Saturday, December 2, 2023 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.

Behind the scenes

For the first time in Malta, an ‘At Home’ day was staged at Ta Kali. All units on the Island assisted, it was inevitable that the major effort in staging the Display fell on this Station. A crowd of 10,000 was catered for but in the event some 30,000 came and caused the biggest traffic jam ever seen in Malta. The proved to be quite beyond the powers of the civil police to control and resulted in such amusing incidents as the Air Officer Commanding abandoning his car and walking across fields to reach the station. However, once inside the Station, the organisation withstood the unexpected load and a very successful afternoon ensued, resulting in the sum of £347.16s.5d. being raised for R.A.F. charities. This figure would have been higher had it not been necessary to allow numerous cars to enter the Station without paying for parking in an effort to ease the traffic problem outside the Station.

Avro Shackleton MR.2 Royal AF WL786/S 38 One of four aircraft, Malta based.
Avro Shackleton MR.2 Royal AF WL759/V 38 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.
Bristol Britannia Royal AF XM659 511 In Malta between at least 26-27.08.60.
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 Middle Easy AF WP897   Aircraft was off-loaded from a Beverly aircraft on 29.07.60.
EE Canberra B.2 Royal Aircraft Establishment WD950   Static.
EE Canberras PR.3 Royal AF WE144 39 This, and the following three PR.3s, arrived from RAF Luqa on the 26th, performing on the 27th. Departure back to Luqa unknown.
EE Canberras PR.3 Royal AF WE148 39 As above.
EE Canberras PR.3 Royal AF WE173 39 As above.
EE Canberras PR.3 Royal AF WH861 39 As above.
EE Canberra Royal AF XM231 59 Bombing demonstration.
EE Canberra B(I)8 Royal AF XM266 59 Bombing demonstration.
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 WG964 MCTTS Took up University cadets on four trips.
Gloster Meteor T.7 Royal AF WG969 MCTTS Aerobatic display.
Gloster Meteor F.8 Royal AF WH401 MCTTS
Handley Page Hastings Royal AF TG535 70 In Malta at between 25-27 August.
Handley Page Hastings Royal AF TG557 70 Static
Hawker Hunter F.6 Royal AF __211 92 The Falcons aerobatic team. Other partial serials were 222, 228, 238, 532. Probably arrived on the 24th from RAF Middleton St. John.
Vickers Valetta C.1 Royal AF VW831 MCTTS Avon Jet engine was collected from RAF Henlow on 13.08.60 by this aircraft. VW831 also practiced for the display on 25th and 26th, displaying on the 27th.
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 Arrived from RAF Topcliffe on 26.08.60 Departed for the UK on the 29th. Static.


Joint R.N. – R.A.F. Fly Past 21.09.64

Six Javelins from No. 5 squadron, based at RAF Geilenkirchen, in Germany, arrived on the 16th from Geilenkirchen vis Istres and Decimomannu. Two minor unservicabilities were repaired by the team on the accompanying Argosy.

Four aircraft took part in a flypast on the 21st, part of a 30-aircraft formation.

Another display by four Javelins over Grand Harbour and RAF Luqa on the 23rd.

The six aircraft departed Malta on the 24th, night-stopping at Decimomannu, Sardinia, with one aircraft staying until the 28th due to a technical problem.

Letter from AOC Malta: “Your Javelins have more than justified the trouble of sending them to Malta. Their formation flying was excellent and the display over Grand Harbour yesterday was impeccable. I have heard nothing but praise for their performance. Well done and thank you.”

A. Shackleton Royal AF 38   3 aircraft used.
EE Canberra PR.9 Royal AF 39    
EE Canberra B15 Near East AF 32 WH947 In Malta between 17-21.09.64. The five aircraft departed after the display for El Adem, then to Akrotiri the same afternoon.
EE Canberra B15 Near East AF 32 WH956 In Malta between 17-21.09.64.
EE Canberra B15 Near East AF 32 WH960 In Malta between 17-21.09.64. Performed a flypast on the 19th with WH970 & WH971, and another on the 21st.
EE Canberra B15 Near East AF 32 WH970 In Malta between 17-21.09.64. Formation flypast on the 19th and 21st.
EE Canberra B15 Near East AF 32 WH971 In Malta between 18-21.09.64. Formation flypast on the 19th and 21st.
EE Canberra Royal AF 231 OCU   4 aircraft.
Gl. Javelin Royal AF 5   6 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 Two displays were given on 15 October 1966, over Luqa in the morning, and Manuel Island in the afternoon.

It was during the latter display that XR987 suffered a bird strike, but pilot was able to recover safely to Luqa.

Arrival and departure dates at this time unknown.
Fo.Gnat Royal AF XR540, XR986, XR987, XR991, XR992, XR993, XR994, XR995, XR996, XS111 Red Arrows 1968 visit. Display over Marsamxett .
1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s
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