Having travelled from Leeds we camped from Friday and expected Shenley Lane to be absolutely static when the gates opened each day, but I had a couple of family members living locally join us on each day with comparative ease although we did also suffer the four way traffic control on the way out yesterday.
Camping was well organised with sufficient toilets and showers despite there apparently being more than double the number of campers compared to last year. At £80 for four to camp for the weekend it turned out to be good value providing you didn't build it up in your mind and were prepared for lengthy pauses.
The big space at the western end of the site mentioned by Andy was the unused camping space and designated overflow car park, and perhaps it could have been used for disabled visitors, but the ground was hard and uneven in places and may have been problematic for some people with mobility problems. It would also have placed them further away from what seemed the busier part of the crowd line.
When we took a walk up to the hangar end of the airfield where the day entrance was, the crowd line was congested and the stalls did seem too close to the crowdline, but the permanent fence that runs at right angles to the runway just over halfway down the crowd line presumably encloses something else for the other 362 days of the year had the effect of discouraging day visitors to spread out in that direction, which made it nice for the campers who were treated to fast low take off runs on the Saturday, and then the beginning of the take off run when the very gentle breeze switched direction overnight. By mid-afternoon on Sunday, the western end was as a result very sparsely populated between the stalls and the crowd line
There is absolutely no doubt to me that the grass airstrip seemed much closer to the crowd line than Fairford, perhaps its narrowness supported an optical illusion but looking at Google maps today, I can see that the crowdline fence is 40m from the runway centreline so perhaps it just looked closer. There was no room for the C47 to taxi down the side of the runway on the crowd side, which was well used by parked fighters with enough room for them to taxi down and be nice and close to the crowd and ensured anything that wasn't tied down got blown away by the prop wash - I never saw how the VIPs in their picket fenced section coped with the cucumber sandwiches achieving cartoon status when the warbirds started up ten metres away!
The proximity of the taxi strip to the crowdline (however long a Spitfire is plus 5m) meant bags of opportunities to see the aircraft taxi very closely.
Was it RIAT? No it wasn't and anyone expecting a seamless and pacy list of performances was on the wrong bus from the start, but was it value for money? Well compared to Scampton a couple of years ago it was absolutely worth it in my opinion, although my sister (herself on a free ticket courtesy of us only being able to buy camping passes for four) thought the £17.50 she might have paid was poor value, and she went to Farnborough last year! On the other hand people around us thought it was great, and like us are planning for next year. Undoubtedly the organisers won't have pleased all the people all of the time, but from our point of view - and taking the weekend as a whole - they nailed it. Kent is a place where WWII and the Battle of Britain in particular are remembered strongly, and the prevalence of re-enactors and period militaria made for a good ground display whenever the flying paused.
Looking to the flying performances themselves, the BBMF did put on a really good display, albeit they did take the fictitious trophy for furthest display from the crowdline - but it was still really dynamic. The Buchon v Spitfire segment was good too, and well supported by the commentator on the Sunday with air raid sirens, and simulation of a scramble call (after which the Spitfire sat on the ground for so long a real Me109 would have gone home on bingo fuel
) but again a great run around the skies with some cracking photo opportunities in the Kent sunshine.
Special mention for the Stampe team who managed to pull off the Red Arrows Gypo Break albeit at 70mph. Lots of tight circle tail chasing made a great - if sedate - spectacle too.
It might not have been WWII, but the Devon was missed, and with the gaps in the programme, it would have been nice to have got the Chipmunk up but at least as a fly-in it was there to be seen on the ground.
Last edited by mavvymoo
on Tue 09 Jul 2019, 8:39 am, edited 1 time in total.