We are in The Yorkshire Dales for a few days R & R after a hectic and noisy weekend working in the Vulcan Village at RAF Waddington Airshow.
We left home last Thursday for Waddo and stayed on the playing field in the centre of Waddington village at a temporary site set up by the Caravan Club Lincolnshire centre. It was a useful location being half way between the main gate to the airfield and the Wheatsheaf pub which is always our rendezvous point. After spending Thursday afternoon and Friday morning relaxing and watching some practice displays from arriving aircraft and being visited by fellow volunteers Shackers, Bob and Isi we met up with the rest of the set-up team at the pub ready for a 2pm convoy onto the airfield.
When we got to our pitch the Vulcan Village was nowhere ready for us to start fitting it out – the contractors had been delayed and seemed to be having problems getting the roof on.
It was around 4:30 before we could start work and as the marquee was 35x25m. it was going to be an awful lot of work. The Vulcan was towed from the other side of the airfield and parked outside the VV and by 8:00 we had done what we could, there was still a fair bit to do before we would be ready to trade the next morning.
Saturday morning was wet when we met at the ungodly hour of 6:20 at the Wheatsheaf to collect other volunteers and then get stuck in to complete the set up before the ‘great unwashed’ descended on us when the gates opened at 8:00. With a quickly snatched breakfast of a buttered bun, eaten on the trot, we were all smart and ready to go before eight.
Soon the VV was busy and every time there was a heavy rain shower it was packed. I was looking after the books and DVD’s which was a lot less manic than some of the other departments…..thank goodness. The clothing area was constantly crowded with customers eager to buy the latest in Vulcan fashion. The volunteers were joined by Laura and Catherine, wife and daughter of our Chief Pilot Martin Withers. The ladies worked on the clothing department while Martin made himself available, between flight planning and briefings, to sign books. Outside another team were running tours under the aircraft in return for a donation. As usual there was a steady stream of people wanting to get up close to such an iconic aircraft.
XH558 was scheduled to display mid afternoon and at 1:00pm the tug turned up to tow her out closer to the runway so she could be prepared for flight. Captain and display pilot for the day was Kev Rumens with Martin Withers in the right hand seat and Phil Davies as AEO (Air Electronics Officer). With engines running and strobe lights flashing she stood waiting for the previous F18 display to finish as we closed the VV and all went out to watch.
The F18 landed and with a roar ‘558 taxied out to the runway. The crowd were now on their feet and wanting the F18 to clear quickly so that their favourite could go. The throttles opened and the roar increased as Kev held her on the brakes then, suddenly, the nose jerked upwards and she was off, howling and bellowing down the runway – seventy odd tons of aircraft that could out accelerate a Ferrari. The volunteers whooped and cheered with Laura frantically waving her red scarf so that husband Martin could see her. ‘558 launched into the air and immediately banked steeply to the left and just kept on climbing and howling in a circular climb with the power almost full on. WOW.
As usual the VV was packed as soon as the display was over and remained busy for the rest of the afternoon. After such an early start we were all pleased to close at just after 6pm, extremely early for us but it had been a busy day.
Another early start on Sunday and before we opened had an update on the results from the previous day which had been excellent, so day two started on a high. At most shows the Sunday tends to be a quieter day, more of a family day out rather than one for aviation enthusiasts. This Sunday was to be an exception as we took almost as much as on Saturday.
As I had a fairly decent camera with me I was asked if I would take some photos of special guests with the aircraft during the afternoon. Catherine, who had spent the day working with our PR man, the other Richard Clarke, was a blur of activity as she organised a group of pilots and what seemed like hundreds of ACT cadets who had been working on the airshow to form up in a V under the wings and perched on a slightly wonky step ladder I and a press photographer took some shots of them and our air crew. One of my photos was used in the next news letter along with a review of the airshow.
The display slot was a little later and the two Bill’s were flying, Bill Ramsey and Bill Perrins with Jonathan Lazzari as AEO. A different display compared with Saturday but still excellent, each pilot has their own style and the displays always have the same manoeuvres, just flown a little differently. Once again the flight was very well received by the crowd who then started to leave in droves. The Vulcan Effect in evidence again after the airshow had completely sold out on both days with no payments on the gate.
Once again we closed up at about 6pm but this time everything had to be dismantled and packed away. We finished at 8pm when the van and trailer doors were slammed shut with the good news that we had made record sales for a weekend event in the Vulcan Village.
We drove back to our temporary camp site for a stiff drink or three, a pizza and bed. Exhaustion reigned.