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biggin air show

Old 5th Jun 2001, 20:00
  #101 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a


I am not sure that now is the time to comment, but as I see much of the content contained herein, I will do so.

Some people live to work, some to play sport and some are rightly happy with their lot on the ground.

These guys lived to fly. They loved what they did and had gained the skill and experience to do so in wonderful aircraft that give so much pleasure.

Martin Sargeant will have watched Paul Morgans tragedy a few weeks ago, he will have watched or heard about Ken and Jim on Saturday and yet he still flew himself.

Who are we to dicate or suggest what others might do. I humbly submit that they did what they did best and loved doing most. The loss is great and my tears add another drop to those shed by family and friends.

I wish them well wherever they are.
Old 5th Jun 2001, 20:26
  #102 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

After a quite dreadful weekend for the UK
aviation display scene and having taken some
time to absorb the content of this thread may
I offer a few thoughts.

Whilst I did not know any of the pilots who
were killed over the weekend, after 25 years
flying I have known a great number of people,some well - some not, who have lost their lives in aeroplanes. Some of these were
lost in military aircraft in the course of
operations or training; this is an unfortunate but inevitable facet of service
flying. Other friends and colleagues have
been lost in civil accidents - some in the
course of their day to day duties and some in
the world of display flying.

The last airshow I went to was at Fairford
when I saw the crash of the two Mig's. On
that day I was accompanied by my children who
were greatly shocked by the events which took
place in front of them. My view at the time was that despite the rules and regulations
applicable to display flying, those aircraft
could have finished up in the crowd - net
result - disaster. I am sure that many far
more qualified observers will say that could
never happen - I hope that is the case but
my airshow days are over.

It would be easy to go down the road of calling for the end of display flying - is
it worth the risk to life and limb of anyone ? Here, the natural response from many would be to say that dispaly flying is a vital part of the aviation world, a view I
for one would not argue with for a moment.
Perhaps a more relevant question would be to
ask whether too many old aircraft are being
flown a little too close to the edge in the
quest for spectacle. This should not be seen
as in any way viewed to the weekends specific events - I know little or nothing of the circumstances. Is their not a compromise however where historic aircraft
are flown in the manner of the Battle of
Britain Flight as opposed to the mock
dog-fights and aerobatics which seem to be
much in vogue.

I do not wish to see all historic aircraft
rotting in museums. Aircraft were designed
to fly in the same manner that racing cars
were built to race. Yet I do not expect to
see a 1930's Auto Union racing at the same
pace as it did seventy years ago; much better to see it driven at a spirited but not
aggressive pace which will give the thrill
but not the risk of damage or worse.

I offer no solutions, no answers to the
questions posed by the weekends events.
Perhaps those more qualified are prepared
to do so now ?

Bill, Clachy, Mark, Southpiece, and all the
rest not forgotten either.
Old 5th Jun 2001, 20:48
  #103 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up,up,the long delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind - swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The highest untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Jr. RCAF
Sept 1941
Old 5th Jun 2001, 20:55
  #104 (permalink)  
tiger burn
Posts: n/a

Evo7, I agree with your last comment & thats something that frightens me......dictatorship!

I am sure some of you must remember the disaster at Ramstein (?) in the mid eighties. What was the outcome & the implications for air displays after that?

A little something:

When you've flown enough years to have
crossed many hills and valleys, and known much loneliness and endured many uncertainties -
why then you're a pilot,and on the walls of your memory are hung such frescoes as no other breed of man has ever seen.
And because of them you can never grow too old and you can never be too much afraid of what lies ahead.

extract from "The Airman's World"
by Gill Robb-Wilson

[This message has been edited by tiger burn (edited 05 June 2001).]
Old 5th Jun 2001, 21:06
  #105 (permalink)  
Crosswind Limits
Posts: n/a

To a greater or lesser extent I have to agree with Raw Data's sentiments. Lives are always more valuable than vintage machines, no matter how classic or venerated those aircraft may be. It is particularly distressing to hear that Captain Bancroft- Wilson had a wife and three young children.

My condolences to family and friends who have lost a loved one in the last few days.

Old 5th Jun 2001, 21:09
  #106 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

I think Raw Data puts it very well. Someone suggests that display pilots put in some Chipmunk or Tiger time in preparation for the “warbirds”; but a Gypsy Major is not a Merlin or a Griffon, and the torque produced by 140 h p is not the torque produced by 2000 +/- h p, and there is more to big piston aircraft than a tailwheel. It is not difficult to turn the aircraft around the propeller; though if you do it at low speed and low level, once only.

