Dunsfold Wings and Wheels 2009
 

 

Fly-in and Static
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Living History
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Tigers
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Vulcan
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The annual Dunsfold Wings and Wheels has established itself as one of the most popular airshows of the year. It is also the only airshow to be held in Surrey, a county with a famous aviation heritage. Dunsfold has a fascinating history as a Second World War base, a staging post for the Berlin Airlift and as birthplace to the Hunter, Hawk and Harrier aircraft. 25,000 visitors descended on the Surrey airfield for the annual celebration of aviation and motorsport despite grey skies. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of the Author.

Dunsfold is situated just inside the county of Surrey, 9 miles south west of Guilford. Construction on the airfield by the Royal Canadian Engineers commenced in May 1942 and the airfield was officially handed over 20 weeks later to the Royal Canadian Air Force. A number of squadrons used the airfield with everything from Spitfires to Mitchell bombers. In 1945, the airfield became a repatriation centre and 47,000 prisoners of war were taken home by fleets of Dakota, Lancaster, Sterling and Halifax aircraft. A year later, the airfield was declared inactive before being leased by Skyways Ltd and becoming a major staging post for the Berlin Airlift as well as a maintenance depot to supply the Portuguese Air Force with Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft.

Skyways was liquidated in 1950, but Hawker Aircraft acquired the lease and Dunsfold became a flight test centre for the parent factory in Kingston and was famously home to the Harrier test program. In 2000 BAE Systems left the aerodrome before Dunsfold Park Ltd acquired the site. Since then it had become a home to several companies and local businesses as well as staging the popular BBC TV Series ‘Top Gear’. It is also using by the film industry as films such as the Da Vinci Code and Casino Royale have all had scenes filmed on the airfield. The modified Boeing 747-200 used in Casino Royale still dominates the Dunsfold skyline.

The airfield itself has remained active for various GA flying activities and the storage of aircraft. The Surrey Air Ambulance is based at Dunsfold in a purpose-built hanger and was one of the major charities to benefit from this years "Wings and Wheels" along with Brooklands Museum and Cranleigh Village Hospital Trust.

Motor Action

The motoring action on the runway is always a spectacular sight. A highlight was a formation display by Mercedes Benz World's Silver Arrows team as well as rare appearance by the McClaren Mercedes SLR 722 Sterling Moss Edition. Bentleys, Ford GTs , Ferraris and Porsches all featured too as well as some early single seaters and Aero engined Cars such as the Napier Railton.

Wings and Wheels is a unique event on the airshow circuit combining a top class airshow with spectacular cars from all ages of motor racing. The day is divided by different sections. Much of the morning is taken up by a vintage fly-in as well as many of the display aircraft arriving. This year, the erratic British weather threw a spanner in the works, but it was at least busier than 2008! Amongst the visitors was Goodwood's Harvard, a Focke Wulf Fw.149, MS.733 Alaycon as well as a selection of De Havilland Types. There was also a small static display which included a Royal Air Force Dominie T1 and Merlin HC3.

As well as the flying there are two motoring demonstrations - one before the flying display and the other providing an hours break in the middle of the day. These see a military vehicle parade as well as some of the historic racers and supercars charge down Dunsfold's runway.

Disappointingly, the weather did not play ball with low cloud dominating the day. The marginal conditions did hinder the transits of several displays but there was still a full and enjoyable flying display.

One of the unique selling points of the Dunsfold flying display is that much of it is themed around Surrey's aviation history, particularly that of Dunsfold and Brooklands. This is interwoven with some of the best display acts in the UK. The show was opened by the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment's Parachute Display Team, The Tigers. They are the South East’s local regiment, recruiting across Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

Military displays formed the backbone of the day. Sadly, the Chinook HC2 was unable to take part but there were solo displays from the Tutor T1, Hawk T1 and a Typhoon FGR4. The Hawk is part of airfield’s history with the first example flying from Dunsfold in 1974 with Duncan Simpson at the controls.

As well as the military there was some superb aerobatics and barnstorming. The Blades have been strong supporters of the event in recent years and again entertained the crowd with their mix of close formation flying and solo aerobatics. They just managed to fit a full display in under the clag. Another team making a welcome return was Team Guinot making their last Dunsfold appearance under the Guinot branding. The Swift Aerobatic Display Team have also been regulars at Dunsfold and braved the conditions to transit from Little Gransden. The display started off normally but as Guy Westgate started rolling the Swift glider on the aerotow, the rope suddenly failed leaving Guy to make a hasty landing on the runway! Peter Wells carried on the display in fine style in his Twister! A new team to Dunsfold were the Matadors with their pair of Sukhoi Su-26 aircraft. Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones always put on a fine display of close formation flying and extraordinary solo aerobatics.

Historic flying is always a strong feature of the Dunsfold lineup. The Great War Display Team recreated the swirling dogfights of the First World War as well as bringing something of Brooklands' history to life with appearances by Sopwith Triplane and Pup replicas.  Making it's Dunsfold debut was Peter Teichman's wonderful Hurricane IIb "Hurri-Bomber." Nearby Brooklands was the Hurricane’s birthplace and Peter's example is the latest to join the few airworthy Hurricanes around the World.

Dunsfold's own history was represented in the air by a trio of piston engined types. The Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight presented it's B-25 Mitchell. Dunsfold has ties with both the Mitchell and the Dutch Air Force so the Mitchell was a highly appropriate addition to the schedule. The Old Flying Machine Company’s pair of Spitfire IX and P-51D Mustang put on a superb display flown by Brian Smith and Alistair Kay. Both types served at Dunsfold during the war with the RAF and RCAF.

However, the biggest draw of the afternoon, quite literally, was the Avro Vulcan B2 XH558. The Vulcan had hoped to attend in 2008 but a problem with the undercarriage meant it was grounded. The Vulcan's appearance at Dunsfold was funded by Eddie Forrester of Aerobytes Ltd who has long been a supporter of the project and a local resident. There were a few moments of high drama as the Vulcan made it's transit from RAF Brize Norton. The weather was not good en route and it was touch and go whether the Vulcan (which may only fly in Visual Flight Rules conditions) could make it through. News came through that it had departed and then that it was talking to Farnborough Radar before it finally appeared a few minutes late in the hold before finally running in to display!

The day was closed by the Red Arrows with their stunning flat display. The team were fresh from Poland. Scheduling this popular display at the end of the day did cause problems as many in the crowd waited to see display and the traffic queues to exit the carparks typically exceeded 2 hours.

The traffic queues were unfortunate, but they shouldn't detract from what was another great event at Dunsfold which raised over £80,000 for the chosen charities. Wings and Wheels is always a superb day out, both in the air and on the ground and it is always a highlight of the display season.

The Entertainers
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The Great War
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Modern RAF
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