Dunsfold Wings and Wheels 2008


Damp Start
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Dunsfold's Historics
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Army Flying
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Reds Return
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The Dunsfold Wings and Wheels event has gone from strength to strength since it first appeared in 2005. Since then the show has steadily got bigger and attracted more and more attention. 2008's display saw another wonderful line up of Hawker and Dunsfold related types alongside some of the best displays from across Europe. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author.

There was no doubt that Wings and Wheels 2008 got off to a slight precarious start. Much of the UK woke up under thick rain clouds on Sunday 24th August that were only clearing very slowly from the west. A new car parking and traffic control system was implemented for 2008 after the shows rising popularity started to cause a few slight problems in 2007. One of the show stars, the Avro Vulcan, had already cancelled due to undercarriage problems having been a late addition to the flying programme thanks to the generosity of Eddie Forester and at some points, it did look like we would be lucky to have any flying at all! The weather was causing problems for a number of display items trying to get to Dunsfold. While the Chinook and Merlin could sneak in under the weather, the same was not true for items such as the Red Arrows and Blades. The Reds ended up diverting into Farnborough for the morning where the weather was not a problem.

By late morning, things were slowly improving but it was too late for many of the fly in participants who now couldn't get in before the first motoring session of the day. As the weather just started to clear, a lone Tiger Moth landed on the now sodden grass runway. He came in so soon after the weather he must of literally followed the clearance from his home airfield. Soon afterwards a Slingsby Firefly hopped in from nearby Redhill Aerodrome just ahead of the Blades coming down from their home airshow at Sywell. As the first motoring session of the runway got underway the heavy low clouds started to clear to reveal a bright sunny day! The Firefly, Tiger Moth and RAF Merlin HC3 then were the only arrivals for the static park which also included the based Boeing 747 that starred in Casino Royale and a Mil-24 Hind gunship which is owned by Aces High who are based on site.

In to Top Gear!

The wheels part of the show gets ever more impressive. Brooklands Museum takes a leading role in gathering a number of classic and vintage cars as well as bikes. Mercesdes Benz takes centre stage with several cars from it's base at Mercesdes Benz world at Weybridge, just next to Brooklands.

Dunsfold is no stranger to motoring. Buyers of the Mercedes Benz-Maclaren SLR are brought to Dunsfold to test and learn about the cars and the Formula Women motorsports academy is based here along with a number of other ventures.

Most famous of all though is the airfield's starring role in BBC's Top Gear. The Godalming end of the airfield is home to the "Top Gear Test Track" and the studios themselves can be found in the hangers that once housed the Harrier and Hawk aircraft that were tested here. On the showground, some of Clarkson's, May's and Hammond's creations were displayed by the BBC while the "Follow--through" and "Chicago" doubled as the aprons for the RAF and jet aircraft.

The flying displays were opened by the Tiger Parachute Display Team from the Princess of Wales Regiment, one that is local to Dunsfold. The proximity of Dunsfold to London Gatwick Airport restricts the airspace available to displays above the airfield to about 1,800ft which is all the team could get for their jump. The team jumped from the RAF Chinook HC2 which displayed later in the afternoon with it's usual verve. The Tigers have participated at Dunsfold since the beginning but 2008 saw the first aircraft flying displays from the British Army in the form of the aerobatic Westland Lynx AH7 from the Blue Eagles.

Another helicopter taking part was the Royal Netherlands Air Force Agusta/Bell AB412 which demonstrated it's role as a search and rescue helicopter in the North Sea. The involvement of the Royal Netherlands Air Force is a nod to Dunsfold's past where for a while it was a base for RNAF squadrons.

There were plenty of civilian acts in the display. As mentioned earlier the Blades display team, now sponsored by Barclays Commercial managed to make it through the clag from their home base at Sywell in Northamptonshire. Sywell was also holding it's airshow on the same day so it was another busy weekend of flying for the team.

Team Guinot have been a popular act at Dunsfold ever since they debut a couple of years ago when the team were still under the Utterly Butterly sponsorship. Like the Blades the team were also displaying at Sywell and the same was true for the Swift Aerobatic Display Team who had to aerotow all the way round the busy London airspace to Dunsfold for their display later on in the afternoon was RAFGSA's Piper Pawnee, the S-1 Swift glider and the Silence SA180 Twister.

The Redstarz team are another aerobatic display team that appeared at Dunsfold with a Yak-52 and Sukhoi Su-29. The team debuted at Duxford airshow last year with this interesting acts of two Russian two-seat aerobatic aircraft. Both pilots, Peter Scandrett and Nick Barnard are well known display pilots from the Yakovlevs team and put on a good show displaying the different abilities of these two russian aircraft.

