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2010 UK Airshows : REVIEW

Dunsfold Wings and Wheels 2010

Programme CoverDunsfold has always been a very secretive airfield. Through it's operational life as a military and testing airfield, much of its activity has been shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Today things are very different as the airfield is home to the BBC's Top Gear programme as well as a useful film set which has been used in Casino Royale and other films.

The airfield also remains active for aviation. Many light aircraft are hangared here and it's not uncommon to see private jets using Dunsfold. The annual Wings and Wheels show is the highlight of the year for Dunsfold Park and has grown in to one of the best airshows in the country thanks to its eclectic mix of flying and motoring. The show is run for some very deserving national and local charities which this year included Help for Heroes, CHASE, the Surrey Air Ambulance, Brooklands Museum and the Cranleigh Village Hospital Trust. 2010 also marked the first two-day Wings and Wheels thanks to the shows growing popularity.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from the Surrey/Sussex border. All photography copyright of the Author.

In 2004, we were well and truly surprised by Dunsfold Wings and Wheels. It was certainly a new show that hit the ground running with some fantastic flying action and s superb presentation of historic motor-racing machinery. This quiet corner of Surrey was well and truly transformed into a vibrant event that everyone could enjoy.

The show has continued to grow and being completely honest, I cannot think of a year when this show did not deliver one of the highlights of the season. The show's popularity naturally grew as the word spread and in 2009 Dunsfold very nearly came to bursting point with estimated crowds in 25,000 despite less than helpful weather for a flying display. That success encouraged Dunsfold to expand the event into a new two-day format with a revised traffic management plan. The new arrangements worked really well and getting in and out of the show site was a breeze but I can't help thinking it would be better to have a "ticket-check" on the perimeter gates to make sure everyone on the airfield has tickets!

Though the weather was not quite as bad as it had been on the South Coast the week before for Shoreham and Bournemouth, it was still the usual August mix of sunshine and showers over the two days. Saturday saw a very nasty shower in the middle of the flying display which delayed the display a fair bit, but Sunday was much drier! The weather didn't deter another record crowd of 32,000 attending over the two days.

While the two had been extended to two days, the well-loved format of the show has stayed the same. Each morning the airfield was opened with a varied fly-in of vintage and other civilian aircraft including such delights as Boeing Stearman, the Messerschmitt Bf108, Morane Alycon and Percivial Pembroke.

On top of the flying, there were two periods of motoring demonstrations on the main runway as well as a parade of military vehicles. Amongst the most interesting cars on display were the aero-engined racers such as Brooklands Museum's Napier Railton. These fire-breathing monsters made for an epic sight (and noise) charging up Dunsfold’s runway. There were also supercars, Formula 1 and other single seaters, motorbikes and a few oddities such as V8 muscle pick-up trucks!

Sunday even saw some "formation" stunt driving from the "Silver Arrows" based at Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands. The immensely skilful drivers performed impossibly close to each other and also nearly matched the Red Arrows for the amount of smoke they could produce from their tyres!

However, we may be biased, but the flying displays were the main event of the day. As is Dunsfold tradition, many of the acts followed the theme of Dunsfold history as well as that of the Hawker family of aircraft. Representing perhaps the most famous Hawker product was the Hurricane IIb flown by Peter Teichman. On the Monday, Peter formed up with the Hunter F58a Miss Demeanour flown by Jonathon Whalley for a unique and rare "Hawker Heritage" pair. Hunters have long been associated with Dunsfold, and Jonathon's Hunter was a Dunsfold before and after it's career with the Swiss Air Force.

A very nice addition to the line up was the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Hawker (Armstrong Whitworth) Sea Hawk FGA6. The Sea Hawk put on a most elegant display highlight the beautiful lines of this early naval jet fighter. Dunsfold Park's own very tired looking example was on static display.

The Royal Air Force also contributed to the Hawker theme with perhaps two of the most iconic modern RAF aircraft, the Hawk and the Harrier. The Hawk was seen in two displays, the RAF solo Hawk Role Demonstration flown by Flt Lt Scott 'Disco' Griffith of 19(R) Squadron and the Red Arrows. The Reds endured some pretty rotten conditions on the Saturday with heavy showers hitting Dunsfold just as they were due to display. They held on the ground for quite some time before eventually launching into their full length display which was held in blue skies by the end of their show!

