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2010 UK Airshows : REVIEW

Henham Park Wings & Wheels Rally 2010

Programme CoverHas Summer finally appeared? It may have been grey and damp first thing over Suffolk, but that soon gave way to some crisp blue skies and fluffy white clouds! It was still very cold for the time of year! Organised by the Halesworth Lions, Henham Park's Wings and Wheels Rally really is a hidden gem of the airshow season taking place in the landscaped grounds of former mansion. It's a superb venue for a large fly-in and cracking little air display.

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

After a bitterly cold and wet day at Kemble the day before, the appearance of dry blue skies was more of a relief than anything else. Henham Park is situated between Halesworth and Southwold in Suffolk. There have been three "Henham Halls" since pre-Tutor times with the last finally being demolished in 1953 by John Rous, the 4th Earl of Stradbroke. There are plans for a new Henham Hall which will provide a hotel and leisure resort for the local area.

Henham Park itself has not fallen into disrepair, but has remained a beautifully managed area of parkland. For the most part, the area which hosts the Wings and Wheels Rally is used for sheep grazing, but also hosts other major events including a big Steam Rally and Latitude, a major summer performing arts festival.

The Wings and Wheels Rally is organised by the Halesworth Lions and came into being after they were asked to take over the Walpole Car Rally. The Lions are a worldwide community service organisation with 44,600 different clubs and over 1,400,000 members! Wings and Wheels is an impressive event that attracts around 5,000 people each year and not only hosts aviation activities, but also a large classic and vintage car rally as well as other displays including jousting and a Trampoline act!

One of the great things about the Wings and Wheels Rally is the warm and welcoming atmosphere. The whole day has a relaxed feel to it with the emphasis on providing a fun day out for all those taking part in and visiting the event.

The flying activities were centred around a 630m long airstrip created in the grounds between the trees. Watching aircraft come and go from this small strip was an impressive spectacle, particularly as the trees can cause turbulence for low flying aircraft. Up to 110 aircraft indicated they want to fly-in, but the weather, although it was clearing throughout the day, forced many to abandon plans to reach Henham.

In the end, 51 aircraft made it to the event which was impressive. The first to arrive was a Piper L4 Cub wearing it's United States Army Air Force markings. The Cub was just the start of an influx of aircraft which included everything from vintage types through popular general aviation types and Ultralights.

Amongst the stand-out stars of the fly-in were a Boredom Fighter marked up a first world war Spad, a stunning polished metallic blue Luscombe Silvair as well as example of a Bulldog, Chipmunk, Stearman, Tipsy Moth, Tiger Moth and Hornet Moth which made a wonderful sight in the vintage aircraft park.

The flying display in the afternoon was short, but very sweet involving three of the UK's most popular acts. The opening act was quite a coup for Henham, as it was the first public displays by AeroSuperBatics Ltd's Wingwalking Team under their new guise as the Breitling Wingwalkers.

The most noticeable difference is that the team have swapped the red and white of Guinot for a very vivid orange, brown and white colour scheme. You certainly won't miss the aircraft now! The new sponsorship deal has seen the Breitling colours applied to a pair of the team's aircraft and they expect to attend around 100 displays over the course of the display season as well as visiting China later in the year.

The teams display is as exciting as ever with Martyn Carrington and Dave Barrel performing formation loops and opposition passes while wingwalkers Sarah Tanner and Stella Guilding performed daredevil acrobatic manoeuvres in their special rigs on the top wings!

Lining up after the Wingwalker formation was Nigel Willson in his brightly coloured Yakovlev Yak-52. Nigel is a popular performer at airshows, particularly those in East Anglia. The Yak is great airshow aircraft with plenty of presence and capable of some stomach-churning aerobatics.

Nigel's Yak was built for the Russian Air Force in 1987 and is kept in stock condition with the standard Ivchenko M-14P 9 cylinder 360HP radial engine. Nigel made full use of the unique display site including a couple of low passes in front of the trees towards the end of his display.

Rounding off the flying display were the Swift Aerobatic Display Team with their festival of powered and unpowered aerobatics. The team fly three different types of aircraft, the Piper PA25 Pawnee towplane, the SA1100 Twister light sports aircraft and the Swift S-1 competition aerobatics glider. Flying the aircraft at Henham were Paul Moslin in the Pawnee, Pete Wells in the Twister and team leader Guy Westgate in the Swift.

The team's display is unique with the low level aerotow opening their display before aerobatic solos from the Twister and finally the Swift. Their display at Henham literally silenced the crowds with the beautiful corkscrew pass and Guy's trademark roll-on-tow.

Henham Park Wings and Wheels may be a small event compared some of the more well known airshows, but it is a wonderful day out for all the family with it friendly atmosphere and superb location. We hope to be back in 2011!

We would like to thank John Hill for his help with this report

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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