February/March 2017

There are less than 100 days to the RAF Cosford Air Show. Just like the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team that will open our show, some of us are starting to experience a bit of ground-rush as we head towards the big day on Sunday 11 Jun 17!  

So what has the team been up to since the last blog. We’ve certainly been busy in a fair amount of areas, but I’ll start with the line-up.  The RAF has confirmed that once again we’ll be thrilled by the Red Arrows. If you love 9-ship display teams you’re in for a real treat; even more so now that we’ve secured, for the first time at Cosford, the Swiss PC-7 display team. Typhoon will be making a showing with a display that defies aerodynamics. Michaela and Peter went to RAF Coningsby to meet the new Typhoon Display pilot as he works up his routine. To watch their interview please tune into the RAF Cosford FaceBook page.  There are a couple of other FaceBook live recordings as well; but with me, so not remotely as glamorous as the Typhoon display chap.

We’re thrilled to have secured the RAF BBMF Lancaster this year, but as we’re helping them to celebrate their 60th anniversary they are bringing 4 (yes 4!) Spitfires to wow us all. We’re not done yet with the flying display as we’re still awaiting some key announcements for our bids and Peter and I are still treading the Embassy circuit and sitting on desks at the RAF Northolt Air Events Team. There are far too many additional aircraft to list one by one, so please check out our Twitter feed @cosfordairshow to see the full line-up for flying and static displays. We’ve really got a warm feeling that you’ll be impressed, as so many of you have commented favourably on social media as we announce the new additions to the display.

Showcasing #Cosford17 at the recent European Airshow Convention in Malta, Marilyn, Clive and Peter attended this important event on the Air Show Organiser’s calendar in order to listen and contribute to debates on safety and promoting excellence. Many thanks to our friends in Stn Graphics for pushing the boat out to assist us with amazingly professional displays. The stand was the best by a country mile!

Whilst Malta is interesting, I’m strangely excited by the work that is going into our traffic planning. We have 2 teams that we’ve contracted to assist us. One looks after the road network in the local area whilst the other looks after the parking and close-in management that our visitors have enjoyed over recent years. Our experienced contractors work closely with the local Police Force and local authority. I’ve learnt loads about clearways and the different types of traffic cones needed; important stuff!

Our office team of Heather and Nadia are making a real difference by efficiently dealing with customer requests and complex bookkeeping respectively. They’ve settled in to the team and are now inculcated with the importance of Haribo and Jaffa Cakes to fuel the day’s activities.

Our RAF Project Managers are really getting to grips with their projects. Their teams are forming and the complex manning plot is taking shape. No one at RAF Cosford is excused Air Show duties, mainly because they all want to join in to be part of this great endeavour. We’ve challenged all of the teams to come up with refreshing new ideas and they’re not going to disappoint. One thing I can guarantee is that you’ll see more of our students demonstrating aircraft engineering in the hangars. This will also include our students from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first time, something that chimes nicely with our theme of international cooperation.

After this week’s BADA pre-season symposium, ahead of us we have an Emergency Planning seminar in April and a local exercise to test our responses in May. All of this is the serious side of planning such a large event and we’re grateful to all of the emergency services who so ably support our training and exercises. As Eisenhower said on the eve of D Day: ‘The plan is nothing, but planning is everything’.

Exciting times indeed 🙂  Wing Commander Chris Jones, Chairman #Cosford17

January 2017

A very Happy New Year to our blog-followers. 2017 is already whizzing past and the Air Show team is getting seriously excited about our plans.  A small point, but I can now refer to ‘This Year’s Show’, rather than ‘Next Year’s Show’; I find this accelerates the adrenaline when contemplating the exciting work ahead of us!

I’ve written to every Sqn Boss in the RAF to beg request support and replies have been coming in over the last week 🙂 Lots of positive responses and our Air Show is certainly on radars as the Sqns value the fact that we are the only RAF-organised Air Show.

We are getting close to finding out how our formal requests for participation have been received, from a host of countries, and we will update formally on results via our Facebook and Twitter feeds. It’s all about trickling info out in order to keep your excitement in chime with ours!

