More than 50,000 people flocked to RAF Cosford for its annual air show as the skies came alive with spectacular aviation displays.
Motorists were caught up in traffic queues stretching up to seven miles as the crowds arrived for the annual air extravaganza.
But organisers insisted there were no repeats of last year’s chaotic scenes, which saw roads around the venue gridlocked.
Hundreds of families from across the Midlands and beyond flocked to the air base for the spectacle which featured a five-and-half hour flying display from the Red Arrows, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and others.
Drivers arriving at RAF Cosford suffered delays of around 30 minutes – compared to the four-hour hold-ups endured by visitors to the 2013 event. Problems started just after 7am as people attempted to avoid congestion by setting off early. By 8am, cars were queuing on the M54 at junction 3 Cosford turn-off and on the A41 stretch from Wolverhampton.
Highways bosses said show traffic reached its peak at around 9am – three hours before the event opened – with queues on the M54 reaching back almost as far as junction two, seven miles away.
Cameraman Pat Fenelon tweeted at 7.45am: “Waiting 1/2hr already, hoping to beat last years record of 4 hrs to get into the airshow.”
Many more people appeared to have travelled to the show this year by rail.
Both Arriva and London Midland laid on additional trains with a service leaving Wolverhampton every 30 minutes instead of hourly up until 11.40am.
Daniel Wood, of the Highways Agency, said: “Problems on the M54 began to clear after the 9am peak and improved considerably as the morning wore on. There were also build-ups of traffic on the A41 coming from Wolverhamtpon but these didn’t last. It appears to have gone relatively smoothly compared to last year.”
At Wolverhampton railway station, a special platform was allocated for show trains only.
Death-defying spins and turns, parachutists dropping from the sky and wing-walking women – it can only be the annual RAF Cosford Air Show.
More than 50,000 people turned out in largely glorious sunshine, bar a couple of late afternoon downpours, to enjoy a day of displays both on the ground and in the air.
The Red Arrows – the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team – was again a big draw for most, with the distinctive red planes performing a number of eye-catching manoeuvres in the skies before moving to to other displays across the country. But there was an equally strong supporting cast.
Appearing at the show for the first time ever – after getting eleventh hour clearance from the authorities – were the Belgian Air Force Red Devils.
Reformed in 2011, the four-man team took to the skies in eye-catching red planes with the Belgian flag on their undercarriage.
Group Captain Mark Manwaring, Air Show spokesman, who is chairman of the show’s flying control committee, said he was delighted to get them on board.
He said: “This is a fantastic display with some very exciting manoeuvres. As it was their first UK display this season it fell to us to ensure it adhered to the strict rules applied to UK air display.”
Opening the flying display yesterday in spectacular fashion was the RAF Falcons parachute display team.
The six-strong team drew gasps from the crowd as they jumped from a plane, twisting and turning to the ground in an eye-catching synchronised formation leaving different coloured plumes of smoke in their wake.
The Breitling Wing Walkers were also popular as the girls balanced on the edges of the distinctive orange Boeing Stearman biplanes.
Spitfires took to the skies as did the country’s only remaining Vulcan in a reprise of a popular appearance during last year’s event, always a big draw at the show.
And to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, there were a number of replica planes from the Great War.
There was plenty to do on the ground too, with a giant funfair and several inflatable slides for the youngsters.
A “Pilots’ Mess” pop-up bar offered thirsty visitors the chance for some much-needed refreshment.
There was even the chance for a bit of celebrity spotting.
For the second year running TV presenter Carol Vorderman flew up from Bristol to visit the Air Show. She was again helping to promote the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) exhibition which was one of more than 100 trade and exhibition attractions at the show this year to entertain the crowds between the aerial displays.
The former Countdown presenter spent some time in the hangar during the morning talking to visitors and helping promote STEM.
She said: “I’m really pleased to come back to the RAF Cosford Air Show, it’s a great day out.
“I particularly enjoyed trying some of the interactive activities in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths exhibition,” she added.
Visitors have heaped praise on the spectacular 76th Cosford Air Show.
A total of 50,000 people were treated to hours of magnificent aerial performances from some of the most iconic aircraft in the world.
All eyes turned to the beautiful blue skies as a Spitfire, the last flying Vulcan and the world-famous Red Arrows twisted and turned, ducked and dived.
And even a couple of downpours towards the end of the afternoon did nothing to dampen the spirits.
The event attracts visitors from all over the country, including thousands from the Black Country and Shropshire. And it proved as popular as ever with those that attended.
A regular visitor to the show who was there again yesterday was Phil Heseltine from Wolverhampton.
The 54-year-old said he had not missed one for the past 15 years – but soon learned not to drive to the busy event.
“I only did that once, and I vowed I would never do it again,” he said.
“It wasn’t too bad coming in, about an hour, but it took us two-and-a-half hours to get off at the end.
“Now we get the train from Wolverhampton to Cosford, it takes about 20 minutes, and just walk it from the station. It’s much easier.”
