Biggin Hill Festival Of Flight 2019

    The airshow season continues with our annual pilgrimage to Biggin Hill’s Festival Of Flight which this year fell on Aug 17th and 18th. We decided on the Saturday and booked tickets as soon as they became available to make use of the “Early Bird” offer. Unlike Duxford we chose not to get “special” tickets for one of the enclosures and made a point of arriving early to get a place at the front of the crowd line. Having arrived at around 8.15 AM the car park was already open and we drove straight in to park at the front of the parking area. Gates opened at 8.30 AM and after a short queue we were in.

    So far so good … BUT … for some reason which defies any form of explanation we chose to place ourselves right next to one of the Tannoy speakers. Admittedly at the time we got there there was nothing in the way of noise coming from said speaker but it wasn’t like we could have missed seeing it! It just seemed like a convenient spot to stop and set up camp. Having set up it was time to forage for breakfast at one of the many providers who were looking forward to extracting our money from us. A pig roll later the world was looking like a better place to be.

    One of the nice things about Biggin Hill is that it is a working airport, so before the actual flying display starts there are still a fair number of aircraft that come and go whilst you are waiting so there is usually something to watch, as well as the all the various things going on in the show ground such as vintage cars and vintage people. So far everything was going pretty well, even the weather was holding up!

    Until … around 11 AM the sun went in and it got quite chilly. That alone wasn’t a huge problem, we all had fleece jackets to hide in. The real problem arose when someone somewhere decided that the crowd needed some upbeat Caribbean Music to lift our spirits and found a CD of reggae cat torturing noise to play over the Tannoy system. Now, someone in the area actually had to have liked that CD and probably paid good money for it – but I’m pretty sure that they were in a minority of one. By the time track 2 started to play a space had cleared around our (and every other) Tannoy speaker. When the nice lady singing got to her chorus and hit her high note you could see thousands of people all over the show ground wince in pain. After around 40 minutes of torture the CD finally ended and people could once again communicate with each other. No other music followed which makes me suspect that the person who supplied that CD had been tried for crimes against humanity and would probably never see the light of day again.

    Around midday we all got treated to a model aircraft air show with some quite realistic Radio Control models being flown by some very talented people. Watching the little “Baltic Bees” jet was almost like watching the real thing.

    Radio Controlled Model “Baltic Bees” L-39

    In a nice transition the proper flying display started with an Extra 300 flying alongside a Radio Controlled 1/6th scale model of the same plane doing synchronised aerobatic manoeuvres, quite clever and showing tremendous skill from both pilots.

    From a photographic point of view I was using a Canon Eos RP and a Canon 7D II both on a Sigma 150 – 600 Zoom. Settings used most of the time were camera set to TV (shutter priority mode) and Auto ISO. For the propeller aircraft I aim for a shutter speed of no more than 1/320th of a second, the slower the better the prop blur is. For the jets I aim for around 1/1000th of a second or higher. Focusing was “Expanded” Centre Point with AI Servo to track the aircraft.

    Extra 300 and 1/6th scale model

    The rest of the day was spent watching a wide variety of aircraft and flying styles being displayed all over the sky, from the slow sedate easy going passes from the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight to the wild tumbling gyrations of aerobatic aircraft and the awesome roar of the RAF Typhoon doing it’s stuff. I think for me the high points of the day were (surprisingly) the beautiful close formation display from both the Royal Jordanian Falcon team (complete with some very aerobatic inspiring Jordanian music) and the Breitling Display Team who did a lovely relaxed display in the limited airspace allowed around the airport. Personally I love the old WWII “Warbirds” but lately the displays they do are becoming quite staid with just straight passes and little stress on the aircraft or pilot. The exception to this was the solo Spitfire that closed the display who flew the aircraft as though it really was a fighter plane in the rather dim light that we got at the end of the day – a beautiful evocative display that really summed up the whole Biggin Hill and Battle Of Britain story with an iconic aircraft.

    Spitfire IX “Spirit Of Kent” closing the show

    Some of the other photos taken on the day.