We attended Waddington 2011 as every
year, and were given the star slot in the hangar directly facing the
hangar door and jutting out into the band and refreshment seating which
now take up about one third of the floor area. The
bad news is that we are right beside loud music all day, but this was
more than compensated for by the three American girl singers in WWII
American military caps, white blouses, sheer black stockings and very
tight period pencil skirts. They were there last year
as well, and naturally we considered it the gentlemanly thing to do to
invite them to sit in the big cockpit. Charles pulled
rank as Chairman to beat everyone else back and to escort them up the
ladder and into the seat. Happy days.
Back to reality. The decreased
floor area has meant that there are far fewer slots available than in
the past, and it is a great tribute to the effort put in by the team
that we get asked back every year while others are being axed.
Apart from a putting on a very interesting and colourful display,
I think it’s appreciated that we don’t try to make the slot into a
money-making venture, which many try to do, and the cockpits are very
child-friendly (but see later). We tend to find that
we have a constant queue of 5-6 kids all day from shortly after 8 am
until they have to be bundled out when the hangar closes at 6 pm.
We used to try to give a short cockpit talk-round
aimed at the kids – you know how your daddy’s car (OK, mummy’s too) has
an accelerator to make it go faster; well, we’ve got two because we’ve
got two engines, and you know how your daddy’s car has a fuel gauge to
tell him how much petrol he’s got left; well, we’ve got five – but
nowadays the pressure for a seat is so great that we basically get the
child into the cockpit, let the parents take some photos or do it for
them, and get the child back out by suggesting they have another photo
taken in the ejection seat on the ground with the pilot mannequin
beside. The older girls, frequently in very short
shorts or miniskirts, generally don’t go up the ladder, but you’d be
amazed how many have their photos taken while fluttering their eyelashes
and in very close contact with the pilot.
Normally everything goes smoothly, but this year we
had a couple of glitches when one little girl became too scared to get
back out of the cockpit and one little boy ordered his mother off the
ladder before he’d get out, saying he could do it himself.
OK, if you let yourself be bossed about by your kids, that’s your
problem, but then he instructed me to get off the Firestreak as well and
get down on the ground. Taking the view that there
were probably no lip-readers in the hangar, I persuaded him that it
would be a very good idea to give another little kiddie a chance to have
a seat. Sorted.
On the stand, since last year we’d painted the big trailer NATO green and it looked very like a professional military rig, being pulled by the 101 truck. We got a lot of admiring looks on the road. Ray Whiteley promised us a big surprise this year in his RAF Binbrook display, but wouldn’t tell us what it was until the day. Imagine how thrilled we were when he unveiled an illuminated English Electric Lightning sign! That really put the American girl singers in the shade! Many thanks to Ray, Darren Swinn and Kim, John Watson, Mike Smith, Hugh Donnelly and Andy Burden from 5 Squadron. Roll on 2012.