Back in March this year Debbie Harrison approached Willie Cruickshank, Wildcat 2 pilot with the Wildcat Aerobatics team, to ask if he would like to fly with The Baton. The Wildcats are building a strong reputation nationally for their spectacular displays and had a number of shows arranged for 2015. Willie readily agreed to fly with a baton at their home air show in Norfolk in August, generously offering a seat to a veteran. Sadly tragedy struck the team in April when one of their pilots crashed his plane in practice and died. Willie, an ex-RAF pilot, was still keen to be involved with The Baton and the decision was taken to fly with the Dakar Baton at RNAS Culdrose Air Day, leaving the home air show to focus on a tribute to David Jenkins.
It took a few months of negotiation with the Air Day organisers but on 31st July the Dakar Baton was handed over to Willie by Alec Savery representing The Baton and Team Off-Road-It. It then had quite an adventure; safely stowed away in Wildcat 2 flying across country to East Anglia. On August 1st it flew over the Avro Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ at East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre and then flew at the first day of the Old Buckenham Airshow in Norfolk. Willie handed the Baton back to Debbie the next day before the Wildcats flew an emotional missing man formation to honour their friend and colleague David; then they wowed the crowds with their precision flying.
The home of the Wildcats, the Old Buckenham Airfield south of Norwich, was home of the USAAF 453rd Bombardment Group and it serves as a memorial to the 366 USAAF servicemen who died serving from there. There is a War Memorial Garden and this was the scene of a powerful opening ceremony lowering the Stars and Stripes before the flying started. On Remembrance Sunday this year a museum will open in a newly built Nissen Hut dedicated to the 453rd.
The Wildcats gave The Baton brilliant social media coverage leading up to and during Air Day and we were very proud to have worked with them.
Find out more about the team here: http://www.wildcataerobatics.com