Each year the August bank holiday weekend plays host to the Wings & Wheels show at Dunsfold Park in Surrey – a show full of motoring action from Brooklands Museum as well as a varied six hour flying display.
Dunsfold Park – home of BBC’s Topgear – is a fairly small aerodrome in the Surrey countryside and once a year hosts one of the best events on the air show circuit. Dunsfold is a special airfield, steeped in aviation history and this year celebrated its 70th anniversary.
During the second world war it was home to the Royal Canadian Air Force who occupied the airfield between 1942 – 1944 and a number of different aircraft were based there, including Mitchell bombers, Mustangs and Spitfires just to name a few. Dunsfold was declared inactive by the RAF in 1946 and just four years later was taken over by one of the biggest British aviation companies that has ever existed – Hawker Aircraft.
Dunsfold soon became a renowned airfield due to its development of aircraft such as the the Hunter, Harrier and Hawk. One of the cheif test pilots for Hawker was Duncan Simpson who even lived on site at the aerodrome during his time with the company.
Today, it is more well known for its involvement in the entertainment industry as well as being home to the Surrey Air Ambulance Service – one of the main benefactors of the show.
The show begins with a parade of ex-military vehicles, all of which are privately owned and maintained in an excellent condition. This year there seemed to be a nice varied selection of vehicles – Jeeps, small tanks, and large trucks – more than enough to make a military fan smile.
Once the grass track was clear of vehicles, the airstrip was handed over to the first part of the motoring element – the wheels of the show. The first group of cars to take to the tarmac were the ‘Rally For Heroes’ participants – 50 drivers who took part in a special fund raising event, travelling five miles for every soldier lost in the Afghanistan conflict to raise money for Help For Heroes and The Royal British Legion. An extremely worth while cause.
The motoring highlight of the two day event is the daily run of vintage cars and motorcycles from the Brooklands Museum collection. Each group of vehicles get two high speed runs up the runway allowing the drivers to show off the potential power of each car or bike. Due to the distance from the crowd-line its a little tricky to achieve good results but even so, I’m quite pleased with what I came away with.
The show itself is split into four parts: motoring, air display, motoring, air display – so with the motoring element over it was time for the airfield to be handed over to those that rule the sky.
The organisers always try to bring a varied display programme to the show and this year they did a superb job. The first real treat came in the form of Peter Teichman’s P-40 Kittyhawk and Hawker Hurricane. The Kittyhawk is still in it’s scheme from filming George Lucas’ Red Tails. If ever you want a lesson in how to display a warbird then Peter is your guy because the way he throws about his aircraft is just truely incredible. Fast arching top side passes combined with high loops and graceful rolls make for an outstanding aerial display and I never get tired of his aircraft.
One act that seems to display at Dunsfold on a regular basis is the Turbulent Team – four little single prop aircraft that can be put together in your (fairly big) back garden. The Turbulent Team bring back the days of barnstorming and perform a number of tricks which include flying under bunting, popping balloons in mid-air and also some explosive flour bombing. Its always nice to see these guys perform and they never fail to generate laughter and cheers from the audience.
I’m not sure what it is about Dunsfold airfield but the aircraft always feel much lower to the ground than at the bigger shows and the Classic Aircraft Trust’s Meteor was just one of those that pushed the limits of display flying. With the F-86 sabre grounded at Duxford, the Meteor is currently the oldest flying jet aircraft in the world but seeing it display, its hard to believe that its that old at all! It looks a joy to fly and the Classic Aircraft Trust certainly put the aircraft through its paces in the 10 minute display. The noise of the Meteor is superb and the smell of burning aviation fuel as it swoops past is undeniably one of the thrills of jet aircraft.
The Meteor wasn’t the only vintage jet aircraft in attendance this year, Jonathan Whaley brought his stunningly beautiful Hawker Hunter along for the show. Jonathan always looks like he’s having the time of his life and on Sunday he wowed the crowds with a low fast pass to finish his sequence – much faster than I’ve ever seen Miss Demeanour go before!
One of the things that Wings & Wheels is well known for is some of the pairings it brings together in the air. On Sunday this year, Miss Demeanour and the Royal Naval Historic Flight Hawker Sea Fury took to the air to perform a number of flypasts and then on Monday the plan was to get them both in the air again along with the Meteor. However, due to weather conditions out to the west, the Sea Fury had to return to Yeovilton off-slot and therefore only the Hunter and Meteor flew together. I have to say, this was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen at an air show and a huge well done to the organisers for getting it sorted.
There was also the pairing of the Old Flying Machine Company Mustang Ferocious Frankie and Spitfire MH434.
The crowd favourites were also present in the form of the Red Arrows (Sunday only), Tornado Role Demo, Breitling Wingwalkers, AAC Apache and Avro Vulcan XH558 – all of which put on terrific displays. The Breitling girls were dressed in their Union Jack jumpsuits on Monday as they were off to the ‘Best of Britian’ display at Kemble – I spent some time with the girls Monday morning and will be writing an accompanying article shortly, so watch out for it. Also, due to a comms failure at Scampton Sunday morning, the Reds flew with a Hawk that was not fitted with a smoke pod so ended up flying the entire display with two absent smoke trails (to make the displays symmetrical).
Fresh from jumping out of a helicopter as the Queen at the Olympics opening ceremony, Gary Connery made an appearance on Monday to skydive in his wingsuit. Gary arrived on the airfield in a Cobra and was soon lifted to about 2000ft, ready to jump and glide along the crowd-line. It was all over and done with very quickly but nevertheless it was interesting to witness and its definitely not something you see every day.
All in all Wings & Wheels was a superb show and a fitting celebration of Dunsfold’s 70th birthday. Value for money, a varied flying display, great motoring action and a fantastic commentary team make Wings & Wheels one of THE must-do shows on the air-show circuit and I for one will be returning next year for another brilliant weekend.
What will the organisers think of for 2013…..
To see all photographs taken at Wings & Wheels 2012, visit facebook.com/tommercerphotography and hit ‘like’ now!