I chaired the first formal Project Managers’ meeting last week and had a packed room full of people with organised folders and big smiles.  It’s great to see that the maxim of ‘mission command’ that I spoke about several months ago has been adopted by all. Essentially, I trust the team to deliver my intent of trying something new and freshening displays and what we offer to our important visitors on 11 Jun 17.  There’s lots of innovative thinking happening and I’m really pleased that ideas from our most junior personnel are stimulating plans.

In relation to aircraft news, we have announced some exciting additions that complement our ‘Battlefield Support’ theme. We have a Huey and Loach as rotary flying displays, but I’m personally excited about the opportunity to see an A4 Skyraider flying at Cosford. For those younger than me, the A4 Skyraider is an awesome piece of aviation history that saw service in some really close battlefield support roles. Downed pilots in Vietnam often had a pair of Skyraiders flying patrol over them whilst a rescue mission was being hastily launched. Films like Bat 21 and The Bridges of Tokyo Ri are worth a viewing if you’d like to see more ahead of 11 Jun ! 🙂

Another addition to our static display is the British Aerospace EAP which is kindly being released to us by the RAF Museum here at Cosford. This unique aircraft will afford photographers a superb opportunity and Peter (Operations Manager) has the job of working out position versus sun angles versus the need to capture that perfect image. To be fair, he’s really good at this.

Marilyn (Deputy Director) has been selling hospitality bookings since our launch event and we are way ahead of sales in relation to this time last year.

Michaela (Office Manager) has been using her amazing Social Media skills to run several Facebook live events to generate interest in the lesser known elements of pulling together an Air Show.  She’s challenged me to a ‘Marshall-off’ later this month where she aims to pit her marshalling skills against me in my modern synthetic marshalling simulator.  To be fair, she has no chance, unless she’s been sneakily practising with 238 Sqn…

Clive (Director) is keeping our feet to the fire on the overall plan and ensuring that commercial progress matches his intent. Mike (Flying Display Director) and Peter ran the first Operations Meeting and I found that hugely beneficial. As you can imagine, keeping our display safe requires lots of thought and planning from a range of stakeholders, including the CAA and MAA. The Operations Meeting has really set us up for success in this area and the level of knowledge of the team is extremely high.  We still await the output of the Shoreham Investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Branch, but we are in a healthy position in relation to delivering our Air Show due to our local geography and the great work that last year’s chairman undertook last year.

My Air Show planning diary is filling up with key dates and I need to stay on top of the plan. Luckily I have a great team in support. Key events for me include an exercise to test a range of responses from Event Control. We have a great working relationship with all civil contingency units and all will be in attendance to share lessons. 

Exciting times! 🙂

Wing Commander Chris Jones, Chairman #Cosford17

November/December 2016

The year has certainly flown by since our last Air Show! The good news is that planning for Air Show 2017 is maturing very nicely indeed.

Since our October launch in London and presentation to Defence Attachés, High Commissioners and Industry Heads, we have seen significant interest in our hospitality opportunities. The range of options caters for all tastes (excuse the pun!) and it’s a great opportunity for groups of people to enjoy a stylish day in an opulent setting, with an amazing Air Show providing a unique backdrop. You will be very well looked after by our young officers who will host the day and make sure that you have everything that you need.  But don’t miss out! Marilyn has been weaving her magic and already has loads of bookings that are filling up the seats. Book early to avoid disappointment!

In relation to generating some exciting aircraft that complement our themes of Battlefield Support, Space and International Cooperation, Peter has been busy engaging with display teams and the host nations of the VIPs who attended our launch event. We eagerly await the ‘commitments phase’ that all host nations undertake early in the New Year, but our bids are in and responses are hugely positive. 

I am pleased to be able to confirm the booking of a pair of Strikemaster aircraft for our flying display. The RAF and UK industry have a really strong connection with this aircraft over many years of service. The Jet Provost was a stalwart of our flying training programme and the Strikemaster was key to success in the famous Battle of Mirbat in Oman. If you want to know what it feels like to be delivering air power from the Strikemaster cockpit I thoroughly recommend you read Storm Front by Roland White; you won’t be able to put it down once you start reading it.

