The Sunderland Airshow is the biggest free annual airshow in Europe, held between Roker and Seaburn seafronts. This year the show was held between Friday 24th July and Sunday 26th. The RAF and RN provided many ground and air displays, traditionally a RN ship is anchored offshore and this year it was the turn of HMS Exploit, a graduate training ship. RAF display aircraft included a Typhoon FGR4, Hawk T2, Tutor, BBMF Spitfire and Hurricane, and the Red Arrows. The Falcons parachute team displayed on the Saturday. RN display aircraft included the ‘Black Cats’ flying Wildcat helicopters, a search and rescue Sea King operating with the local RNLI and a Commando Sea King operating with the Royal Marines to demonstrate a beach assault. Sadly the newly restored Swordfish Mk.1 was unable to attend due to deteriorating weather conditions on Sunday. The Army were also in attendance with ‘The Tigers’ parachute team and their mascot ‘Tigger’ who, we were told, has more freefall time than all the current members of the team put together! Civilian owned participating aircraft included the ‘Blades’ aerobatic team, ‘Twister Duo’ who performed a stunning twilight display on the Friday evening also, and the French Patrouille Riva aerobatic team. Two Vampires and a Mig 15 from Norway, our very own Bronco, a P40 Kittykawk, and an Xtremeair XA41 aerobatic aircraft.
The weather was generally good but more challenging on the Sunday due to stronger winds and rain, however, this did not prevent an estimated 1,000,000 people attending the show over the three days, with the largest crowd on the Saturday. Each day there was long sunny spell, and fortunately, the Bronco displayed during both these sunny periods with some stunning pictures taken both days. The Saturday saw a cloudy background for the aircraft which made the Day-Glo orange areas of the paint work appear like neon. On the Sunday Tony displayed the aircraft a little closer to the shore much to the appreciation of the crowds.

Although the Bronco Demo Team shop was not at the display, the crew chiefs were in attendance and enjoyed both days on the seafront mingling with the crowds and were well looked after in the hospitality area mingling with RAF, RN, and Army personnel together with military/civilian pilots.

On the Monday after the show the team visited the North East Land Sea and Air Museum in Sunderland. The museum is sited on the old living quarters of RAF Usworth once the home of 607 ‘County of Durham’ Auxilliary Squadron and now the home of Nissan UK. The Squadron flew Gladiators and Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain progressing through various marks of Spitfire and finally the Vampire FB5. One notable pilot from 607 Squadron was F/L G.D.Craig who assisted in shooting down a Dornier 18 25 miles off Sunderland whilst flying a Gladiator. A diesel engine from the Dornier is on display at the museum. Craig was shot down whilst attacking Le Touquet in 1941 and taken prisoner. He escaped disguised as German Guard, but was recaptured, he then escaped after tunnelling out of Oflag XXIB in the famous ‘Wooden Horse’ saga, was recaptured again, and sent to Stalag Luft III. He assisted in the ‘Great Escape’ but did not escape. He survived the war and died in 1974.

The museum has a varied collection of aircraft including a Vulcan, Lightning, Pucara, Shorts SD3-30, F-100 Super Sabre, and ex Greek Air Force F-86D Sabre and F-84 Thunderstreak, to name but a few, together with a collection of aero engines and armoured vehicles.


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