Spectacular sky power over Norfolk

A delightful rural airfield tucked away in mid-Norfolk will come alive with the sights and sounds of icons of the skies this summer

At Old Buckenham's exciting annual air show, planes that helped to shape wartime history more than 80 years ago will be joined by formidable jet fighters which server as the nation's first line of defence today.

"Be prepared for goosebump moments as you witness the evocative whistling of the Spitfire and the deeply distinctive rumbling of the Flying Fortress," says show organiser Matt Wilkins. "Then wait to be blown away by the ear-splitting power of the most advanced aircraft of all time."

All eyes will turn to the skies over the spectator events, topped only by weekend of July 27th and 28th as the airfield stages around six hours of flying and 20 exhilarating displays on each day. What a treat it will be!

This awe-inspiring event is a far cry from the first air show at Old Buckenham in 2012 when there were just a handful of displays over a few hours. Since then, the show’s reputation has taken off, quite literally; the organisers are delighted with what has been achieved and with the strong sense of pride it brings to Norfolk.

“Air shows are among the biggest spectator events, topped only by football and horse racing,” says Matt. “Old Buckenham is up there with the best inland shows in the country. Our displays are world-class.”

While the show is the aerodrome’s star turn, it’s also important to remember Old Buckenham’s WWII origins and celebrate its illustrious history. The airfield was home to the United States Air Force 453rd Bombardment Group from December 1943 to April 1945. The 453rd flew 259 missions in B-24 Liberators, dropping 15,804 tonnes of bombs and losing 58 aircraft in the process. Sadly, 392 heroic servicemen lost their lives.

Among brave airmen who were based in this picturesque corner of our county were Hollywood legend James ‘Jimmy’ Stewart, who was in charge there towards the end of the war. Another movie great who served in the group was Walter Matthau, who started out as a radioman-gunner before rising to the rank of staff sergeant.

The air show is a wonderful way
of celebrating that Anglo-American relationship and Matt’s excitement is palpable as he details some of the high points of this year’s event.

“An F-35B Lightning from RAF Marham is set to feature on the Saturday. This will be its first appearance at a civilian air show, which is a real coup,” he says. “It is at the cutting edge of aviation and military technology and crowds will experience its incredible power as it flies overhead at full throttle with after-burners aglow.”

“Of course, its party-piece is hovering,” he adds. “But if it tried that here every other aircraft would be swept into Suffolk and our runway would be ripped up!”


In another example of power in the sky, an RAF Typhoon jet will blast across the airfield at 100ft and around 600 mph. “Believe me, the shock waves will set off every alarm in the car park when that arrives,” laughs Matt.

Serving as striking symbols of WWII, Spitfires will proudly salute the crowds and the RAF Falcons parachute team will glide down to land with awesome pinpoint precision.

Then there will be the B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B, the only airworthy B-17 bomber in Europe. Who could fail to feel moved when she arrives with the sound of The Star Spangled Banner echoing across the airfield?

“When I started this show, I couldn’t have dreamt of having a Typhoon or Sally B, let alone an F35,” says Matt. “It was just a pipe dream, but now it’s real.”

Also debuting will be a newly restored P-51 Mustang Jersey Jerk and the only P-47 Thunderbolt flying outside America.

Massive airpower is only part of the show and there will be plenty more to amaze and amuse, from the Turbulent Team to the Chipmunk Trio, a Tiger Moth and Piper Cub. There will be entertainments to enjoy on the ground to enhance the energy of the air displays, including the one and only Dad's Army van and troop. Matt doesn't want to give away any secrets but tease, "Walmington on Sea's Home Guard never got to shoot down an enemy aircraft on TV, but who knows what might happen at Old Buckenham?"

The show is also a sincere way of paying tribute to Old Buckenham and the other wartime rural airfields in Norfolk which saw action. Its dedicated organisers hope to encourage visitors to delve deeper into aviation history by exploring the two museums on site and its memorial to the fallen.

Matt hopes the show will fuel enthusiasm among a new generation for all things aviation.

"We hear from the RAF and pilots time and time again that air shows were the catalyst for a career in aviation." he says. "It would be wonderful if dads, guardians and grandparents brought future generations here to be inspired, and to want to fly. Of course, it's also a chance for us to showcase amazing planes."

To discover more about Old Buckenham Airshow and the historic setting at its heart, visit www.oldbuckenhamairshow.com

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