Warbirds were designed and built for war, not for Air Shows. A fighter did not do most of its work at or below 50' AGL, and if it did any at all it was not doing low-speed low-level vertical manoeuvres. I watched one outstanding pilot practise his “signature” manoeuvre for a major air display. He was the only one I ever saw do it in the aircraft he was flying, and it was sheer artistry. If I describe it some may identify it and him, so I forebear. He did his thing at very low level, and it would never have been part of any military requirement. It was stomach-churning, and it would still have been artistry if he had been 500' higher. Someone said: “That chap is going to kill himself”. He did. You cannot fly through the runway.

I am far from indifferent to the loss of these brave men. Quite the reverse. I have known too many who ended up in that billow of black smoke. Some think the fatalities are rare, but they are altogether too common. There have been many over the years.

I am happy to see the aircraft flying, but not pushing the envelope at altitudes that allow no margin whatever for human error or equipment failure. I do not want to think: “Well he just got away with it once again, but next time ......” That is why I no longer go to Air Shows. I do not want to say afterwards how sorry I am that X went in. I just want him not to go in.

[This message has been edited by Davaar (edited 05 June 2001).]
Old 5th Jun 2001, 22:21
  #107 (permalink)  
Raw Data
Posts: n/a
Thumbs down

Ickle black box:

Wakey wakey. Display flying is NOT a sport. It is in no way competitive.

I don't want to see them grounded, but I'd rather that than see the crashes on TV.

There might be more aircraft being restored now, but do the math. No warbirds from the WWII era are being produced now, are they? Therefore the supply is finite. Every time one crashes, it is lost forever, and there is NO replacement (like the pilot). More and more effort must be expended to find warbirds that might possible be restorable, which is why people dig very deep holes in glaciers etc to find them. The supply of suitable airframes will dry up- in fact I would be surprised if ANY usable airframes have been newly located in recent years.

You can fly a warbird, but you can do it safely. The sad fact is that most (but not all) warbird accidents come down to pilot error. Display flying to the limits reduces the error tolerance to basically zero. Given that most of the display pilots that fly these aircraft don't do many hours in them, the risks rise. Most warbirds, being single-purpose machines, are significantly more tricky to fly than the pilots' normal (work) aircraft. Go figure.

Also bear in mind that even seasoned, experienced display pilots succumb to accidents far too often.

Another problem is that a lot of warbirds are in the hands of people who have the money to acquire them, but neither the experience or skill to operate them to the highest levels of safety. This has most recently been evidenced by the number of JPs that have crashed, shortly after the type became acquirable. And then there was the pilot that taxied her warbird into a stationary helicopter a year or so ago...!!!

I'm afraid this topic needs a dispassionate and calculated assessment of the risks. Yes, it is great to see these aircraft fly. The problem is that the risks are high, and too often judgement is clouded by the romance of it all. For those, like ickle black box, that think the risks are acceptable as things stand, I hope you never have to explain to a widow and three small children just why their daddy won't be coming home. Somehow I doubt they'll see it your way.

Sorry, it isn't worth it. Death by display flying is probably the most senseless way to die that there is.
Old 5th Jun 2001, 22:58
  #108 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a


Sorry I never got to fly with you in the Reds display practice; it was one of my greatest disappointments that I was called away during the briefing.

My heartfelt condolences to your wife and children.
Old 6th Jun 2001, 00:30
  #109 (permalink)  
Flying Lawyer
Posts: n/a
Thumbs down

On a glorious Friday evening about 10 years ago, twelve of us took off from Duxford to take part in air displays in Europe. The sight and sound of twelve warbirds leaving together was, as always, inspiring. There had been the usual banter between us (the Old Flying Machine Company) and Stephen Gray's Fighter Collection; a wonderful, happy atmosphere. I can't now remember where we, or they, were going.
The atmosphere on Sunday evening couldn't have been more different. Twelve of us had taken off; sadly, only eleven returned. One of the Fighter Collection pilots, flying a Cobra, had crashed on the way home.
The following weekend saw us taking off to fly at some other air display. That was our free choice.
Some contributors seem to think that our freedom of choice should be removed.
Over the years, two more of the original twelve pilots lost their lives in flying accidents. One, Mark Hanna, was a close friend with whom I'd spent many happy times flying.
Of course we are all affected by the loss of a friend. But display pilots carry on because they want to. Is it really to be argued that the state should protect us from ourselves? Should all dangerous, and potentially fatal, pursuits be banned by the 'nanny state'?

