RNAS Yeovilton Air Day, 7 July 2018
Commando Assault Returns to Yeovilton Air Day
Preparations for this year’s Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton International Air Day on Saturday 7 July 2018 are underway, according to an announcement from the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. Up to 40,000 visitors are expected to visit the Royal Navy’s premier public event at the spiritual home of the Fleet Air Arm, RNAS Yeovilton.
Five hours of incredible flying displays and extensive static displays will feature an array of fast jets, helicopters, historic warplanes and an exclusive line up of international participants expected from 14 nations, the largest international involvement in nearly 20 years.
RNAS Yeovilton is one of the Navy’s two principal air bases, and one of the busiest military airfields in the UK. It is home to more than 100 aircraft operated on both front-line squadrons and training units, including the Fleet Air Arm Wildcat Force and the Commando Helicopter Force, plus vintage aircraft of the RN Historic Flight.
The base is located near Yeovil in Somerset and covers around 1,400 acres with the main airfield in Yeovilton itself and the satellite at Ilton (Merryfield). Some 4,300 personnel, Service and civilian, including MOD employees and permanent contractors are employed on the site. The air station also hosts a large support staff from the Defence Equipment and Support organisation, and the world famous Fleet Air Arm Museum.
The Feet Air Arm’s rare naval heritage aircraft, the Swordfish and Sea Fury, will grace Somerset skies this summer, giving the crowds at Yeovilton a rare glimpse of naval history as they take centre stage once again.
The Swordfish evolved from the prototype Fairey TSR.II (Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance), designed by Marcel Lobelle and HE Chaplin of the Fairey Aviation Company Ltd., first flew in 1934 and entered service with No.825 Squadron in 1936. In all, 2391 aircraft were built, the first 692 machines by Fairey Aviation and the remainder under licence by Blackburn Aircraft Company at their works at Sherburn-in-Elmet and Brough, Yorkshire. In service the Blackburn-built aircraft became unofficially known as “Blackfish”. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this very distinguished aircraft was its longevity.
Although by all normal standards it was already obsolete at the outbreak of WW2, it confounded everyone by remaining in operational service throughout the whole of the war, and thereby gained the distinction of being the last British bi-plane to see active service. Indeed, it outlasted its intended replacement, the Albacore, which disappeared from front-line service in 1943.
The Royal Navy Historic Flight are the guardians of the Fleet Air Arm’s proud history, upholding the memory of naval aviators by keeping vintage aircraft airborne.
The Hawker Sea Fury was displayed to the Media ahead of the Air Day to show them what to expect on 7 July 2018. The Sea Fury is the last of the post-war piston-engine single-seat fighter aircraft to serve in front-line Naval Air Squadrons and renowned in the Korean War when Sea Fury pilots shot down one MiG-15 jet aircraft and badly damaged two others without incurring serious damage to their own aircraft.
The Sea Fury only resumed air displays in the summer of 2017 – three years after it was nearly wrecked in a crash at Culdrose. The Sea Fury came down during an Air Day in 2014 when its engine packed up mid-display, forcing pilot Lieutenant Commander Chris Götke to make an emergency landing.
The Sea Fury suffered engine failure in the middle of a display at Culdrose in July 2014. The aircraft skidded to a halt on the grass after the undercarriage collapsed as pilot Lt Cdr Chris ‘Goaty’ Götke made an emergency landing. He clambered out of the two-seat trainer unscathed, but the landing gear, airframe and especially the Bristol Centaurus engine needed fixing.
Commando Helicopter Force
Our modern-day counterparts, Wildcat HM2 and Wildcat AH will also be on show alongside Merlin Mk3i from Commando Helicopter Force based at RNAS Yeovilton.
The three squadrons of the Commando Helicopter Force are the wings of the Royal Marines, providing crucial aerial support to the green berets be they at sea in an assault ship or in the sand and dust of Afghanistan.
This year the Commando Assault is back and although it will be on a smaller scale rest assured there will be plenty of pyrotechnics! There will also be arena displays including military bands and the HMS Heron Field Gun Competition.
The Yeovilton Air Day attracts an average age of visitor between 30 and 45, split 50% ABC1, 50% C2DE.
Source: Royal Navy.
Image: A Royal Navy Sea King Mk4 helicopter of the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) fires decoy flares whilst on operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. An Army Air Corps Lynx Mk9a is visible in the background. Royal Navy Sea King Mk4 helicopters from 845 and 846 Naval Air Squadrons normally based with Commando Helicopter Force at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset, were flying as part of the Joint Helicopter Force Afghanistan in support of operations in Afghanistan, codenamed Operation HERRICK.