Air Show Fans

15 Things Only Air Show Fans Would Understand

You set off in good time only to be held up on the motorway, so you arrive late, join the queue for the car park, and eventually park about a mile from the main entrance. You walk across the grass, reminiscing about a misspent youth at the Glastonbury Festival, and join the queue at the entrance.  

As you get close to the gate you realise you’ve left the spare batteries for your camera in the car.

static aircraft display

Once inside you can’t decide whether to study all the static aircraft on display or head straight for the crowd line.  You start walking around, past the static displays, conscientiously studying the plaques and trying to absorb the information.  You do this for three aircraft before abandoning the idea and taking photos of the information plates which you swear you’ll study at home.

You never do.

vintage warbirds

You take photos – hundreds of them.  You zoom in to take a close- up of the wheel struts on a warbird imagining the resulting photo is going to look arty and provoke hundreds of likes on Facebook and Instagram.  

It doesn’t.

You decide the airshow program is overpriced and you don’t want to carry it around all day so you forget the air display timings.  Consequently, while you’re queuing for a cup of coffee that costs as much as the program, you miss the aircraft you’ve been looking forward to for the past three months.

By noon you’re famished having set off at 6 AM so you choose the food stall with the shortest queue.  Eventually it’s your turn to buy a lukewarm sausage in a dry baguette, sprinkled with half cooked chopped onions, served by a woman who coughs into her hand before picking up the baguette You ask for a bottle of water and hand over a tenner.  

As you walk away with a £1 in change you swear you’ll buy the VIP package next year.

Tiger Moth

The following year you do treat yourself to the VIP package and pay three times the price for some equally lukewarm quiche and a bit of smoked salmon.

While you sit eating it, pausing to sip some unimpressive rosé , you realise you’re missing the vibe around the beer bus and the taste of chips.

Aircraft in formation

Not wanting to miss anything you enter a marquee and start browsing around the stalls.  As you walk past the piles of books, the model aircraft, the pilot gear, and the bored-looking bloke on the stall selling timeshares in Florida, you hear the unmistakable sound of an F-16’s afterburner.

 You resist the urge to push past the people in front of you as you head for the exit.

Warbird pair

The air show is in June in England, so of course the skies are grey and heavy showers pass through, but you forgot to check the forecast and trusted to luck, imagining that since you’ve gone to all the expense and effort of attending, the Sky Gods would smile down upon the event.  

You soon discover how inadequate your clothing is for a wet and windswept airfield in 14 degrees.

Eventually, some sun breaks through and at last you enjoy some aerial displays set against patches of blue sky.  You’ve managed to maneuver into a spot with a reasonably good view.

You’ve bought new batteries for your camera and you’re merrily clicking away when the bloke in front of you stands up and puts a child on his shoulders.

Your shoulders are now stiff and your back aches, so you put your shoulders back and lean over backwards.  The woman next to you looks up to see what aircraft she thinks you’re looking at.

Hawker Hunter

You’re at a small show and the Red Arrows have agreed to perform a single flypast en route to another event.  All day, the few aircraft managing to fly in the strong southerly winds have been arriving from the north. At the appointed time you’re ready and waiting, looking expectantly to the north for the Reds.  

They fly in from the south and before you can point your camera they’re a mile and a half away.

Air show fans

By 4pm you’re starting to feel a little weary, having walked 5 miles criss-crossing the site, and been on your feet all day since you haven’t seen one empty chair that didn’t have someone’s leg on it, guarding it against any thought that it might be free.  

There’s still more flying to come but you decide to make a break for it and beat the end of show rush.

Four aircraft in formation

You’ve been walking past aircraft all day, vintage and modern, commercial and military, everything from Sopwith Camels to Eurofighter Typhoons, but your curiosity is still piqued when you see an RAF roundel peeping out from under the tarpaulin on a low-loader on the motorway as you head home.

That night your head hits the pillow and you fall asleep dreaming of Oshkosh.  You look in the mirror the following morning and with the sunburn and the dry skin from the constant breeze you look like you’ve aged five years.

Despite it all; the prices, the queues, the weather, you know damn well that you’ll do it all over again next year.