The 'danger to the crowd' aspect is a complete red herring. Aircraft occasionally crash during displays, but where is the history of aircraft crashing into the crowd?
Should motorsport be banned just because drivers are occasionally killed, or a car might become airborne and crash into the crowd, or a spectator might be hit by a flying wheel. I was waiting to go out for a warm-up lap before a race when the news of Ayrton Senna's death spread around the paddock. Of course we were all shocked. Of course we all thought 'If it can happen to someone with Senna's talent, .........etc', but we still went out to race.
Should that freedom of choice be taken away?

Of course some warbirds are damaged beyond repair, but let's not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority are not owned by the nation, but have been restored by private owners. Some contributors seem to think they should be forced into museums as static displays. Aircraft are built to fly, not to gather dust in a museum. A Spitfire is a beautiful aeroplane, even on the ground. But the sight of a Spitfire in a hangar is nothing compared with the sight (and sound) of its beauty and qualities being fully displayed by a skilled pilot.

I accept that air displays must continue to be kept as safe as possible, but some of the contributions on this thread seem, to me, to be taking the 'nanny state' to unacceptable extremes.
Of course grieving families will wish that their loved ones had spent their weekends playing golf or fishing instead of display flying, but I very much doubt whether they would support introducing rules to prevent people from taking part in air displays.

No-one has to fly in displays.
No-one has to go to air shows.
Surely those who wish to do so should be allowed that freedom of choice?

Raw Data
Re the end of your last post: I've never had to break the news to a bereaved family, but I have spoken to several afterwards. Their reactions, without exception, have been the complete opposite of what you appear to expect.

[This message has been edited by Flying Lawyer (edited 05 June 2001).]
Old 6th Jun 2001, 02:04
  #110 (permalink)  
Raw Data
Posts: n/a

Flying Lawyer:

Just in case the wrong impression has been left, I am not interested in banning, or further regulating, display flying. If you read my post a little more carefully, you should be able to see that. SELF-regulation is the key. I (for one) never suggested further government regulation.

I love seeing Spitfires and the like flying as well. I still attend airshows- the static aircraft are a poor second to the ones that fly. However, it is not necessary to "push the envelope", which is what kills pilots- attempting manouevers beyond the ability of either pilot or aircraft features prominently in many display accidents. The one that always sticks in my mind is the Spitfire pilot who misjudged a loop and became one with the runway at Fairford a few years back.

Simple flypasts and basic manouevers would achieve the goal of keeping warbirds flying and visible.

On the other hand, any warbird that has a bang seat should present no such limitations (apart from where the aircraft ends up after the pilot has departed).

Moving on to the end of your post...

I would expect the recently-bereaved family of a dead display pilot to be sad and hurt beyond belief. The opposite of that would be, lets see, happy and complete beyond belief. Given that simple juxtaposition, I find your last statement somewhat difficult to believe.
Old 6th Jun 2001, 02:43
  #111 (permalink)  
Plane Mad
Posts: n/a

Perhaps doing low level aerobatics in a classic warbird when one has a wife and 3 young children is taking too much of a risk. An acceptable amount of risk when flying can always be justified to loved ones, but there comes a point.........

Sincere condolences to those affected.
Old 6th Jun 2001, 08:10
  #112 (permalink)  
Alty Meter
Posts: n/a

Flying Lawyer
Well said! A superb contribution to the debate, and based upon first-hand experience. I agree with you 100%.

Raw Data
You know that wasn't what Flying Lawyer meant about your comments about the likely reaction of bereaved families.
What you said was: "For those, like ickle black box, that think the risks are acceptable as things stand, I hope you never have to explain to a widow and three small children just why their daddy won't be coming home. Somehow I doubt they'll see it your way."
You know that Flying Lawyer wasn't suggesting that bereaved families are happy about their loss, just that even in the pain of their own loss they accept that their loved one died doing something he enjoyed, fully aware of the risks involved. He was speaking from personal experience, saying that your doubts that they would see it that way were wrong. Are your 'doubts' based upon personal experience?

Plane Mad
That's a personal decision for each husband and wife to decide for themselves.
Perhaps you didn't think that criticising G B-W was insensitive and offensive.
Perhaps you should think again.
Old 6th Jun 2001, 09:21
  #113 (permalink)  
Plane Mad
Posts: n/a
Thumbs down

Alty Meter,

My intention was never to criticise Captain Bancroft-Wilson who was obviously a very experienced and able pilot. I simply made what I think was a valid point from a certain perspective. If others feel that my earlier post was "insensitive" then perhaps I will delete it.