2010 marked the first Harrier display at Dunsfold since 2006, the last time the RAF had a "solo" display from the type. There can be few more appropriate venues to see the Harrier fly as Dunsfold was the main test base for the type ever since the first Hawker P1127 flew right through to the closure of BAE Systems Dunsfold in 2000. Flt Lt Steve Kenworthy flew his "role demonstration" of the Harrier over the History airfield in the late afternoon sun on both days of the show, catching some of the spray on the Saturday making for a spectacular "touch and go" on Sunday. The older generation Sea Harrier FA2 was represented by the resident example that often appears in the backdrop of Top Gear!

While Dunsfold may be famous for its Hawker/British Aerospace history, it was a wartime airfield too. Between 1942 and 1945 a variety of aircraft operated from Dunsfold, including B-25 Mitchell Bombers, Typhoons, Mustangs, Mosquitoes and Spitfires. After the war, the airfield was used as a repatriation centre and over 47,000 prisoners of war were returned to their homelands using Dakota, Lancaster, Stirling and Halifax aircraft.

Representing the wartime history of the airfield were the Old Flying Machine Company's Duo of Spitfire IX and P-51D Mustang flown by Brian Smith and Alister Kay. The powerful display by these two fighters always catches the eye along with that emotive noise of Rolls Royce Merlins and the scream of the P-51. Dunsfold post war role was also well represented by Aces High C-47/DC-3 Dakota on the ground and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Avro Lancaster in the air.

While it may not of had much of connection to Dunsfold, Avro Vulcan XH558 made two spectacular appearances over the weekend with each display ending with an ear-splitting low approach. The week previously the Vulcan had been stuck on the ground at Bournemouth due to weather and reportedly lost £50,000 as it was not able to complete its display weekend. The aircraft had remained at Bournemouth throughout the week before departing straight into displays at Dunsfold and Uffington. The improved weather must have been a welcome relief to the Vulcan to the Sky Trust!

As well as all the themed flying, there was amazing variety in the flying displays. Dunsfold attracted some of the best civilian displays on the circuit. Gerald Coopers gave a superb solo freestyle performance in his CAP 232 while the Matadors and The Blades provided some amazing formation aerobatics in their Sukhoi Su-26s and Extra 300LPs respectively. There were also displays from the Twister Duo and the Swift Aerobatic Display Team, the latter using a Pilatus B4 glider rather than their familiar Swift glider following the landing accident at Shoreham the week before.

Amongst the civilian acts, there was a definite barnstorming theme. The Tiger Club Turbulent Team and the Breitling Wingwalkers are familiar "Barnstorming" acts to the major shows, but it was Wings and Wheels commentator Brendan O'Brien in his J3 Cub that stole the show thanks to supporting commentary from Melvyn Hiscock and some amazing flying. Winds on both days prevent Brendan from making a full-stop landing on his trailer towed by a rather nice Bentley but Brendan's crazy flying with the commentary has to be one of the most entertaining displays seen all year!!!

The British Army was represented by the Tigers Freefall Parachute Display Team who never fail to disappoint with their precise and dramatic drops. The Royal Air Force also provided a number of further solo displays to the Harrier and Hawk. The Tutor and Tucano both appeared over the weekend, though by the Monday both Tucano aircraft has gone unserviceable. The finale act to Wings and Wheels was the RAF Typhoon FGR4 flown by Flt Lt Tim Clements. I've always felt the "flat" displays at Dunsfold have always been the best displays given by the Typhoon and the 201 display was no different. There is something about the backdrop for the display, the acoustics around Dunsfold and the presence of the aircraft that makes for a superb display that has the all the Dunsfold crowd looking up at the display!

Dunsfold Wings and Wheels 2010 was once again one of the true highlights of the UK airshow season. It's the perfect sized airshow that provides great entertainment both on the ground and in the air. It's clearly a mix that has proved popular with the public with larger audiences and a growing reputation for excellence. Jamie McAllister, the event's director commented: “We have received an unprecedented amount of positive feedback from enthusiastic guests and are overwhelmed by the success of the Show. Having invested substantially in the two day format, particularly the marshalling and traffic management on the external road junctions, it is rewarding for the whole team to know it has paid off and that everyone enjoyed such a smooth entry and exit to the show. We are all very much looking forward to next year and can confirm we will be holding the Show on Sunday 28th and Monday 29th August. In response to early demand tickets will be on sale from Friday 3rd September.”

What did you think of the show? Which displays did you enjoy? What didn't you enjoy? Let us know on our Facebook page!

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