5 Essential Tips for Enjoying Airshows

5 Essential Tips for Enjoying Airshows

A Stringbag 1
A wide variety of vintages

Airshows are a great day out for individuals and families. They can be enjoyed by anyone from aviation enthusiasts to those who may not a first consider themselves interested in aircraft, but who enjoy the spectacle and the occasion.  With that in mind here are 5 essential tips for enjoying airshows that will help you to make the most of the day, whether it’s a big international show or a smaller event on a grass airfield.

Obviously the size of the airshow is a big factor that determines many things, not just the size of the queues for the loos.  So keep that in mind when planning your day out.

Parents who have experience of any kind of outdoor event involving their children will probably be familiar with most of what comes next, but check through anyway as there may be one or two things you haven’t considered.

Check the weather and check it again

Spitfire at Goodwood
Grey skies and drizzle 🙁

The airshow season in the UK is from spring to autumn, so there’s bound to be a wide variety of weather and some events can be cool to say the least.  Airfields tend to be wide open spaces exposed to the elements!

As the day approaches keep an eye on the weather and check it again on the morning you leave for the show.  Don’t rely just on the main TV news for this as the weather at the airfield may by very different from the regional forecast.  There are plenty of fairly accurate apps for this, like WeatherPro which comes with a free and a paid version.

Airshows are rarely cancelled due to adverse weather, but it would be shame to make the journey only to find that it had been called off and you neglected to check before leaving.

Clothing and footwear

A Antonov AN-178 1 1960Once you know what the temperature is likely to be you can choose appropriate clothing and footwear.  Your enjoyment of the show is going to diminish rapidly if you get cold waiting to watch pilots put on a display.

It’s highly likely that you’re going to be standing on grass, whatever the size of the airfield.  If there has been any recent rain you will notice the damp.  If you don’t plan on bringing any folding chairs then a thick picnic rug is a good alternative.

If there’s going to be any sun remember to bring the sun cream.  Every year thousands of people return from airshows with sun burnt faces and necks because they’ve spent several hours staring up a the sky and forgot to put on some protection.

Essentials: hat, sun cream, sun glasses, umbrella (for shade, as well as rain)

Food and drink

It is an unfortunate fact of life that the catering at outdoor events tends to be overpriced, but it is convenient and there’s usually a fairly good variety. The other disadvantage is that you have to queue for it, so sometimes it pays to get an early lunch and avoid peak times.

The obvious alternative is to bring your own, but that means you have to prepare it and carry it to wherever you intend to sit.  That might be quite a long way from the car park, so a rucksack or trolley might be the answer if you have a large party of adults and children.

The loos are better than they used to be, but they can still be unhygienic due to constant use.  Wash your hands thoroughly and consider bringing your own hand sanitizer or anti bacterial wet-wipes.

Travel and access

A Blades 1 1960Again, forward planning is important if you are to reduce the stress levels and make the day go smoothly.  It may be tempting to pile everyone and everything into the family car and set off, but sometimes travelling light and going by public transport is the better option.

The Farnborough International Airshow (held once every two years) is one example where travelling by train might be better.  In 2016 there was a two hour wait for people trying to leave the main car park after the event on the Saturday.  Meanwhile, those who travelled by train simply boarded a free shuttle bus to the train station.

However, public transport will not always be an option and you’ll need to make your own way there.  If you end up parking in a large field, check your location before leaving the vehicle i.e. remember where you parked!  There’s nothing more annoying than trying to find the car when all you want to do is get in and get home.

Airshow Photography

Airshow PhotographyAirshows provide great opportunities for both amateur and professional photographers.  No doubt you will see the serious amateurs and the professionals with their large lenses and tripods.

However, taking pictures at airshows is something everyone can have a go at and it can be easy to take some good shots for the album or to share on social media.

Your phone or tablet is probably best for taking still images of the static display of aircraft and varies other activities around the site.  Without a zoom lens you’re unlikely to get a good picture of aircraft in flight.

On the other hand you can film the displays on your camera and by so doing capture the sound of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine or some other dramatic engine noise.


Finally, a word about safety.  Crashes at airshows are extremely rare, but when they do happen the effects tend to be dramatic and consequently they make a lot of headlines.  Statistically speaking you’re probably safer at the show itself than you are on the journey to it.  The aviation authorities and the airshow organisers take every precaution they can to keep you safe, and crowds continue to flock to all sizes of shows throughout the year.

To find out more about airshows and to choose your next one search online for one of the many sites that list them each year, like Flightline UK.