Mr Heseltine was there with stepson Jason Anderson, 26, and Mr Anderson’s niece and nephew Jasmine Anderson-Thomas, 10, and Jake Anderson-Thomas, 13.
Mr Heseltine said: “I love to see the Vulcan, as well as the Spitfire and Typhoon.
“It’s great to bring the younger ones along and see their faces.”
Roy and Amanda Meeley, from Willenhall in the Black Country, were at Cosford for the first time and brought along their two sons Ethan, four, and Harrison, two.
“It’s been really good,” Mr Meeley said.
“There is absolutely loads to see and do.
“The kids both love their planes so we wanted to bring them along and they seem to have really enjoyed it too. I know other people who have been here before in previous years and they highly recommended it as a day out.”
Aviation enthusiasts Keith and Gaynor Powis, from Tamworth, were at the show for the fifth year in a row.
“We both love planes and we come here because it is always just a good day out,” Mr Powis said.
“The whole experience is good.”
Patricia and Darren Jackson travelled from Lichfield to see the show and were both wowed by the Red Arrows.
“We had never been before but we had heard so much about the Red Arrows – but nothing quite prepares you for seeing it in the flesh,” Patricia said. “It was jaw-dropping stuff.
“We liked the parachutists as well, and the Belgian team. It has been a very special day and I would imagine we will definitely be returning next year.”
Retired Tom Kelly, from Whitchurch, was attending the show for the first time ever with his son Richard, 40, also from Shropshire.
The pair initially took a vantage point along with several others on a hill near the RAF Museum, but soon moved to try and get a better view of the aircraft.
Richard, a keen photographer who is employed as a technician, said: “We wanted to come along and see what it was like, and it has been very enjoyable.
“I used to live in Lincoln so I used to go to the Waddington show there, so I wanted to come and see how Cosford compared to it.”
Tom, 73, added: “We had heard about all the problems with traffic last year so we decided to drive to Shrewsbury and get on a coach from there to come in. It took about an hour, which was not too bad really.”
Sharon Barratt, from Ketley, in Telford, decided to come along to the show with daughters Sophie, 12, and Toni-Anne, six.
She said her son James, 14, was an RAF Cadet and the family had decided to come along to support him.
“It’s the first time we have been for a number of years, but James was coming anyway so we thought we would all come along this year.
“We made sure we left early to try and avoid the worst of the traffic, we were out of the house at 7.15am and through the gates here at Cosford when they opened at around 7.50am.
“We particularly enjoyed the parachute regiment when they dropped out of the sky but it’s been a brilliant day all round really.
“We have just come into the hangars to have a look around and try and cool off as it was very hot.”
Her youngest daughter, Toni-Anne, said she was looking forward to going on the funfair rides and the giant inflatable slides at the show.
Also at the show were married couple Andy and Michelle Carpendale, from Wellington in Telford, who took along their children Abby, 10, Alex, 6, Ryan, 4, and nine-month-old baby Olly.
Mr Carpendale said the couple had been attending the show for many years and said his wife was a big fan in particular of the Red Arrows.
“We have come the last four years in a row,” he said.
“The Red Arrows and the Vulcan are always the big draws for everyone and we are no different. They really are a sight to behold.”
The ground attractions included an arena featuring the field gun teams and the RAF Combined Pipes and Drums as well as a craft hangar and a wide display of other attractions.
For the youngsters there was the chance to do ‘water walking’ inside giant transparent balls, as well as taking a pot-shot in a Wembley-style penalty shootout.
There were regular cooking demonstrations from the RAF Reserves, a Red Arrows flight simulator and a whole host of stalls manned by organisations including Help for Heroes, Gurkha Welfare Trust, Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service and the RSPB.
Other military aircraft taking to the skies included a Tucano, Tutor, Typhoon, BBMF Spitfire, BBMF Hurricane, BBMF Dakota, Lynx HMA8, Apache AH1, C17 and Voyager. Static aircraft on display on the ground included King Air T1, Harrier GR9, Sea Harrier FA2, Tornado GR1, Harrier GR3, Jaguar GR3 and Royal Chipmunk.
There were the usual delays when the show came to an end as everyone headed for the exit, but West Mercia Police tweeted to thank everyone who attended for remaining calm.
It read: “Thanks to everyone for their patience at #cosfordairshow.
“We had around 19,000 vehicles travelling to the event today!
Show visitors were quick to share their pictures from the day online, with dozens of photographs uploaded on to the Shropshire Star and Express and Star’s twitter feeds.
Joanna Noble posted a picture of the Typhoon fighter plane and commented: “What an AWESOME noise it makes!”
Others who never went to the show were out with their cameras to take snapshots as the Red Arrows made their way overhead to Cosford.
Many people also gave thanks to those who staged this year’s event, with Nikki Morrison summing up the opinion of many when she wrote on Twitter: “Thanks for another fantastic day.
“Well done to all personnel involved in making it so great.”
The date for next year’s event has already been confirmed, with the show taking place on Sunday June 14 in 2015.