Another crowd-puller that will be flying with us on 11 June is the Westland Whirlwind. I’ve certainly never seen one airborne at an Air Show and it promises to be a thrilling display. Built under US license from Sikorsky, the Whirlwind was the mainstay of the Fleet Air Arm’s Anti-Submarine-Warfare role. It was also the workhorse of the RAF’s Search and Rescue Force for many years and many people, both military and civilian, owe their lives to the work-rate and capabilities of this impressive aircraft.

In relation to RAF support, the letters to Sqn bosses have been written and a large pile will be posted early in the New Year to gain support once the Christmas festivities are over. Knowing so many Sqn bosses allows me to personalise the message and to bend arms!

Clive has been busy with the many duties of Air Show Director and he also organised a hugely successful initial meeting with the civilian Police and our traffic management provider. Our traffic management last year was a real success with no issue of undue queuing on entry to the site. However, we are always keen to learn and the Police brought us several lessons that their Constables on the ground observed on the day. It’s great to be part of such a joined up team that operates across so many organisations and domains.  More to come as we practice some scenarios during build up to a pre-Air Show exercise that will be held in the Spring of 2017.

Michaela has been busily keeping me on top of the key administration needed to run things smoothly and she is working hard to ensure that RAF computer systems upgrades will not affect our Air Show planning system or the event itself. She is way ahead of the rest of the Station in preparing back-up plans and we are all heavily reliant on her forward-thinking. 

My Chief of Staff is Lieutenant Commander Paul Gill and he is ramping up planning for contingencies and getting all Project Officers and Project Managers to start putting Air Show planning at the front of minds.  He organised an initial mass briefing for all key military and civil servant personnel that allowed me to set the scene for what I need from people. In essence, I trust them to deliver my intent and they have mission-command to impress me with fresh ideas.

Merry Christmas to you all. 🙂   Wing Commander Chris Jones, Chairman #Cosford17

October 2016

The time between now and our Air Show on 11 Jun 17 is certainly flying by! Lots to do, but also so much has been achieved already…

The focus for Oct has been on wrapping up all of the admin from last year, producing the Business Plan for next year and generally putting us into ‘campaign mode’ so that we achieve all of our many tasks on time. Needless to say, this takes strong teamwork and much coordination.

The key activity from my perspective over the last month or so has been in looking at how we can generate interest from participants. The Air Show calendar in the UK is congested, with many commercial operators seeking to maximise their own shows. We received constructive feedback from customers this year and we were left clear as to what they would all like to see as part of Air Show 17. More afterburners and more military aircraft (!) especially from the RAF and European partners, were common observations.

In order to drum up support we decided to hold a Launch Event in the President’s Room of the RAF Club in London and we invited numerous military Defence Attachés, High Commissioners and Industry Heads to join us. This was a real team effort from all of the Air Show Team that required careful choreography, all under Michaela’s central coordination. In addition, we managed to secure AVM Rich Knighton (Assistant Chief of the Air Staff) to spare us his time to support this event and to reinforce how important the RAF Cosford Air Show is to the RAF as a means of engaging with the public and promoting the good work that the RAF undertakes on behalf of the nation.

The event was a resounding success, with packed attendance and much interest. After the main presentation we fielded lots of questions and generated much interest for our Hospitality options. The bookings are filling up nicely, and Marilyn is busy sorting out the commercial aspects of such deals.

Not all Attaches could make the event.  Not to be undone, Peter had pre-arranged Embassy visits for the following day in order for the two of us to make our pitch. The Polish Embassy staff were hugely welcoming and a letter requesting all manner of Fast Jet participation is on its way to the head of the Polish Air Force. We’re also following up after the Attaché event in order to cement some bookings. Our Air Show themes give us the solid framework upon which to build.

