We have attended many airshows in the past thirty-five years and have witnessed many momentous events. Several were of considerable aeronautical importance, some were frightening and some amusing.

In September of 1972 we were sitting on an open grandstand at Farnborough, when the announcer called the attention of the crowd to the next exhibit. “If you look to your left, you will see the most exciting shape in today’s skies. Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present ‘Concorde’!” And in she swept, passing in front of the bewitched onlookers like a gigantic swan. This was our first glimpse of the Anglo-French supersonic transport and there is nowhere in the world I would rather have been at that moment, than on the windswept Laffans Plain in Hampshire!

B2 Spirit, Stealth Bomber

B2 Spirit, Stealth Bomber

In the mid-90s we were enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the International Air Tattoo at Fairford when the commentator announced that the next item in the show had flown all the way from The States and was making its first visit to the U.K. We all looked to our right, wondering what this visitor could be. What we saw totally took our breath away. Approaching the airfield, with an F15 at each wingtip, was the most bizarre and astonishing aircraft I had ever seen. A B2 Spirit, Stealth Bomber. Its two F15 escorts, or their reliefs, had kept station throughout the flight and continued to do so whilst it made two passes for the benefit of the gobsmacked crowd. It then climbed away and set out on the return journey to its base in the U.S.A. This aircraft is of a ‘flying wing’ design, with a saw-tooth wing trailing edge. The radar signature is almost non-existent and it apparently had to have special radar-reflectors fitted, in order that it could be detected and tracked by U.K. Air Traffic Control. A picture is provided, in order that readers who are not familiar with the layout of this aircraft can appreciate the effect on us of our first sight of it!

The U.S.A.F. base at Mildenhall in Suffolk was a favourite venue for us in the 70s and 80s. We used to visit a Caravan Club site in the area and use that as a base for visiting this enormous airfield. They held an annual Air Day at which the public could be assured of a very full programme. However, with all the supersonic fighters and enormous freighters on display there is one event which will always come to mind at the mention of Mildenhall.

We had been watching the aircraft for about thirty minutes, when there was an announcement on the tannoy. “Will the owner of car, registration number AXF 235, please move it, as it is causing an obstruction”. As this was not our vehicle we took little notice. About half an hour later came the announcement again. “Will the owner of car, registration number AXF 235, please remove it at once, as it is causing a severe obstruction”. More aerobatics and thirty minutes on, the announcement took on a more exasperated tone. “We have already asked the owner of this car twice to remove it, but have had no response. We have therefore asked the Royal Navy to help us out!” At this point a Royal Navy ‘Sea King’ helicopter flew the length of the runway and disappeared between some buildings. A few minutes later it re-emerged with the offending vehicle dangling below. It flew up and down the runway at a height of about fifty feet, as though looking for a suitable place to park the car. Having apparently not found anywhere, it headed off towards a remote area of the airfield, beginning to climb as it went. It then went into a serious, spiralling ascent to an altitude of about one thousand feet, whereupon it released the hapless motorcar! It plummeted towards terra firma, urged on and accelerating under gravitational force, until it hit the ground and exploded into several thousand pieces! It was only after the impact that the crowd realised that they had been subjected to a gigantic hoax, a stunt pulled by the organisers and the Royal Navy.