The 1998 AIR FAIR
The Connie & Svetlana Show!
Each year the Biggin Hill Air Fair has to live up to its enviable reputation for value- for-money aviation entertainment spiced with something a little bit different. And over the June 6/7 1998 weekend it did just that.
Photos by Richard Martin- Flight-On-Line
Arguably the stars of the ’98 Air Fair were two very different ladies: Connie, a big, blowsy Yank of – as a gentleman would say- a certain age, and Svetlana, the svelte young Russian. Connie, of course, was the magnificent Lockheed Constellation which had just started its European tour as part of the Berlin Airlift 50th anniversary celebrations, while Svetlana was the real flesh and blood Womens World Aerobatic Champion. You didnt have to be an expert on aerobatics to realise that Svetlana possessed a talent for making her Sukhoi 26 do things the designers probably never intended.Things that would make most pilots shudder to even contemplate.
Talking to her via an interpreter prior to the display it was obvious that she is totally focussed on her art and anxious to be appreciated for her flying ability rather than for the fact that she happens to be a woman. She need have no doubt on that score. Few display pilots, male or female, get a round of spontaneous applause from the crowd when they land, but Svetlana did, and it was well deserved.
Had Connie received a round of applause it would have been well earned, but drowned out by the sound of her four massive prop engines and those of her accomplices in what was arguable Air Fair 98s crowning glory. One by one the Connie, the C-54E Spirit of Freedom (also on tour from the States), a DC-6 and DC-3, started their engines, taxied out of the static park and took off to perform a once in a lifetime Berlin Airlift re-enactment.
Kick yourself if you missed it because such a sight is unlikely to be seen again as, one after the other, these four magnificent aircraft flew low along Biggin Hills runway. A sight and sound taking us back 50 years when the same aircraft types flew non-stop around the clock to supply Berlin.
Of course, aircraft from all eras were well represented at Air Fair 98. Notable among the Second World War types were the Spitfire and Hurricane of the new Black & Blue team who put on a nice tight display. And modern jet fans could not have been disappointed by two regular Air fair attendees, the Belgian Air Force F-16, which sported a very smart special paint scheme and put on its usual high-g, turn and burn display, and the Russian Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker. Trying to find adjectives to describe the Flanker is a fruitless task, particularly when it is flown by an expert like Test Pilot Anatoly Kvotchur. If you saw it youll know what I mean. If you didnt you wouldnt believe me!
Its inevitable- and unfair- that show reviews can only concentrate on a few start performers because, as ever, Air Fair 98 featured an excellent supporting cast. And if you ever got tired of staring at the sky there were a vast number of ground-bound attractions to ease your aching neck. Military vehicles, funfair rides and market stalls selling everything from plastic kits to garden furniture were all there for your enjoyment. You could even take to the skies yourself in a helicopter or DC-3.
Speaking of which, you need not wait until the next Air Fair to get ‘into the blue’. Air Displays International have launched a company called, oddly enough, Into the Blue, to provide a complete range of aviation experiences to suit all ages and levels of derring-do. Aerobatics, trial flying lessons, parachuting, parascending, aerial sightseeing tours… you name it, they’ll organise it as an extra special treat for a friend or loved one.
And it’s not all aviation based either. Want to drive a racing car or ride a Harley? Of course you do. Fancy a day or two at a luxury hotel with a shiatsu massage? No, I’ve not the slightest idea what that is but I’m someone in your life would appreciate a little pampering. When you’ve finished here click on the Into the Blue banner below for details.