2005 Edition

 

 

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The Power and the Glory.

Hawker Heritage
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Brooklands' Early Birds
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Since the runway at Brooklands has been ripped up to make way for a new centre for Daimler-Benz, aviation events at Brooklands have been very few. In parntership with Dunsfold Park and two local charities, CHASE and Cranleigh Village Hospital, Brooklands have put this right with a major air display and motorsport event at nearby Dunsfold airfield. The two sites infact have quite significant links and the display was designed to highlight that. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of Author.

It's been quite a while since there was an airshow at Dunsfold. The last was the last ever BAE Systems Dunsfold Air Day back in June 1999. Almost 6 years to the day, airshows were once again back at Dunsfold, a site now used for local business as well as being home to the studios and test track for BBC's Top Gear.The proximity to Gatwick certainly doesn't help, not much flying was allowed above 1400ft which restricts acts like the Red Arrows quite significantly. Still, it's a great place for the photographer with an almost east west runway with the crowdline on the south side! For the show Brooklands in partnership with the Rutland Group, owners of what is now called Dunsfold Park, had teamed up with two local charities - the Cranleigh Village Hospital (CVH) and CHASE, a childrens hospice. CVH were behind the Proms held at Dunsfold last year which had a aerial part with a flypast from Spitfires and an ground exhibtion of aircraft.

Dunsfold Diversity
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Sporting Credentials
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Top Gear...no Fifth Gear at Dunsfold

A brooklands organised event wouldn't be right without cars and motorsport presence. With commentary from Stuart Bennett and Tiff Needell from Five's Fifth Gear, an impressive set of high speed runs, parades and rallies were seen throughout the day on the main runway at Dunsfold including classic racing cars, motorbikes right up to the latest supercar from Mercedes, the MacLaren SLR.

Brooklands managed to produce something rather unique on the airshow calendar blending historic motorsport and aviation together to make this event unique with the air displays interspersed with two motoring demonstrations on the runway. The morning also saw a very impressive fly in despite the best efforts of the British weather elsewhere in the UK. Highlights included Glenn Lacey's recently restored Bucker Bestmann in luftwaffe markings and a beautiful De Havilland Hornet Moth. Arriving quite a bit in advance for the show was a Boeing 747 Freighter which dominated the static display of visiting and based aircraft. The aircraft has recently been retired from service with Air Atlanta Cargo and flew in from nearby Gatwick for some upcoming film work before being scrapped. For the show it was adorned in the colours of the Rutland Group and Dunsfold Park. Paul Ambrose, the Pitts Special display pilot had flown the aircraft when it was in service - a happy coincidence.

The flying display itself was themed around the history of aviation at Brooklands and Dunsfold. That really meant being predominately a show based on Hawker aircraft. Though Hawkers were based at Kingston, they used both Brooklands and Dunsfold as bases for test flying. Before Hawkers, there was the Sopwith Company. This went bankrupt after the First World War when the orders for new aircraft ceased during peace time. Their designer Sir Sydney Camm not be put off reformed the company as Hawker Aviation named after his test pilot, Harry Hawker. Brooklands Museum has many exhibits related to the Sopwith and Hawker companies and is currently restoring an early Hurricane rescued from Siberia.

Brooklands brought in by road their Sopwith Camel static replica for ground runs to represent the Sopwith company, Hawker Aviation's predecessor based in Kingston and which used Brooklands airfield as a base. Joining the Camel was Ernie Hoblyn's Sopwith Triplane replica in the flying display. Despite a serious downpour, Ernie put on a tremendous display in dire conditions and gained much applause from an appreciative audience!

