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.
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.
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
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
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
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