[This message has been edited by Plane Mad (edited 06 June 2001).]
Old 6th Jun 2001, 10:04
  #114 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

Plane Mad

Your post did not strike me as being out of line. Emotions are naturally still running very high, and any perceived criticism of the pilots will not be well received.

I can only imagine the thrill and exhuberation of displaying a magnificent airplane, but I do wonder if the temptation to push the envelope sometimes results in a loss of appropriate caution.
Old 6th Jun 2001, 11:56
  #115 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

I feel it is sad in any event for any Pilot or crew to die, even whist showing their flying skills to the gallery,and my heartfelt sorrow goes to all the families and friends of the crews involved.

But please correct me if I am off target , most aerobatics were past thought out manuovers for these warplanes and their crew to effectivly get into the best posistion to fight the enemy aircraft and pilots, or if lead was comming your way it was to get you away from the hot area, most of these types of movements were often flown at far greater heights than the most GA pilots will ever fly at today, therefor keeping the Nanny state and the PC people at bay, would it not be far better if the organisers of these Air Show's set a minimum safe altitude which should be made and adhered to strictly,such rules if broken would then ban the infringing pilot from all other displays, it seems logical but I only fly RW so I cannot make many technical suggestions, but I feel that if a min alt of never intrude below 500 ft was enforced, it would still show and allow us to hear those incredible old aircraft, then in theory ( with all that theorys cover) we would be safe from the sensationalised journalistic crap and ravings that we have all seen in the press and on the TV since these sad occurance's.
Old 6th Jun 2001, 11:59
  #116 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

Raw Data

I have to disagree with your comment that display flying is not competative.

How many airshows have we all been to where there is a trophy awarded for the best flying display. Now I know many pilots and I can assure you that they go 'balls out' to win that trophy. Their professional pride drives them to want to win, more so if they are military types.

Old 6th Jun 2001, 14:29
  #117 (permalink)  
Raw Data
Posts: n/a
Thumbs down

Alty Meter:

As Flying Lawyer is a lawyer, I assume he chooses his words carefully. So do I. The implication of his statement was exactly as I alluded to in my response.

I have indeed been unfortunate enough to have to counsel widows of deceased pilots (and their children). One thing I can tell you is that the romantic notion that families are somehow comforted by the idea that their loved one died "doing what he loved" is utter nonsense. That is a nice thought that we use to attempt to justify a pointless death- but that is all it is. That family now has to face life without a husband and father, and the pain of that situation never goes away.

My personal belief (and I am not relating this to any particular person), is that if you have a wife and kids, you have an obligation to minimise the risks to yourself. I don't mean live your life in a cocoon, but simply not take UNNECESSARY risks. In my case, I gave up competitive motorcycle racing when the family came along, because I love my family more than I love racing. Obviously this is an individual choice.

I am somewhat surprised that Flying Lawyer can accept the deaths of so many friends with equinimity, but once again that is a personal thing.

I have done a little display flying in the past, not in anything as fast as a WWII fighter, but I do have first-hand knowledge of the subject.


The primary objective of a flying display is to DISPLAY AIRCRAFT. With so many different types on display, it is highly subjective as to who gave the best display. The awards you mention are more of an incidental bonus to spice things up for the pilots.

If competition for them is as fierce as you say (and it certainly wasn't at displays I have been involved in), then that tells you more about the motives and egos of the pilots involved than anything else. "Professional pride"? Dream on!
Old 6th Jun 2001, 16:04
  #118 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

Flying Lawyer,
I remember you now (you had a share in a Harvard?).
You mentioned an incident I alluded to a few pages back. The pilot who died in the crash 10 years ago was an absolute professional and a charming person. So ironic that history has almost repeated itself.

Old 6th Jun 2001, 16:09
  #119 (permalink)  
Crosswind Limits
Posts: n/a

In my humble opinion, Raw Data and Plane Mad are most definitely making valid points. I think it is foolish to discount them.
Old 6th Jun 2001, 17:37
  #120 (permalink)  
Hung start
Posts: n/a

To the families of those tragically lost over the weekend, my deepest condolancies.

Flying Lawyer, sorry to go off the tangent a bit here. But I was shocked to read in your post, that Mark Hanna has been killed as well. Spoke to him years back at an airshow in Denmark. What a great guy/pilot. May I ask when and what happened. And how is Ray?

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