Jersey fends off the wind
key.aero was in Jersey for the Channel Island’s annual airshow, held each year to raise funds for the Royal Air Forces Association.
Jersey’s annual International Air Day, hosted above St Aubin’s Bay in St Helier this year on September 9 was once again affected by strong winds, just as it had been in 2009. But, despite the prevailing conditions, a nearly full flying programme was put together with plenty to interest both the natives and holidaymakers alike.
Star billing had gone to Tom Schrade’s Sikorsky S38 seaplane fresh from its transatlantic journey in aid of several charities, but the strong headwind delayed its arrival from France until after the flying programme had finished. Although its failure to fly in the display was a disappointment, not just to the crowd but to Tom himself, it did present a welcome sight on the static park at the airport the following day. Jersey’s airport always opens up a small viewing area for three days so that the public can view the participating aircraft arriving and departing, particularly popular on the Wednesday evening before the airshow day itself.
Jetman Yves Rossy was treated like a celebrity by the Jersey crowd.With the non-appearance of the Sikorsky on Thursday afternoon, the people’s choice for entertainment and novelty was Swiss ‘Jetman’ Yves Rossy, who performed his first-ever public airshow appearance, albeit delayed by a couple of hours due to the weather. Was it a bird? Was it a plane? You could see the vapour trails as Rossy tore around the sky in his best Superman impression before he activated his parachute to descend to earth, but to be honest it was darned difficult to see him while looking into the mid-afternoon sun. Rossy plans to have a ballistic parachute for next year, which should allow him to use the jetpack down to a few hundred feet and make for a better spectacle. He still received a tumultuous round of applause as he touched down, kids in the audience being particularly thrilled by his arrival.
A highlight for the aviation enthusiasts was the formation by the Red Arrows and Vulcan, something only seen at Farnborough so far this year, and the return of the Swedish Air Force’s Historic Flight J-29 Tunnan together with a host of 1950s jets including the F-86A Sabre, Saab 105 and Morane Saulnier MS760 Paris. Fast jet action came in the shape of the Belgian Air Force F-16AM solo display backed up by the French national display team, Patrouille de France. On a less positive note, RAF participation for what is an event staged for the Royal Air Forces Association charities didn’t include any fast jets other than the nine Hawks of the Red Arrows.
Sponsors are increasingly important for free airshows such as Jersey.Put together almost single-handedly in the eleven months prior to the day by the irrepressible Mike Higgins, Jersey’s airshow has a garden party atmosphere with the seafront road closed for the afternoon and families mingling the length of the harbour wall. Mike is an aviation fan – there’s not many people who have the influence and determination to get unique aircraft such as the Nimrod MRA4 (only airshow this year) and the Qinetiq Andover to perform, even if they are just single fly-bys.
Each year Mike says it gets harder, and financially the event lives on a knife-edge, dependent upon its sponsors to make ends meet. Its benefit is in the full hotels across the island for the week and the reputation the island enjoys from a high-profile international event – Mike is already working on the 2011 plan, so put Thursday September 8 in your schedule now.
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