Red Arrows on the runway, F-16 holding short, some thousand spectators: satellite imagery of Biggin Hill airport taken on airshow day

Seen through the indiscreet eye of the satellite, almost all airports seem quite quiet. Usually, you can spot some aircraft taxiing, other either taking off or landing on the runway, whereas the majority of the others sit on the apron.

Almost all airports.

If you check what Biggin Hill looks like on either Google Maps or Google Earth, as I’ve done following the heads-up by Alvaro Munoz-Aycuens, you’ll see a quite busy airport.

Indeed, the imagery was taken on Jun. 27, 2010, during Biggin Hill International Air Show 2010. Red Arrows, Belgian F-16 solo demo at the holding position, and many other planes and helicopters on static display.

If you count the Reds, you’ll find there are only eight Hawks rolling after landing. Where’s the ninth plane?

I swear to you it’s there, although not easy to spot!

Above: a close up view of the Red Arrows as they taxi.

Below: Biggin Hill airport as seen through Google Earth.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Cold Lake AFB in Alberta, Canada has the USAF Thunderbirds and the CAF Snowbirds on google maps. It appears to be an older picture as there seems to be a C-141 and S-3 on the ramp.

  2. If the F-16 is holding for take off, then either the Red Arrows are landing with a tailwind, or the F-16 is going to take off with tailwind. Slightl unusual?

    • Both might be going with a crosswind, or there might not be much wind to speak of. It would help if there was a windsock visible somewhere, but I can’t seem to find any. Although, if the #9 Red Arrow is where I think I found it, it’s position should explain the other’s preference in landing the direction they have, if the weather allowed them to choose.

  3. @viewofpointofview: Since the taxiway on the east side of the runway seems to be closed for spectators, possibly the F-16 is holding to cross the runway end for the western taxiway (or simply for taxiing down the runway).

    NB: There might even be a tenth “Red”, even if it’s not quite the same silhouette as the nine Hawks; to be found somewhat to the east of the missing ninth aircraft. A museum-grade Gnat, maybe?

    • Wind direction does not always determine the runway in use especially when its intensity is low.
      Pilots can opt to take off or land with a tailwind component if this can be useful to shorten the transit to the parking stand or depart faster.
      Most probably the F-16 entered the runway, lined up and took off after the last Red vacated the runway but it might have taxied down the runway to depart from the opposite direction.

      • In my experience, it it unusual for traffic to not take off and land in the same direction. But I fly out of a relatively small airport, and never when there is an airshow going on.

        • It is much more common for military aircraft: for instance at Grazzanise airbase, were local squadron’s apron was located next to RWY24 threshold, fighters used 24 for take off and 06 for landing so as to shorten taxi distance on both departure and arrival. Obviously under certain surface wind conditions.

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