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2013 UK Airshows : REVIEW

Wickenby Wings and Wheels

Just to the north of the City of Lincoln lies the form RAF bomber airfield at Wickenby. Today the airfield is a thriving general aviation and industrial base. It is also home to well-known competition aerobatics and display pilot Gerald Cooper who runs his aviation businesses from the airfield. Each year, the airfield hosts Wickenby Wings and Wheels, a small but perfectly formed air show, classic and military vehicle meet which has gained a loyal following.

Paul Johnson/Flightline reports. All photography copyright of the Author.

RAF Wickenby Airfield was opened in 1942 and was used as a satellite station for Nos 12 and 626 Squadrons flying Lancasters. It is surrounded by famous Lincolnshire airfields such as Waddington to the south and Scampton to the east. Like many such stations it was deactivated after the war, but opened again in the 1960s as a general aviation airfield.

The airfield still retains its links with RAF Bomber Command with a memorial walk and visitors centre in the old control tower. The airfield is home to many other relics and some incredible restoration projects as a well a diverse collection of general aviation types.

Wings and Wheels is one of those very British small airshows and classic car meets. The main entrance airfield to the road was lined by classic cars and military vehicles of all types. The showground was the usual eclectic mix of small local traders and charity stalls rather than the commercial stalls found at bigger events. Full sized aircraft were complemented by some superb large scale models too including a spectacular B-29 Superfortress and A-10A Thudnerbolt. Saturday evening also saw a 1940's Dinner & Dance which saw sunset flying displays from Gerald Cooper in his amazing Xtreme Air XA41 and the SWIP Team with their wing-tip pyrotechnics.

The main airshow however took place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Somewhat unusually, a number of acts only appeared on one day which was great for the many people who camped throughout the weekend for the show. With the surrounding RAF Stations, it was good to see the service support the event. Appearing on both days was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with a Spitfire. Saturday's show saw the Spitfire XVI TE331 provide a solo display while Sunday saw one of the Spitfire PRXIXs display for the crowds.

Saturday was a very interesting day in Lincolnshire with several aircraft involved in the Queen's Birthday Flypast and other events. Early arrivals on Saturday got to see one of RAF Waddington's Boeing E-3D Sentrys pass by in the distance on approach to land and also two of the Red Arrows playing over Scampton on arrival back from the big Dutch Air Force Airshow at Volkel. The remaining nine Red Arrows closed the main Saturday display with a colourful flypast over Wickenby off the back of their flypast over Buckingham Palace.

Sunday's display saw a number of historic types take part in the flying. Wickenby is home to an interesting pair of World War One replicas. There is a Fokker Triplane replica which of course is a familiar type around the display circuit, though the Wickenby examples wears some unusual markings combining bright red and the standard style of Luftwaffe camouflage. It duelled with a replica of the Airco DH2 fighter which is a very unusual layout with a pusher propeller and framework rear fuselage. It is even fitted with a replica Vickers Machine gun capable of making suitable machine-gun sounds over the engine note! Further historic biplane displays came from a De Havilland Tiger Moth in RAF training colours. The flight-line was also graced on Sunday by a newly restored Morane Saulnier MS315 which is a French training monoplane from the 1930s. The example on show has just been restored at Wickenby and was making one of its very first public appearances.

1930's style Barnstorming was brought to life on Sunday by Dennis Neville's Flying Circus flying a varied range of aircraft including a De Havilland Chipmunk, De Havilland Tiger Moth, Thruxton Jackaroo, Emeraude and the unique De Havilland Queen Bee. They presented their own unique take on a plenty shoot-out, limbo-flying, balloon-bursting and streamer cutting.

Aerobatics formed a large part of the flying display. Clive Butler displayed his classic Extra 230 while Tom Cassells put in a marvellous display of aresti style aerobatics in a Slingsby Firefly. There were also great formation displays from The Blades and the SWIP Team.

However, it was the two displays by the Wickenby based Xtreme Air XA41s that really caught the eye. Gerald Cooper's strikingly painted XA41 is a familiar sight at the major airshows, but it was great to see the World's No 7 aerobatic pilot showing off his skills and the capabilities of the aircraft over his home base to close each day's flying. However, a real treat for the Wickenby crowds was a solo display by the aircraft's designer, Phillipp Steinbach. Phillipp is an accomplished aerobatic pilot and also a superb design engineer having produced an aircraft that has really taken the aerobatic world by storm taking on the giants such as Extra and Sukhoi. His display was absolutely amazing showing off the incredible low speed aerobatics the XA41 is capable of. There was no respite during his display either; the aircraft was constantly rolling, climbing and changing direction!

Stealing Saturday's show though was a brief appearance by the Avro Vulcan XH558. The aircraft was transiting from its base at Doncaster to displays on the South Coast. Martin Withers flew the first half of his displays before powering to spiral climb heading south to Coningsby and the South Coast. Full marks must go to Wickenby and the Vulcan to the Sky trust for making an appearance at such an intimate venue possible.

It was a excellent weekend at Wickenby. Wings and Wheels is a superb little event that was certainly felt like a Great British day out for all the family.

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