Royal International Air Day wows thousands

With wing vortices leaving white streaks in the Somerset skies, an F-35 Lightning wowed 35,000 spectators at the Royal Navy International Air Show.

The UK’s new stealth fighter made its debut at the show – one of 25 aerial displays during five hours of flying.

Public and enthusiasts say the variety and scope of the 2019 show made it the best for several years – and one of the best on a busy display circuit.

There was a welcome return to Yeovilton by Harrier jump jets; the base was home to the legendary aircraft for nearly 30 years.

Today’s demonstration of our Wildcat skills signifies a real step up from the Lynx

Lieutenant Chris Rebbeck RN

This time it was Spanish Navy Harriers over the air station, the Iberian display team making their first appearance at the show in the US-built version of the jet, the AV-8B.

Another old friend – and air-show opener – was the only working Westland Wessex HU5 in the world, restored to flying order by Historic Helicopters in Chard and painted in traditional RN search-and-rescue blue/red.

And he’s been doing the rounds at commando bases and air stations, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see ‘iron man’/’rocketeer’... aka Richard Browning in his Gravity flying suit/jet pack hovering and ‘slip streaming’, flying the White Ensign above the ground in front of the crowds.

It’s not all about the airborne displays – there’s a substantial show on the ground as well.

Potential next-generation engineers were encouraged, inspired and amused in the Science Technology Engineering Maths area by Titan the Robot, where there was also the chance to chat with real-life FAA engineers and pilots.

The Wildcat Training Centre was open to the public again, offering young people the opportunity to learn how we train our helicopter crews.

“It’s great that the Black Cats are back at Air Day,” said pilot Lieutenant Chris Rebbeck.

“Today’s demonstration of our Wildcat skills signifies a real step up from the Lynx.

“I hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as I and my Royal Navy counterparts did.”

The show closes with a spectacle no other air display in the UK can match: the commando assault, with booms, bangs, fire, fury, and some choice over-acting from Royal Marines as the full panoply of naval air power and commando strength and guile is brought to bear against insurgents.