Another key event was our team’s attendance at the 2 Day Symposium to discuss lessons learnt from the UK Airshow Season 2016. This event was held at Shrivenham and was jointly run by the Military Aviation Authority and the British Air Display Association.  Clive and Peter jointly presented on numerous lessons from the RAF Cosford Air Show, and the audience loved the honesty and refreshing style that sought to open up the floor to many ideas.

The crux of the symposium was to try to understand the tensions between the Air Show providers and the regulators (either Military Aviation Authority or Civil Aviation Authority). The post-Shoreham accident environment is necessarily more heavily regulated, and the whole community awaits the findings and impact of the soon to be released Air Accident Investigation Board findings.

From an RAF Cosford Air Show perspective, we are in a very strong position as we have embraced all previous recommendations and are confident that we are running a safe Air Show. Don’t just take my word for it, our regulator audited us before and during last year’s event and they were very content with our arrangements, with several examples of best practise identified.

My focus now is on engaging with the many Project Managers and Project Officers from the RAF Cosford military community who will help us to deliver Air Show 17. I’ve worked closely with Michaela and my Chief of Staff Paul in order to refine the lists, and I’m happy that we have the right skills in the right jobs. By the time of my next instalment I will have held a mass briefing to get everyone on the same page.

Don’t forget tickets are going on sale Tuesday 15th November at an early bird price of £22.00 for an adult! Accompanied under-16s enter for free making it a great day out for all the family!

Exciting times ahead!  Wing Commander Chris Jones, Chairman #Cosford17

September 2016

We’ve made loads of great progress since I last wrote to all of our loyal followers! 

We’ve really looked into how we can maximize our use of Social Media as part of an enhanced marketing strategy to generate interest. Michaela, Peter and I have learnt about generational metrics, immediacy of information types, platform effectiveness metrics and so much more! Many thanks to Sqn Ldr ‘Kev’ from HQ Air Command for giving us his valuable assistance and inside information. Stay tuned to see us expand onto more diverse platforms, whilst sharpening our content, as we progress towards 11 Jun 17 (get this date in your diary now folks!).

One of the things to grip when facing the challenge of delivering an Air Show is the ‘Manpower Situation’. I’m a firm believer in empowerment and Mission Command and have hand selected a dozen or so Project Managers to lead on a range of tasks. They don’t know who they are yet, and I’ll be speaking personally to them all next week. To be fair, I know they will all relish having such a high-profile role and the opportunity to work with the amazing Air Show Team. The Project Managers’ tasks will really stretch them and help develop them, but my focus is very much on delivering a safe and thoroughly enjoyable event.

Given the scale of the Project Managers’ tasks, I have selected a band of brothers from the ranks of our experienced SNCO cadre and Junior Officers to be Project Officers. I sit at the top of this simple yet vast network, and my role is to look downwards to hold people to the task, and to look sideways to dovetail efforts with the Air Show Team.

In relation to the Air Show Team’s task, one key milestone that Marilyn has delivered is to wrap up the accounts of last year’s Air Show. I’m thrilled to announce that last year the RAF Cosford Air Show raised £115,000 that will be shared across our 4 Service Charities.  I often reflect on the good work that is undertaken on behalf of the wider, and often elderly, service community that so many of our people can rely on when times are tough. It’s a privilege to be part of the team that can assist in such an important area.

As a keen social-media evangelist, I’ve heard you all loud and clear. At next year’s Air Show you want more afterburners, more noise, and more dynamically manoeuvring aircraft.  Clive, the Air Show Director, has had a great idea to invite many international Defence Attachés to a ‘launch event’ in the RAF Club in Central London. Rather than trawl across Embassies, we aim to bring the Attachés to a central hub so that we can inspire them to get involved in our Air Show. The event is on 12 Oct 16, and I really need to start polishing my introduction and best uniform so that we create real energy and a sense of purpose.  After all, it’s not often that you get >55,000 people at an aviation event in Shropshire and we’re keen to reinforce the strong bond that we have forged on operations overseas with our European Military Partners.

Whilst we’re all steaming ahead with plans for next year, it’s always good to reflect on what lessons we identified last time and to put interventions in place so that we can properly learn. We’ve conducted a formal ‘Lessons Identified’ process with each of last year’s Project Managers, and you can’t beat a deadline set by the new Chairman to energise activity.  

