Tuesday, September 22, 2020 Air Shows » Royal Air Force » 1960s  

27 August 1960 – Ta' Qali

RAF Ta Qali again provided the venue for the 1960 air display that was held on Saturday, 27 August, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The Maltese public once more showed its interest in aviation, for no less than 25,000 are recorded to have visited Ta' Qali during that weekend.

The static display was again provided by an interesting melange of old and new. Oldest was certainly the Gloster Gladiator N5520 which, legend has it, was Faith of Faith, Hope and Charity of Second World War fame. Wingless and little more than a silver painted fuselage, the fabric biplane was certainly a reminder to many of those grim times during the war of two decades earlier. Previously stored as part of the Palace Armoury Exhibition in Valletta, the Gladiator had to be refurbished by 183 M.U. at RAF Safi before being brought in a state good enough to exhibit. It was the centrepiece of an Air Battle of Malta commemoration exhibition held in one of the hangars. In stark contrast the hangar also contained an ultramodern Fairey Fireflash radar guided air-to-air missile which was the first British AAM to destroy a target aircraft. The missile was still 'under wraps', and was eventually destined to remain so because it was never ordered into production. In the park was a row of interesting aircraft. The Royal Air Force provided a Gloster Javelin FAW.9 of 33 Squadron, an English Electric Canberra B.2, a colourful silver and dayglo orange-painted de Havilland Vampire T.11, a Handley Page Hastings of 70 Squadron, a Vickers Varsity T.1 navigational trainer, an Avro Shackleton MR.2 of 38 Squadron, and two aircraft from the Malta Communications and Target Towing Squadron (MCTTS), a de Havilland Devon and Vickers Valetta C.1. Other aircraft were of course slated for the flying display.

This was in fact inaugurated by the Hawker Hunter F.6s of 92 Squadron, which provided the RAF's official aerobatic team of the period flying under the name of The Falcons, four of which effected a typical "scramble" takeoff. This show over, three Shackleton MR.2s of 38 Squadron, led by their squadron commander, arrived on the scene and passed by. Then one of them returned low and fast, followed by another one with everything down, including its ventral dustbin radar. The third Shackleton flew past on three engines, while the fourth one followed with two engines, both on the same side, feathered.

Another fast acrobatic display was provided by a Gloster Meteor F.8 from the MCTTS, a unit which also provided a Valetta C.1 which, however, contrasted with the Meteor by its slow and sedate flypast; also because of its shape, it was affectionately known as 'the flying pig'. Two RAF Germany-based 2nd Tactical Air Force Canberras came in low and fast in an over the shoulder bombing demonstration, displaying the RAF's low level bombing policy which was destined to last from the Second World War to Operation Desert Storm of 1991.

Four other Canberras, this time of the PR.3 version, took off in pairs and carried out a neat foursome formation performance. Meanwhile, following the flypast of a Training Command Varsity, a sleek de Havilland Comet C.2 jet and a Bristol Britannia, the two 'airliner' types in RAF's Transport Command service, flew by, the Comet keeping to starboard, close to the crowd line much to the satisfaction of the spectators. In their wake came again the humble Valetta C.1, itself also a VIP transport. The Valetta remaining in the air, a 92 Squadron Hunter F.6 soon joined it. But their respective speeds were so disparate that the Hunter was soon zooming up while the Valetta disappeared from sight and landed while the Hunter went into a whole menu of aerobatics which held all spectators spellbound.

A DHC Chipmunk trainer from H.Q. Middle East Air Force provided the comic part of this airshow in a bout of crazy flying, the pilot mimicking a 'duchess' who tries to learn to fly solo. As in the 1957 air display, the RAF also sent Vickers Valiant B.1 bombers to the Malta air display, these being furnished by 207 Squadron. Two of these four jet aircraft (one was XD873), first of the famous three V-Bomber types of the RAF, gave a very neat display, again showing off their clean lines in spite of their large size. It was not the only V Bomber present that day, however. An Avro Vulcan B.1 of 101 Squadron came in low over the field with noise, smoke and speed, while in a second pass the big, delta-winged bomber showed its slow speed characteristics.

