The Tony Ayre Blade, 2018 results
The annual RAFFCA club level event has been held at various RAF stations since its’ inception some 5 years ago. Cranwell, Halton and Barkston Heath, but few could be as iconic as this years venue, RAF Scampton. Opened in 1916, Scampton has hosted many squadron over its’ years, but two in particular will be associated with this huge patch of Lincolnshire forever. On 17 May 1943, 19 Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron, took off from Scampton to perform the successful attack on Eder and Mohne dams with their ‘bouncing bombs’. An attack which will forever be known as ‘The Dambusters Raid’. Today RAF Scampton is home to the Royal Air Force aerobatic team, The Red Arrows.
As this airfield is no stranger to aerobatic flying, it seemed very appropriate that it played host to this years RAFFCA aerobatic competition. 14 mustard keen pilots crammed into the fire control briefing room to learn what the day ahead would entail. Part of this briefing covers what weather we expect to be dealing with. No significant cloud and wind down the runway certainly brought a smile to my face. Pilots were allocated to one of the four training aircraft, two Extra 200’s, a Slingsby T67 and a Pitts S2A, and after private group briefings with their instructors, the first training flight launched and we were off and running at 10:20hrs.
The format is for each pilot to complete a short training sortie away from the airfield, followed by a flight in the performance zone which would be scored by our team of judges. A show of hands at the briefing told us that a significant number of entrants had never flown any aerobatics before, so the instructors had their work cut out to teach a whole sequence in 20mins. The performances in the first round were understandably mixed, but the break for lunch would allow plenty of thinking time. Would this translate into better flying in the second round?
During lunch, which consisted of wood fired stone baked pizza, we were all treated to two demonstration flights, to inspire and entertain the competitors and their families. First cab off the rank was British Team member Chris Sills in the Edge 540 showing us his advanced Free Known sequence with commentary to the pilots by yours truly. Then event organiser Dave Hall poled the Waltham Pitts round his intermediate Free Known, demonstrating the differences between the two levels. Thank you Gents. We all enjoyed the flights, and the pizzas.
Round two – Same pilots with the same instructors in the same order but without the pre training flights. It was immediately clear that the lunchtime thinking time had been put to good use. The improvement in the flying was very marked indeed, and the smiles on the pilots faces after their second flights were as wide as Scamptons runway.
So by 16:00hrs the flying was all completed and the scores were in. Propping up the field in 14th place was our mess host Danny Bentley on 70.929% such was the improvement in the quality of the performances. Medals were awarded to the top three pilots who flew in three different aircraft types, a testament to the level of instruction in my view.
I was honoured to be the Contest Director at the first RAFFCA event at Cranwell which was won by Tony Ayre who sadly lost his life in a road accident soon after. Subsequent RAFFCA aerobatic contests have been held in his honour with a beautiful polished metal propeller blade, The Tony Ayre Blade, being awarded to the winner. This year this magnificent trophy was awarded to Simon Makosz who flew G-ODDS, with Simon Abbott as safety pilot, to score 83.824%.
Great facilities, superb organisation, highly professional instructors and a large helping of fantastic weather all combined to make this a very successful and enjoyable day.
My personal thanks go to Dave Hall, Chris Hives and Gary Coleman for their organisation from the RAF side of things. Scampton ATC for keeping us incursion free and relaying countless messages from the Chief Judge to the practice areas. Alan Cassidy, John Royce and Maciej Kulaszewski for their judging duties and everyone who assisted on the line. Our four hard working instructors Simon Abbott, Adrian Willis, Jack Willis and Julian Murfitt and to Sam Hewitt for crunching the numbers. But the biggest thank you must go to the pizza chefs – absolutely delicious.