Dover 2009 - Bleriot : The Celebration


Dover in 2009
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Fly-in and Light Aviation
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Fox Glider
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Turbulent Team
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There are few more important anniversaries in aviation than the 100th Anniversary of Bleriot's Channel Crossing in 2009.  Both the French and British wanted to mark an anniversary that had become one of the defining moments between the two countries. Here in the UK, Dover would be hub for these celebrations with events on the coast and at the Duke of York's Military School on the Downs above the town. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of the Author..

Media Coverage

The event didn't escape the gaze of the 24 hour news channels. Here, the BBC's Robert Hall explains the signifance of the anniversary. Sadly the coverage in national and local press did not translate into visitor numbers, particularly on the Sunday.


MIchael Carlson - the event's hero?

It must have been a tough weekend for Michael Carlson. His plans to recreate Bleriot's flight were scuppered on the Saturday but he was determined to make it to Dover which he did early on Sunday morning. Michael turned out to be a bit of a hero for the few  people that turned up. He was soon in the air again to get some pictures of his aircraft over Dover before landing and positioning his aircraft for visitors to get a close up look. He even performed some engine runs too!

The Dover 2009 events were organised by a private company called Cresting Ltd on behalf on the local council. The plans were centred around two sites - one along the seafront and another held on the sports field at the Duke of York's Military School (DYMS). The latter was almost perfectly suited to light aircraft operations with a large area of smooth gras. The centrepiece to the event was to be a recreation of Bleriot's crossing by Michael Carlson from Sweden flying one of his two Thulin A aircraft which was due to arrive on Saturday 25th July during the early evening. The Thulin is licenced produced version of the Bleriot XI built in Sweden. This was to be followed in quick succession with flypasts by the Patrouille de France and the Red Arrows before darkness allowed a spectacular fireworks display in the harbour. Both the harbour and the DYMS were due to host flying displays over the weekend as well as a fly-in of light aircraft at DYMS. There was a mass fly-in of microlights from France as well as a Royal Aero Club air race due to finish over Dover which would dovetail in to the other events. All in all, a very complicated exercise for all concerned.

The first signs that things weren't quite right came when visitors entered the grounds of DYMS. Hastily prepared signs were up at the entrance explaining due to a number of last minute cancellations and and the weather, entry prices were reduced and those with advanced tickets were entitled to a refund. Weather was certainly an issue with the trees surrounding DYMS causing significant turbulence for the light aircraft. In fact, many light aircraft were stuck at airfields nearby unable to brave conditions at DYMS.

Certainly raising a few more eyebrows were the French based Bleriot replicas. These arrived very early on Saturday being chased by several French television helicopters. Euphoric scenes were re-enacted with people running after the aircraft as they landed waving tricolors and firing red flares before many people had arrived. Once on the ground, the Bleriots were briefly parked around the "Bleriot Hanger" before being derigged onto trailers during the afternoon.

The flying displays were somewhat limited too. They kicked off with a display by Mike Dentith in his Boeing Stearman who flew displays at both sites. Mike was a member of Vic Norman's Aerosuperbatics for many years before moving on. He now has his own Stearman fitted with a wingwalking rig though his display at Dover did not include a wingwalker. He did however arrive at Dover via France to pick up 89 year old Tom Lackey who became the oldest wingwalker to cross the channel. Tom later took the salute from the Tigers Parachute Display Team who dropped into both DYMS and the harbour over the weekend.

Entente Cordiale

The finale to Saturday's event was flypast by the Red Arrows and La Patrouille de France in quick succession.

Warbird action came from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster on the Saturday and Cliff Spink in Spitfire Ltd's Spitfire XVIe on the Sunday. The Spitfire was due to appear on both days but suffered a blown tailwheel while at Lydd on Saturday. Parts was flown in from Duxford to get the aircraft ready for displays over the harbour and at DYMS on Sunday.

The Tiger Club Turbulent Team managed to make it to the DYMS on Saturday and really suffered in the turbulence. The local landmarks such as the Chain Radar station proved to an added complication in already very windy conditions.

Closing the display on both days was the MDM-1 Fox Glider of the Swift Aerobatic Display Team flown by Mike Newman. Mike had just returned from the World Gliding Aerobatic Championships in the Czech Republic where he finished 19th - the highest placed british pilot in the history of the competition.

As the day drew to a close on the Saturday, news came through that Michael Carlson was stuck in France - reportedly due to the French closing the airfield!! It was there left to the Red Arrows and Patrouille de France to close the day. Michael did finally make it over the Channel on Sunday morning and treated the crowds to a lose up view of the Bleriot and talked about his "experiences!"

Dover 2009 was an event that promised a great deal but in the end failed to live up to expectations. Many of the mistakes revolve around the decision to have two different show sites in the harbour and at DYMS; perhaps a more focused event at one location would have been easier to market and control. It was very noticable that the event DYMS had virtually no ground exhibitions or traders to attract people and this was very noticable without much of the promsied aerial events. After the event, it's not surprising to hear that Cresting Ltd went into liquidation. The consequence of this is that many people, including those flying displays, catering for the Ball at Dover Castle and so on  have not been paid for their time. It was a sad end to what was a very important anniversary celebration.

Thanks to Dave Walton (TSA Consulting), Andy Preece and Mike Newman

The French Team
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The Tigers
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