The good news is that there are some really key points for all of our team to reflect on and absorb. You don’t need to be a rocket-scientist to realise that large projects require solid communications, particularly in the countdown period. We have lots of easy wins to enact, and some procedural issues to polish, to ensure that we can be as efficient as we can be.

Speaking of rocket-scientists, Michaela, Peter and Flt Lt ‘Howard’ will soon be visiting the Leicester National Space Centre to seek inspiration for our ‘Space’ theme for next year. Howard is a ninja at sourcing historical items, and I half expect his small band of Air Show Brothers (and Sisters) to come back with a Saturn V and the nozzle of a V2!!!!  (I’m not joking about the V2!).

Catch up in October for the next update. Until then, keep dreaming about 11 Jun 17 and where you will be J

Wing Commander Chris Jones, Chairman #Cosford17

August 2016

As I write this first Blog entry on 21 Aug 16, my mind reflects back 12 months to a chance conversation with the Station Commander shortly after my arrival at RAF Cosford. He kindly offered to buy me several Gin & Tonics in the Officers’ Mess, and then politely offered me the amazing opportunity to be the Chairman of the RAF Cosford Airshow in 2017. How could anyone refuse such an chance to deliver a 50,000 persons event safely and to a high standard that would build on RAF Cosford’s reputation? 

So where do you start with such a task? The first action was to shadow the previous Chairman’s work in delivering the hugely successful 2016 Airshow, and I thank Wing Commander Rich Osselton for his professionalism and patience with me over a busy year. An old mate of mine, we connected easily and he really brought me into his event control.

The next step was to establish the key relationships, both formal and informal, that exist in any large organisation that has a busy role but also an airshow to deliver. The good news is that we have a very small and committed professional team who keep the machine turning. They are ably supported by the many RAF personnel who support this high-profile event, and also many other organisations such as the Air Training Corps, RAF Fire and Rescue Service and the many local emergency services and local authority. The mind-map of the inter-relationships for the event reminds me of the Afghanistan Helmand Province engagement plan!

The Director and head of this civilian team is Clive. He has extensive experience of working within the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises team and he has helped to deliver the Royal International Air Tattoo that is held annually at Fairford.

The Deputy Director and commercial lead is Marilyn. She is a ninja at marketing and event organising and brings energy and a sense of purpose to the office.

Michaela is the Social Media expert and provides superb office support and an amazing level of patience in dealing with RAF staff and their many questions!

Peter is a new member of the team and has recently completed a degree in Aviation Management. Previously a volunteer member of the team, I’m pleased to confirm that Peter is now full-time. When not planning our airshow, Peter goes to other airshows; a lot!

Simon is our grounds organiser and has the herculean task of organising space, exhibitors, barriers, car-parking areas and general nudging of people in the right direction as we build up to the event. Herding- energetic-cats is one polite description I’ve heard of his work!

Mike is our Flying Display Director and he has extensive experience of safely running the flying programme at many UK events. As Retired RAF aircrew, we rely on Mike’s airspace control skills.

My role is very much to deliver the Airshow for the Station Commander and a large part of that is in allocating some 70+ projects to Project Managers, ensuring that we comply with current aviation regulations (both civil and military), engaging with the community, running planning exercises that test our responses and being the Military Silver Commander on the day itself.

Edward de Bono could have used the team above as part of his Six Thinking Hats idea on the formulation of high-performing teams. As the sole military member of the delivery team, I’m clearly the 7th hat (make of that what you will!).  As of today there are only 294 days until the #Cosford17 airshow on 11 June 2017! All good planning starts with an initial meeting and we held ours a month ago. More to come! For now, I can tell you that our 3 Key Themes for 2017 are: Battlefield Support, International Cooperation, and Space. I will explain more next month; but until then I have Project Managers to volunteer, and I need to start thinking about ideas for our exciting themes and getting some aircraft! Wing Commander Chris Jones, Chairman #Cosford17