The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day One, Part One

This year’s Air Show was held over the weekend of 21/22 July and with the weather promising to be good on both days thousands of visitors were expected to line the sea front to watch the flying displays, me included. For the air show I would be using a Sigma 150 – 500mm lens attached to my trusty, old and battered Samsung GX10. It’s been with me about 4 years now and has never let me down, yet. I used Continuing Auto Focus, letting the camera choose the focus point, Aperture Priority, switching between F8 and F11, ISO was always 100. No tripod. I prefer shoot hand-held for events where there are going to be fast-moving objects, like jet planes. Right enough of the talking. It’s photographs you want to see. First up, the Rhyl Lifeboat.

Lifeboat Launch

Wait a minute! What’s a lifeboat got to do with an Air Show? There’s a couple of reasons;

  1. The Air Show is performed over the sea, should any aircraft get in trouble…
  2. The lifeboat will be taking part in an Air Sea Rescue demonstration later in the day.

Now Rhyl lifeboat doesn’t have direct access to the sea like other lifeboat stations. It has to be towed out to the sea by tractor and launched once it’s in deep enough water. Here’s a photograph showing it been recovered.


Right, let’s get some aircraft onto the scene. Opening the air show on Saturday were the Red Arrows. They are currently flying with seven aircraft rather than their usual nine due to the two tragic accidents they have recently suffered. Never the less they still give a remarkable display.

The Red Arrows

I can’t show you all of the manoeuvres, but here are some of my favourites..

Red Arrows 3

Lots of smoke in different colours. Did you know the smoke is made by burning diesel fuel mixed with coloured dyes in the jet’s exhaust?

The Red Arrows

There’s enough fuel and dye to give five minutes of white smoke, one minute of red and one minute of blue

The Red Arrows

Although the trails look good to us, the pilots are using them to check things like wind speed and direction whilst they are making the complicated manoeuvres.

After the Red Arrows came the much slower display from Nigel Wilson and the YAK 52

Yak 52

Nigel is based in Suffolk and unlike many display pilots he is available for weddings, small local events and private functions. You can read more about Nigel on his website

Yak 52

Next we were treated to a display with a Calidus Gyrocopter. The gyrocopter, or rotaplane, is a type of rotorcraft which uses an unpowered rotor in autorotation to develop lift, and an engine-powered propeller, similar to that of a fixed-wing aircraft, to provide thrust. While similar to a helicopter rotor in appearance, the autogyro’s rotor must have air flowing through the rotor disc in order to generate rotation. Bit technical for me so I’ll just show you the photograph of it in action

Gyro Copter

Now to that Air Sea Rescue demonstration. As a photographer I like this flying display. The Sea King Helicopter from 22 Squadron Royal Air Force moves nice and slow across the sky, well slower than the fast jets which are going to appear later. So it’s far easier to track and photograph.


The next demonstration was by a single Hawk, the same aircraft that the Red Arrows use. However, by now the sky was getting a bit grey and to be honest I had better photographs of the Hawk from the second days flying. I’ll show you it later.

The next flying display showed real agility, maneuverability and a willingness to fly really close to the ground, despite the danger of collision. It’s my old friend the gull..

Gull in Flight

It just seemed to good an opportunity to miss. There were lots of gulls flying about and in a few of my photographs I can see them flying in front of the display aircraft. They’re inveterate thieves and can steal an ice-cream right out of an unsuspecting tourists hand.

OK! Back to the aircraft. Next to display were the RV8tors a two aircraft team who specialise in close formation aerobatics. Flying at combined speeds of up to 230 mph they give a really great air display.


Saturday’s, display program was an especially long one. Starting at 12:30 and finishing around 16:30 with some short breaks between flying displays. It was a really sunny day, some clouds and a cooling breeze off of the sea. Ideal for getting sunburnt and guess who forgot to pack his lotion. Of course with the breeze I wasn’t noticing that I was getting burnt, at least not until that evening. One side of my face was bright red and really hot, the other was red, not so hot. but I was like a man of two halves.

On to Part Two of this post

5 thoughts on “The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day One, Part One

  1. Brilliant Mike, I wish I could have attended. Shame to see the Arrows (two down). That Gull shot is a stunner. (well being a birdie man I would say so.) I quite fancy saving up for a Girocopter….They look like fun.


  2. these are wonderful photos, I am a huge fan of airshows. I miss them now that we’re on the farm. We used to live close to an air force base, they had shows twice a year. The practices used to take place over our suburb for days, fabulous!


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