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Q&A with Airshow Director, Paul Sall

Published: 23 Nov 2016   updated: 09 Jan 2017


Airshow Director Paul Sall, recently spoke to the RAF News about Scampton Airshow. The full interview is available below.

How long has the airshow been in the planning?

Ever since it was announced that the 2014 Waddington Airshow would be the last, the question of whether another airshow would replace it has been asked. One benefit of the Waddington Airshow was that it had provided a valuable platform for the Royal Air Force to showcase its people, equipment and capability to visitors - many of whom came from northern and eastern England.

Last year, the MoD completed a review which looked at the RAF's future commitment to airshows and concluded that there should continue to be an airshow in the east of England and that the ideal location would be at RAF Scampton. As a member of the RAF family of charities and with its experience organising the Royal International Air Tattoo, the RAF Charitable Trust was approached and an agreement in principle was reached to stage the airshow on the RAF's behalf. Earlier this year, the Trust established a company called Scampton Airshow Ltd and began recruiting a small team to begin the project. We are now working through the planning and associated logistics and, as you can imagine, it's a complex process, but I am confident everything will be in place in time for the inaugural airshow on 9/10 September next year.

Does the UK need another airshow?

Airshows are hugely popular in the UK and the response in Lincolnshire to the news that a new one would be launched in 2017 has been phenomenal. As well as being aligned to the RAF's engagement strategy, Scampton Airshow will give a welcome boost to the regional economy and will provide those people living in the RAF's heartland with a great day out. We're very excited!

Why was RAF Scampton chosen?

Whilst operational commitments and location ruled out a number of stations, several options were discussed. However, with its rich history in aviation and as home to the Red Arrows, the Scampton location stood out. There are many factors that come into play when considering optimal sites for establishing a new airshow and, in the end, Scampton ticked the boxes.

Prior to your current role, you were Airshow Director at Waddington for five years. How similar to Waddington will the Scampton Airshow be?

Scampton Airshow will have its own unique identity. It's a new show at a different location with new and varied attractions, particularly on the ground - a small teaser!. Undoubtedly, we'll be looking at what works at other airshows but we hope to infuse it with a distinctly Lincolnshire 'flavour'. The county has such a rich aviation heritage and RAF Scampton plays an important part in that. Visitors can be assured that they will not only have the opportunity to see that heritage but also to witness the technological advances that have been made.

Of course, one of the big differences between the Waddington and Scampton airshows is that all children will be able to enjoy the airshow completely free when accompanied by an adult at Scampton!

What are some of the challenges involved in establishing a new airshow from scratch?

Internally, it's building the delivery team. After identifying what resources already exist and the manpower available we then need to work out how we're going to meet any shortfall. We're already recruiting for volunteers to fill key roles and are close to finalising the accommodation, catering and transport requirements - there is, as you can imagine, a myriad of other areas that we are still working on. Airshows evolve and this one will be no different. A template for staging an event at Scampton of the size and scale we are planning for does not exist so we are having to create it and in doing so working very closely with many local and regional partner organisation.

As you'd imagine, at the forefront of our minds in all that we do leading up to the airshow is safety: that means a safe flying display environment, a safe ground environment and safety beyond the perimeter fence. Safety will be our number one priority and we have already begun building relationships with a wide range of different stakeholders in and around Lincolnshire, from councils and farmers to business groups and the emergency services. We have a close relationship with Lincolnshire Showground and indeed a number of local farmers, located close to the airfield, as they will all play a crucial role in delivering a safe and enjoyable event

We enjoy the full support of the RAF's Senior Leadership Team and RAF Scampton's Station Commander Wg Cdr, Joanne Campbell, who are helping us to overcome the inevitable challenges that come with developing the airfield's infrastructure so that it can support the arrival of more than 25,000 people, as well as aircraft of all shapes and sizes.

What's been the reaction from personnel based at the station when they learned there would be a new airshow on the airfield?

They are all very excited that there will be an airshow returning to Lincolnshire and, in particular, Scampton. A number of personnel, from Scampton and other Lincolnshire stations, have already offered their services and their detailed knowledge of the airfield and aircraft operations will be vital. As for their families and those not involved in our event, it will be important for us to get the organisation right such that any disruption to their daily routines will not be considered disproportionate to the benefits they see the airshow bringing. There will inevitably be an element of inconvenience but the key will be to work with those based at the station and indeed the local area to ensure that this is kept to a minimum. Communication will be everything!

What sort of support will you be looking to the Royal Air Force to provide in the run-up to - and during - the airshow?

Whilst the Royal Air Force has asked the Charitable Trust to put on an airshow at RAF Scampton, we recognise that the RAF has significant operational commitments so we have to be sensitive and realistic about what we can expect. However, the feedback to our outline plans from within the Service has been very positive and together I hope we'll provide a fitting showcase for the RAF, past, present and future. Equally important is the support we will receive from the RAF Charitable Trust, which will not only benefit from the proceeds of the event but will also use the opportunity to further promote its aims which are to Promote the Royal Air Force, Support its people now and into the future and to Encourage air-mindedness and the aviation-related education of youth.

In what ways will Scampton Airshow be different to established airshows such as those held at RAF Cosford and RAF Fairford?

Scampton is home to the world famous Red Arrows and was where Guy Gibson's legendary 617 Squadron was formed, so there's already an aura of aviation history that those visiting the airshow will be exposed to. As I alluded to earlier, I expect the airshow's 'personality' to evolve gradually as the event grows, but we can expect a five-hour flying display and a host of ground activities, including the Techno Zone. The Techno Zone has aviation at its heart and is where the STEM subjects; science, technology, engineering and maths, are brought to life and showcased with cutting edge exhibits and interactive activities designed to engage and inspire future engineers. These attractions combined with Lincolnshire's Aviation Heritage, will I am sure allow our visitors to have a fun-filled family day out.

What sort of team have you got to help ensure the event is a success?

It's going to be very much a hub and spoke operation. Although the number based at Scampton is small, we'll be drawing on the wealth of knowledge and experience possessed by the team who organise the Royal International Air Tattoo, together with whom we'll deliver what I am confident will be a hugely popular and successful event. The Air Tattoo relies on an incredible volunteer army who return year after year to stage the event. I am confident that in time the Scampton Airshow will attract its own substantial volunteer team.

If anyone would like to get involved in the airshow, what should they do?

There are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities available through our volunteer engagement programme to help deliver the event. Please visit this page to register your details for a volunteer role. 

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