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The Longest Day in Gloucestershire (Part II)

Kemble Air Day 2009

The calmness of the mornings hour long balloon flight over the valleys and wooded glades of the Cotswolds, and of course Sudeley Castle and Winchcombe, seemed a million miles away, as I prepared myself for the next aviation experience of the day.

My family had not long appeared from their beds. Whether or not they noticed that I’d already been hot air ballooning didn’t matter, as I received my Fathers Day present – a day out to the 12th annual Kemble Air Day.

By the time we arrived (yep, the family were on go slow mode), it was noon and the clear blue skies witnessed during the early morning balloon voyage were no more. Although still bright the sky had been overwhelmed with some pretty aggressive looking cumulonimbus clouds, which reluctantly allowed the sun to shine through.

As we neared Kemble airport a huge Hercules transporter plane adjacent to the road, its massive size dwarfing the onlookers entering and leaving, greeted us.

Kemble Air Day is a great day out for all the family!
Kemble Air Day is a great day out for all the family!

Queuing to enter Kemble Air Day was not noticed as the marshalling and ticket buying/collecting was run exceptionally well, as was the car parking with very well organised stewards making what can be a painful experience run like clock work, and before long, we found ourselves in the middle of the main avenue of stalls, marquees and refreshment vans. All we needed now was a programme and somewhere to sit and enjoy the airday.

Although busy, it wasn’t crammed as the layout on the airfield was spacious, allowing spectators to sit down and enjoy the show whilst knowing they can quite easily walk around the tented shops or buy an ice cream or even enjoy a pint or two! Despite walking around and looking practically everywhere we couldn’t find a programme. We asked other visitors who had one, where we could buy a programme. The same reply came from all, “We bought it off someone walking around”. We kept looking for the elusive sellers, but after a while stopped actively looking, as either there weren’t enough sellers or we just kept missing them.

Spectators watch at Kemble Air Day Spectators watch at Kemble Air Day

We did find something though, as we soon met up with friends, and whilst they indulged themselves in burgers from one of the many snack wagons (Wooder if you’re reading this, three burgers is a too much), we rolled out the blanket and got stuck into our picnic, ready to enjoy the events unfold – without a programme as our friends couldn’t find one either! Although a tad annoying, it didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves at the activity in the skies above.

The more graceful propeller powered planes combined with the fast and the furious fighter jets gave a balanced performance throughout the day.

Expect to see a variety of planes and helicopters at Kemble Air Day 2009
Expect to see a variety of planes and helicopters at Kemble Air Day 2009

Two old adversaries (although no programme I knew what they were, as I'd built a few in kit form in my younger years) made centre stage, with our very own unmistakable Supermarine Spitfire meeting up again with the German’s World War II master Meschersmitt, both taking part in the Battle of Britain memorial flight.

Rotor blades were a plenty with not only the Lynx and Gazelles of the Blue Eagles Display Team, but they were joined up by the Black Cats, whose firepower proved highly effective during the Gulf War. More helicopter appearances were seen in the RAF Role Demonstration with the huge Boeing Chinook, troop and supplies carrier and the awesome might of the Longbow Apache gunship and tank killer.

Also re-enacting the RAF Role Demonstration were four Tornadoes, two F3’s and two of the newer F’4’s – so on with the ear defenders then for youngsters, as their combined power was pretty deafening.

(You may have guessed by now, that we did eventually find someone selling a programme – took a while but it does help me describe the days events a bit better!!!)

Joining them, the intelligence aircraft, the Sentry was on hand to track down the enemy in the air, in the form of two Hawk jets, and on the ground – both sides had ground troops.

There's sure to be another RAF Role Demonstration at Kemble Air Day 2009
There's sure to be another RAF Role Demonstration at Kemble Air Day 2009

Lots of fast action manoeuvres followed and the thirty minute ground and air spectacular made even the most reluctant on-lookers (mum’s dragged along as they had no choice because it was Fathers Day), thoroughly enjoy the extremely well organised battle simulation – well it had to be well organised – it’s the RAF after all!

Other dazzling dare-devil displays were carried out by the team at ‘Ultimate High’ (based at Kemble), entertaining the crowds with loops, twists and rolls, in their highly distinctive red and white Bulldog and EA300’s – the Porsche 911 and Formula One Ferraris of the skies, respectively.

The great extra at Kemble Air Day is that there’s fantastic ground entertainment too. The kids can enjoy various fairground rides, towering inflatable slides, bouncy castles and along with adults can experience the thrills of flying themselves in the most advanced simulators.

Ground entertainment at Kemble Air Day
Ground entertainment at Kemble Air Day

Continuing on ground level there were a multitude of military vehicles from yesteryear, some dating back to World War II, as well as many vintage cars and, although not for me, biking enthusiasts were enjoying the collection of colourful, custom bikes displayed by the Ogri Motorcycle Club.

There were so many air displays by numerous aircraft that towards the end of the day I was pretty planed out, but the best was to come – the exhilarating, ultra loud, Eurofighter Typhoon, capable of reaching amazing speeds and heights. As it flew over the airfield, so slowly, (I almost thought it was going to just drop down) it utilised its two turbojet engines, thrusting it into the skies with a tremendous roar – WOW! Each time the Typhoon powered its way above, performing its various manoeuvres, it gave the impression that it could turn full circle on a postage stamp – absolutely amazing.

More thrills and excitment expected for Kemble Air Day 2009 too
More thrills and excitment expected for Kemble Air Day 2009 too

As I revved up my car, my wife gave me one of those looks – don’t’ even think about it looks. I lessened the pressure on my right foot and calmly drove out of the airport at a sensible speed looking forward to the Kemble Air Day 2009.

What a day it had been and it still wasn’t over - a family BBQ to welcome the return of my brother and his clan back from their holidays.

Being the ultimate BBQ chef, I let the others relax and talk amongst themselves whilst I turned the sausages and reflected upon the last 24 hours, of which I slept just three.

I must have been day dreaming, drifting off into a sleepy daze as I thought I could hear a noise, an unmistakable noise, coming and going, but getting louder and louder after each pause. A noise that I knew, a noise that I had heard earlier in the day.

Looking up, there it was, staring me in the face, no more than a hundred feet above, the clearly defined markings of Howard’s balloon – the hot air balloon that twelve hours earlier I had been in, sailing over the Cotswolds.

I thought about shouting out, “Make sure you land in a field you can get out of this time Howard!” but I didn’t – it was their adventure, why spoil it. I had mine.

Tony Newlove
Explore Gloucestershire
23 June 2008

Photography credits: Explore Gloucestershire

Kemble Air Day 2009 will be on Fathers Day Sunday 21 June 2009. See you there!

Looking up into Howards balloon flight over Cheltenham
Looking up into Howards balloon flight over Cheltenham

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