Much later Hawker designs that link Brooklands and Dunsfold very closely are the Hawker Sea Hawk FGA6  and Hawker Sea Fury FB11 from the Royal Navy Historic Flight. Dunsfold provided much of the expertise and time for the restoration of RNHF aircraft fleet and it was fitting to see displays by the aircraft back at Dunsfold. Hawkers also ran test flights of Hawker Hunters from Dunsfold and Delta Jets supplied their Black Arrows T7A. Sadly, some of the developments at Dunsfold have shortened the hard runway and the Hunter was unable to land and operated direct from Delta's Kemble base in the hands of Andy Cubin.

It was very good to see such strong involvement from the Royal Air Force at the show in it's first year. First RAF participants were the fighter pair from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flying their Spitfire IIa and Hurricane IIc. The BBMF gave quite a bit of support throughout the show providing perhaps the highlight of the event for many, a joint flypast of the Spitfire IIa and Peter Vacher's Hurricane I - two of only three airworthy survivors from the Battle of Britain, the other being a Me109E in the US. BBMF's Lancaster also made it to Dunsfold as part of the finale display at the end of the show.

Hurricane Force

The tables were turned at Dunsfold so the Hawker Hurricane took pride of place during the airshow. It was probably the only time the Spitfire has been outnumbered by Hurricanes at an airshow! The BBMF brought PZ865 which actually served at Dunsfold as a chase aircraft for the Harrier development. TFC brought their very rare Mk IV to represent the later developments of the Hurricane but it was Peter Vachers Mk1 R4118 that stole the show. Firstly this rare aircraft flew with the only other geniune RAF suvivors from the Battle still flying,  BBMF Spitfire IIa then with TFC Mk IV as a fitting finale to the event.

Two RAF fast jets with strong links to Brooklands and Dunsfold also appeared. 100sqn provided their Hawk T1 demo for a display over the airfield from which the first production aircraft XX154 made it's first flight. XX154 is now with the Empire Test Pilots School and made a rare appearance at a civilian show in Dunsfold's static park. The Red Arrows were also on hand with a restricted performance to highlight the Hawks part in Dunsfold history. The return of a Harrier GR7 to Dunsfold was also very welcome and brought the story of Dunsfold almost upto date as it was the last variant of the single seat Harriers to be tested here before they moved to Warton following the closure of BAE Systems facilities.

Dunsfold somewhat forgotten past was also a major part of the flying programme. The Second World War was to be highlighted by the appearance of the Duke of Brabant's B-25J Mitchell. Sadly, it was unservicable for the event. Organisers had tried to replace it with the Swiss based example, but they were still preparing for their season and were unable to attend. So it was left to Peter Teichmann's P-51D Mustang Jumpin' Jaques to highlight Dunsfold's role as a tactical fighter base for early RAF P-51A aircraft. Post war, Dunsfold was a transport base during the Berlin Airlift servicing aircraft like the C-47 Dakota which was displayed by Andrew Dixon and Ace High based at North Weald.

No Airshow would be complete without a little diversity and fun in it's displays and Dunsfold was no different. Phil Shaw brought in a North American Harvard for a rare display as a replacement act for the missing B-25. It's a very rare event now to see a T-6 or Harvard display in the UK, mainly thanks to the influx of cheaper Yaks so it was a very welcome addition indeed as they are really good airshow performers making lots of noise and in Phil Shaw's example's case, lot of display smoke! Sports lfying was not left out. Paul Ambrose provided a stunning display in his Pitts Special from Popham Airfield gaining praise from the audience and his fellow display pilots for a very well thought out display. Will Curtis once again wowed the crowd with some unbeleievable flying in the awesome Su-26M2 from the Honda Dream Team.

Dunsfold Park and Brooklands Museum are to be congratulated for bringing such an interesting and diverse new event to the calendar. This undoubtley will be one of the highlights of the 2005 season and was certainly a surprise in terms of the scale of the event and quality which certainly rivalled many of the more established shows with some very rare flypasts and varied displays. Crowd numbers certainly looked good and it is hoped to stage the event again next year. If they do, make a note in your diaries, this could become an event not to be missed.

 copyright Flightline UK 2005