Covered in green bubbles (don't ask - all in the name of charity for Children's Hospice South West), I raced through the South Hams to get to Torquay for the UK debut of the Red Arrows 2017 display in the cloud mottled skies of the English Riviera.
Once again I stayed at the Best Western Livermead Cliff Hotel (with links to Anthony Rew, a hugely successful and talented F1 photographer - well worth a follow on Instagram @anthonyrew) and headed to the private beach to take shots head on from the A axis.
Patiently waiting, the gathering crowd counted down to 3pm as bursting overheadin Paignton, nine shiny red jets of the Red Arrows started their 2017 routine: they did not disappoint. Never before has a Red Arrow display caused me to hold my breath. Maybe it was the close proximity as they turned over the cliff tops on the outer edge of the display line; maybe it was the burst of colour from the vibrant smoke, painting shapes in the South Western sky or maybe it was sheer speed and accuracy that the display was flown at that caused an accelerated heart rate in this prop loving girl... either way, it was not a display to be missed. I took the opportunity to watch the display again on the Sunday, this time from the beach at crowd centre and whilst it didn't feel as dynamic from this angle, it is still in my opinion the best display routine from the Reds in the three years I have been an aviation photographer. Great job guys!
Really evident over the weekend was the distance of the display line from the crowd. For the first time since all the changes to regulation did I really feel that this hindered my enjoyment from a photography perspective. Wonderful displays from the smaller aircraft such as Lauren Richardson's beautiful Pitts Special, BBMF and The Blades required some heavy cropping in post production and this really saddens me. However, it should not detract from the fact Torbay Airshow is a free event and offers people the opportunity to experience some expert and precise flying by some of the top pilots in the UK.
And at this point I should mention Gerald Cooper.... I'm not even sure where to start with this display. I have never seen this team fly before and there really were some heart-stopping moments. Stall turns, twist after twist, speed and loops - stomach turning maneourve after stomach turning manoeuvre. It really is no surprise that Gerald has held numerous British Aerobatic Champion titles and been ranked in the World Top Ten.
The six ship of the Team Ravens (RV) had no problem filling the sky and really stood out for their accurate and fluid display. Interesting to hear the commentator talk about each pilot's background - such a wide variety of aviators with interesting flight histories.
The Tigers jumped into the sea on the Sunday, cooling off in the afternoon heat after a very soggy (read as torrential) start to the morning.
Back on the circuit and celebrating the birthday of their Loadmaster, Ash, was the boys of the Wokka Wokka - Chinook Display Team. Nothing better than seeing her display over the sea. She crept up the bay and showed off her agile abilities with ease. The famous wavey hand is always a firm crowd favourite despite the rendition of Happy Birthday being a bit out of key! I very much doubt Ash heard it under the thundering sound of blade slap overhead!
Closing the show and bringing the noise was the RAF Typhoon Display Team. Again, it felt like the display was miles away but the environment added a touch of humour at Flight Lieutenant Ryan Lawton passed the pier, taking a good look at the bouncy castle below!
One of the many things I love about coastal airshows is the light, the cloud formations and the added backdrops you get as the aircraft perform in and around the bay. The Catalina certainly looked resplendent and at home over the water.
Torbay never fails to disappoint and I think the Typhoon Team would agree they were over the moon with their performance.
This puts me half way through my airshow season, with just RIAT, Yeovilton and the Goodwood Revival left. So far the weather has been kind, the displays have been great and your support continues to inspire me to take the photos.
Until Next Time, Smile for the Camera!
Love Carly x