Dunsfold 'Wings & Wheels' Report

Sunday 29th August - Monday 30th August 2010

Still only a young event on the calendar, Dunsfold's annual 'Wings and Wheels' event has been gathering momentum since its 2005 inception and this year the show made the step-up to a two-day format over the August Bank Holiday weekend. It's a brave move for any outdoor event to put faith in the notorious British Bank Holiday weather, but on the Monday at least, the conditions were favourable. Fast cars and faster aeroplanes were the order of the day, with the show paying tribute to the airfield's connections to both forms of transport.

Daniel Butcher re-visited the show two years on from his first taste. Ian Haffenden and Will Smith provide additional photos.

Gates Gates opened at 9am, and in years past traffic has been an issue getting both in and out of the venue, so it was reassuring on arrival to find the traffic flowing freely; perhaps down to a revised entry system since my last visit, that sees everyone parked up before they buy their tickets, which were priced at a very reasonable £20 on the day. It was a new concept to me and one that worked a treat. An idea some other shows could learn from to keep things moving on the roads perhaps.

Static aircraft displays were minimal, with just a couple of aircraft representing the RAF parked on the ramp and the resident Douglas C-47, Sea Harrier and Sea Hawk positioned in amongst the stalls and attractions. Cars and Bikes are really the focus of the ground displays, with various car clubs exhibiting, live motoring displays from the likes of Mercedes Benz World from nearby Brooklands and a variety of Military Vehicles.

It's the action that takes place on the runway that is the heart of the event though. The cars and the aircraft displays each take centre stage in alternating segments, to break the show up and keep it interesting. It's a novel take too; many airshows have classic car parades, but Dunsfold take it one step further with high speed runs from all manner of cars and bikes from the road and race track taking turns to pound up and down the line. It's a nice idea, and there were certainly some interesting cars taking part, particularly Nelson Piquet's Grand Prix winning Benetton from the 1990 Formula One season, but the effect is a little bit wasted for the majority of the demonstrations; the distance to the runway for the airshow regulations makes motorcars a fairly distant sight in comparison to the aircraft. As a result, the sounds and in particular the speed, become lost from that range and the whole segment is a little short on drama.

The addition of the Mercedes Benz World's "Silver Arrows" display team, executing donuts and 'formation driving', was a little more exciting, but still too far away to be captivating and the second, hour long segment featured most of the cars we'd already seen earlier in the day. It soon gets repetitive and was treated by many as an opportunity for some lunch, before the flying resumed. Perhaps pitting some cars against aircraft in races along the runway would be a good way to increase the volume and inject a bit more life into this segment while still covering both bases. The Benetton was a highlight though, and some modern F1 machinery in one of the wild street demonstrations that are often seen touring the globe would be a terrific addition and would certainly grab people's attention!

The flying display was much the better half of the show, and featured a nice mix of types, highlights amongst which were many with a Dunsfold connection. Jonathon Whaley and Peter Teichman took up their pair of Hawker products for a formation tribute to the former home of the Hawker Aircraft Company, with the Hunter F58 and Hurricane IIb respectively making a couple of passes before each went into their own, excellent, solo routines. The Royal Navy Historic Flight provided another Hawker aircraft, with a well flown outing for the Sea Hawk.

The Old Flying Machine Company made a memorable impression on the display with their pair of Spitfire and Mustang; the joint routine was very reminiscent of the much missed Breitling Fighters and the fast paced individual showings that followed were every bit as good.

The RAF's Harrier GR9 made a welcome return to the site where it was manufactured as a GR5, to mark 50 years since the experimental P.1127's first vertical takeoff from Dunsfold. The occasion was originally due to be commemorated with a flypast of the GR9 flanked by the Red Arrows, but that was cancelled in the week before the show due to timing schedules. Regardless, Flt Lt Steve Kenworthy entered into the spirit of the occasion with possibly the best Harrier role demo performance of the season; there was no shortage of noise or spectacle with a lengthy hovering routine that pretty much covered the entire length of the crowd line. It's a party trick that never gets old, and was suitably appreciated by the audience, as it is at every airshow.

Despite the failed flypast, the Red Arrows headlined on both days, and were joined by the RAF's Tutor, Typhoon (which was unfortunately not operating from the airfield) and the hastily prepared Hawk role demo, to replace the now-cancelled solo display. The opening sequence of a banking departure into a circuit and overshoot starts the new routine off well and provides some welcome photo opportunities of the fetching display scheme, which were sadly lacking in the 2010 display, but the remainder is - understandably at such short notice - standard fare.

Vulcan XH558 made it on both days of the show, with the now familiar routine benefiting from the addition of an overshoot as the final manoeuvre. It compensates quite nicely for the lack of a takeoff at venues where the runway is too short and adds some much needed noise to a routine that is a little short on theatre, but the Sunday show, flown by Kevin Rumens, looked much the better of the two, with a particularly low pass along the runway before the climb into the departure. By comparison, Monday's performance from Martin Withers saw the Delta Lady up and away before crowd centre, leaving those of us to the right of the centre line with yet another view of the undersides.

A small portion of the flying display was dedicated to barnstorming, with the Breitling Wing Walkers joined by Brendan O'Brien's Flying Circus and the Tiger Club from Headcorn were also on hand for a spot of limbo and flour bombing antics in their diminutive Turbulents. Combined with Melvyn Hiscock's enthusiastic commentary, all were well received and made for a popular segment of the show.

The remainder of the flying acts largely comprised of aerobatic types, with an impressive freestyle act from Gerald Cooper in his CAP 323 joined by more familiar team performances from the Red Bull Matadors, the Blades, the Swift Glider Team and the accompanying Twister duo.

Dunsfold 2010 was an enjoyable show - well priced with a good atmosphere, a commentary team perhaps second only to RIAT's, varied flying and the car displays offer something unique. The 'wings' were undoubtedly the more successful part of the display, but there are plenty more cars to be seen on the showground which add to the wheeled element of the show.

Being critical, perhaps there were a few too many aerobatic types for a relatively short flying display, and the lack of any rotary action compared to my previous visit in 2008 was notable too, but on the whole Dunsfold appear to be moving in the right direction and the two day format was a huge success for the organisers with crowds of over 32,000 for the weekend... getting them all out at the end of the day still caused some headaches though!