Apart from the Comet and Britannia, another two types represented Transport Command: a Blackburn Beverley C.1, which gave a dummy troop para-drop demonstration, and a Handley Page Hastings of 70 Squadron that dropped a supply cluster on to the airfield.

The now expected 'fort' was erected in the middle of the runway and was 'blasted' from the air by Meteors, Canberras and no less than four Shackletons. Simulated anti-aircraft fire from Royal Malta Artillery guns added to the fun, while the Beverley appeared again, landed in the short run of tarmac available making an exhibition of its short-field performance notwithstanding its bulk and weight and from it issued Royal Marine Commandos, much the same as had been seen in the 1957 airshow. Again the 'enemy' fled the flaming fort and the air force had won!

The Falcons of 92 Squadron provided the finale for a most satisfying two-hour show. They executed a repeat air display, this time by five Hunters, which again went into the whole series of formation flying vics, arrowheads, loops, ending with a bomb burst dramatised all the more by the release of curling smoke trails which lingered in the blue sky of Ta' Qali even when the aircraft had zoomed out of earshot.

Avro Shackleton MR.2 Royal AF WL786/S 38 One of four aircraft, RAF based.
Avro Shackleton MR.3 Royal AF     One aircraft, flying display.
Avro Vulcan B.1 Royal AF XA192 101 Flying display.
Blackburn Beverley C.1 Royal AF XB289/V 53 Flying display.
Bristol Britannia Royal AF XM498 99/511 Flyby. These two squadrons pooled their a/c, similar to today’s E3s being shared by 8 & 23 squadrons.
de Havilland Comet C.2 Royal AF XK696 216 Flyby.
de Havilland Devon Royal AF   MCTTS  
de Havilland Vampire T.11 Royal AF XD589/50   Silver and dayglo orange-painted. Static.
DHC Chipmunk Royal AF     H.Q. Middle East Air Force.
EE Canberra B.2 Royal Aircraft Establishment WD950   Static.
EE Canberras PR.3 Royal AF     Four aircraft, took off in pairs.
EE Canberra Royal AF     Two RAF Germany-based 2nd Tactical Air Force. Bombing demonstration. Are these the same PR.3s mentioned above?
Gloster Gladiator Royal AF N5520   Faith. Refurbished by 183 M.U. RAF Safi. Still wingless, it currently lies within the War Museum, Malta.
Gloster Javelin FAW.9 Royal AF XH719/J 33 Static
Gloster Meteor T.7 Royal AF WG969 MCTTS Aerobatic display.
Handley Page Hastings Royal AF TG557 70 Static
Hawker Hunter F.6 Royal AF   92 The Falcons aerobatic team, four a/c.
Vickers Valetta C.1 Royal AF VX574 MCTTS Static.
Vickers Valiant B.1 Royal AF XD873 207 Flying display.
Vickers Valiant B.1 Royal AF   207 Not part of the show, not open to public viewing.
Vickers Varsity T.1 Royal AF WF382/F Air Navigational School Static.

Joint R.N. – R.A.F. Fly Past 21.09.64

A. Shackleton Royal AF 38 3 aircraft used.
EE Canberra PR.9 Royal AF 39  
EE Canberra Near East AF   4 aircraft, Cyprus-based.
EE Canberra Royal AF 231 OCU 4 aircraft.
Gl. Javelin Royal AF 5 4 aircraft.
Gl. Javelin Royal AF 29 4 aircraft.
H. Hunter Royal AF   One aircraft representing 38 Group.
HP Victor Royal AF 15  
Gl. Meteor Royal Navy 728 NAS Hal-Far based.
DH Sea Venom Royal Navy   Hal-Far based.

Red Arrows displays

Fo.Gnat Royal AF XR540, XR986, XR987, XR991, XR992, XR993, XR994, XR995, XR996, XS111 Red Arrows 1966 visit.
Fo.Gnat Royal AF XR540, XR986, XR987, XR991, XR992, XR993, XR994, XR995, XR996, XS111 Red Arrows 1968 visit. Display over Marsamxett .

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