Published on July 28th, 2015 | by Alan Dwyer0
Bray Air Spectacular 2015
The Bray Airshow took place along the seafront of the Co. Wicklow town on July 19th. The airshow is part of the town’s ‘Summerfest’ festival and this has become one of the highlights of the Irish Aviation calendar. Participants come from home and abroad and the flying displays put on are of the highest caliber. This year was no different and an estimated 90,000 turned out of a fine summer’s afternoon to watch the airshow from the Promenade and up on the 240 meter high Bray Head.
There were few fly-pasts before the 2.00pm start time and there was also plenty of helicopter activity from the Executive Helicopters Twin Squirrel, EI-LOW, performing pleasure flights from the base of Bray Head. As is now customary, the ‘Black Knights’ Parachute team opened the show having jumped from an Irish Air Corps EC-135 helicopter. They landed on the center of the beach where a landed zone had been cleared.
No sooner were they safely down when the roar of the Hawker Hunter took center stage as it blasted along the flightline just off the shore. A fantastic sight and sound of a jet not usually seen on these shores. This was followed by fly-pasts from a Stobart Air ATR 72-600 in the colours of Aer Lingus Regional and then a Cityjet Avro RJ-85, which had added small “Bray Airshow” stickers near the forward door.
Things got a little more sedate for a few minutes as the MiG microlight came in from Newcastle airfield flown by Harry Humphreys. Harry had only performed his first public display the previous day at Shannon, he put the MiG through its paces and it looked impressive from this writers’ viewpoint. The Irish Historical Flight Foundation’s three DHC-1 Chipmunks were in next in the company of the De Havilland Dragon ‘Iolar’ of the Aer Lingus Charitable Foundation. The Chipmunks, replenished in Air Corps markings, performed fly-pasts and opposition passes wingovers and stalls.
The noise wasn’t long returning after the historic props, as there was another historic jet on the seafront. This time from the Cold War era in the shape of a Russian MiG-15 jet. This twin seat version, actually a licensed built Polish example, in Russian Air Force markings was one of the highlights of the show with fast fly pasts and climb outs over Bray Head. As the MiG was finishing off its display, Ryanair’s latest addition, a Boeing 737-700, which was acquired for pilot training, could be seen heading south off the coast. It approached from the south with a spectacular turn in around Bray Head giving a great top view as it started its display. Following some fast and slow passes; the Ryanair gave way to Gerry Humphreys in his RV-7 ‘the Flying Cow’. As usual from Gerry, it was an excellent performance and one of the regulars at Bray for many years.
More noise was to follow in the shape of a UK based BAC Strikemaster painted in Oman Air Force colours. With tails of white smoke it was easy to keep track as this little beauty put in a spirited display. Next up was a Learjet of the USAF which performed three passes albeit a little higher than most other participants.
The following half hour was given over to the Irish Air Corps who put in their usual high quality performances, firstly with a four-ship Cessna formation. The CASA Cn-235 was next, the EC-135 and finally another four-ship display, this time with the PC-9’s.
The Irish Coast Guard’s Sikorsky S-92A from Dublin came in and did a display alongside the Dun Laoghaire based Lifeboat. It dropped a winchman onto the deck of the Lifeboat and collected him again. The S-92 was low and close to the Lifeboat causing a lot of spray to cover the crew on the deck.
The final performance was the highlight of the day. Having received a text that an Aer Lingus Airbus A319 had departed Dublin to perform at Bray, it was noted in the vicinity of Killiney to the north of Bray. What surprised all those at Bray was the fact that it was being trailed by the six Northrop F-5E’s of the Patrouille Suisse display team. These had performed a practice on Friday lunchtime but the sight of them accompanying the Aer Lingus was spectacular, and is believed the first time outside of their homeland that they’ve flown a display with a civil airliner. They came in and performed two fly-pasts in very close formation. The Aer Lingus broke off after the second fly-past and headed back to Dublin Airport, while the Swiss team went into their full routine, which included several different formation changes, opposition passes, highspeed singleton runs and bomb bursts with flares trailing made these probably the most spectacular team to have put on a show in Irish skies for years.
The show finished with rapturous applause from the huge crowds all along the seafront who had been well and truly entertained all afternoon by one of the biggest free events to take place in Ireland. Roll on next year…
Photos supplied by Gabriel Desmond, Niall Grant & Alan Dwyer