One team who had to wait for quite a while for the weather to clear were the Turbulent Team based down with the Tiger Club at Headcorn. Being further east than Dunsfold meant the weather didn't clear Headcorn as quickly as it had done at Dunsfold. The team fly the little Druine Turbulent which is powered by the same engine as found on the original Volkswagen Beetle car. Their display is classic british barnstorming combining formation flying, flour bombing, limbo flying and balloon bursting.

Warbirds and historical aircraft are also an integral part of the show. Brooklands Museum's Vickers Vimy 19/94 replica made it first ever flying appearance at Wings and Wheels. This aircraft has been based at Dunsfold for a number of years since it's last great adventure and is now under the care of Brooklands Museum. It's display at Dunsfold was also it's swansong at the airfield as it departed for it's new home offslot.

Dunsfold has an interesting history with several diverse roles being performed at the airfield. In 1943, the airfield was home to a number of squadron of B-25 Mitchells from Nos 98 and 180 Squadrons of the Royal Air Force. Also present in 1943 was 320 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force and it was the RNAF Historic Flight's Mitchell that displayed at Dunsfold. Appropriately this aircraft is in the colours of 320 sqn, but from a later campaign. One of Dunsfold's most famous residents was Alex Henshaw. He was a test pilot for Hawkers but also had a distinguished war record. One of the types he flew in North Africa was the Tomahawk, represented at the show by Peter Teichman's P-40M Kittyhawk.

A Douglas DC-3/C-47 on static display was joined by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's example along with a Spitfire XIX and Hurricane IIc in the flying displays. During the Berlin Airlift, Dunsfold was once again busy with DC-3s from Skyways Aviation. The Hurricane that displayed with the BBMF also had a Dunsfold connection as it was the example used by Hawkers as a chase aircraft for the Harrier test flying.

The flying display also celebrates other Surrey based aviation achievements. The Hurricane was designed and built at Brooklands. The example from the BBMF was joined by the Historic Aircraft Collections Hurricane XII. The latter performed a joint display with HAC's other Hawker product, the Nimrod II naval fighter.

No display at Dunsfold would be complete without a look at Hawker's famous cold war aircraft that were tested and flown from here. Delta Jet's Hunter T7 flown by Andy Cubin was joined for some flypasts with the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Hawker Sea Hawk FGA6 before each doing solo displays. It is these formation displays that have strong local connections with Dunsfold and it's history that really make this show stand out from many other similar shows.

However the real star turn of the afternoon was the Royal Air Force. 2008 saw the strongest RAF showing at Dunsfold yet. The Chinook and Merlin were joined by most of the RAF solo displays for 2008. Military aviation is not a common sight over the Surrey countryside  due to the congested airspace from nearby Heathrow and Gatwick Airports so this support was greatly appreciated by the local crowd. The Grob Tutor and Shorts Tucano put on excellent displays despite being programmed in just as a nasty low black cloud floated over the airfield leaving some dramatic light.

The Hawk T1 is of course a highly appropriate display for Dunsfold. In 1974, the first production Hawk flew for the first time from Dunsfold in the hands of Duncan Simpson. That Hawk is still in use today at Boscombe Down.

Duncan Simpson was also present at the show and took particular interest in the Eurofighter Typhoon display flown by Flt Lt Charlie Matthews. This was the first appearance of the Typhoon at Dunsfold and in my personal opinion, the best showing by the Typhoon yet. The cramped airspace of Dunsfold kept the show low and tight with plenty of noise and was greatly appreciated by the crowd. We hope to see the Typhoon back over Dunsfold soon!

The one display everyone talks about however is that given by the Red Arrows. They have been part of all the Dunsfold Wings and Wheels events and it wouldn't be the same without them. They didn't get off to the best of starts having to divert into Farnborough because of the mornings bad weather. This caused a few logistic problems as it meant the "Circus" (The ground crew that travel in the back seat of the Hawks) had to be brought in by road from Farnborough as the Reds arrive on-slot for their display. It was a busy day for the Reds as they had an important flypast to perform over London after leaving Dunsfold for the Olympic handover ceremony.

Despite some of the early setbacks, Dunsfold weathered the storm to produce another wonderful afternoon of flying and motoring. The flying display flowed seamlessly with a rich variety of different shapes and noises many of which had an interesting link to the themes of aviation at Dunsfold and Brooklands. Lets hope for a drier day in 2009!

Dutch Colours
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Sports Flying
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The Light Blues
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Sunset Parade
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