying this aircraft for 8 years and the majority of his display is based on competition aerobatics.

Dropping in next were a parachute display team from the Royal Artillery called The Black Nights. To date there are eight full-time members serving on the team. They are all regular serving soldiers on loan from one of the 15 Regiments within the Royal Regiment of Artillery and most have served on active operations from Afghanistan to Northern Ireland. The team also have a number of part-time members (both Regular and TA) who continue with Regimental duties within their parent units, and are called upon on a regular basis to take part in the teams’ displays.

Before being posted to the team, each team member spends a year working and jumping at one of three Joint Services Parachute Centres, so that they have the required parachuting experience to perform on a public display. As laid down by both the British Parachute Association and Army Parachute Association any person taking part in display parachuting must have completed a minimum of 200 parachute descents.

Yesterday I missed the display from the Jet Provost due to the heavy rain so it was nice to see its return today especially in clear weather. The BAC Jet Provost (originally built by Hunting Percival) is a British jet-powered trainer aircraft used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) from 1955 to 1993. Besides service with the RAF, the Jet Provost found success in export markets. When the Jet Provosts were withdrawn from RAF service they were replaced by Short Tucanos. The Jet Provost remains popular among enthusiasts and being an inexpensive jet, many are now in private hands. Some are flown at airshows.

Closing the show was a display team called “The Matadors” which consists of pilots Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones. The team began in 1994 as the “Sukhoi Duo” to demonstrate the capabilities of the Sukhoi aircraft as a medium for formation aerobatics. This year the have moved to a new and radical Sbach 300, a state of the art aerobatic aeroplane. The Matadors display is designed to demonstrate the remarkable performance of the Sbach aeroplane. The two pilots fly their planes in a variety of formation patterns, including echelon, line astern and line abreast.

The display provides some extreme manoeuvres including crossovers where they fly towards each other at a combined speed of 400 mph.

I hope you enjoyed this article about the Rhyl Air Show and maybe if you live nearby and read this it might encourage you to visit next year. The one thing I didn’t mention and it was most remiss of me was the static displays by the Royal Air Force in the main arena and the open day at the lifeboat station.

Technical Note: All images where shot with a Samsung GX10 fitted with a Sigma 150 – 500mm lens. In general I used F8, ISO 100. The mode dial was on shutter priority with continuous shooting mode selected.

8 thoughts on “Rhyl Air Show 2011

  1. Wow, wow, wow Mike. There are some absolutely brilliant shots in this one, you must be very chuffed indeed, I cannot single out a shot for any sort of “you could have done that better” comment. If you are of a mind, stick this on Fuji too please, an absolute belter. The narrative along with the photos would teach some how to do a photoblog!! Lol quite a few could do with a lesson…Lol


    1. Hi Steve…If it’s still raining tomorrow and Elaine doesn’t give me something to do I might just give it a go on the Fuji site. But I don’t have much success there, it always crashes for me, especially when I do a long one.



    1. Thank you for the comment. Tunnels I always find technically difficult to get a good photo. I was impressed that you managed to get the other end right as that ‘s where I often find problems.


  2. I’m going to have to refer your blog to friends of mine who are devotees of aerial shows, and the wife is originally from the UK, so I’m sure their interest will be even greater. While I’m grateful for your comment re my “entrance” photo, I must admit I’m not a photographer…just a “shoot and point” picture-taker. 🙂


    1. Thank you for the referral. I’ve been thinking about putting together a slideshow of the event but like everything else it’s finding the time to do it justice.


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