A first for Amiens-Glisy Airfield
14th September 2014
It has been a pretty wet and miserable summer this year and I was in two minds as to whether or not I could be bothered to drive down to Amiens to watch their inaugural air show. There was also the complication that the weekend had been so organised that either you went to see the Patrouille de France on the Saturday or you could go on the Sunday and see some of the WW1 replicas in the air.
Sunday looked as though it might be dry so off I went. I got there quite early which was a mistake because there was not a great deal to do at ground level on what turned out to be a grey day. In all fairness there was enough to look and read for an hour or so but after that it was a bit wearing on the feet to be wandering about.
There were a couple of groups in uniforms and some ‘nurses’ on hand to show the implements used by surgeons of the time. There were a number of vehicles on display; all of them far better washed and polished than the one I had driven down in. A group of modellers had an entire squadron of third-scale Nieuports being prepared for flight and there were displays showing the history of radio transmission : did you know that it was originally intended to dismantle the Eiffel Tower but radio came along and the authorities realised that it made a fabulous antenna — in fact the German request for an armistice was received by the radio station at the top of the tower.
All very well and good but you go to an air show to see things flying around and not to look at stamp and post card collections no matter how interesting they might be.
I think that there are still a couple of original Great War aircraft still capable of flying but they are rare and the majority of those you see in films are replicas and often reduced sized replicas. Those at Amiens were two-thirds or three-quarters versions. I suppose that once in the air you can’t tell the difference, they just seem further away.
That was highlighted as the model aircraft took off. Circling around just above our heads they could easily have been hundreds of metres up. Once there were a half dozen swooping around it was easy enough to imagine what a dog fight must have looked like from the perspective of the lowly infantryman in his muddy trench.
One thing that really annoyed me was the fact that they insisted on trying to have a commentary that was competing with music. Much of what the guy was trying to say was very interesting and he obviously knew his subject but at times if you were stood next to the wrong speaker system you couldn’t make out a word he was saying.
The afternoon remained grey with a low cloud level which severely limited the pilots abilities to show off any of their aerobatics, but what they could do was at least within view !
Having some of the more modern planes flying around certainly emphasised just how flimsy those from the Great War were. I am not certain just how solid or safe the replicas are in comparison to the originals, but they still come down to bits of canvas and wood held together by lengths of wire.
We were treated to a Czech group showing off a Sopwith and a Fokker in action (Anthony Fokker had offered his services to the Allies but we told him to get stuffed), circling above our heads at what seemed to be a stately speed when compared to the acrobatics we had witnessed a while before.
They came in to land as a Fokker tri-plane (dressed in red — could it really have been in any other colour) took off. The sun came out and my camera battery died. ! Too many video shots I suppose. Oh well there is always Benifontaine to look forward to next year.