Dunsfold 'Wings & Wheels' Report

Sunday 28th August - Monday 29th August 2011

Dunsfold is probably best known as 'that place where Top Gear's filmed' or, in the aviation world, the long term home of Hawker Aircraft Company. It is these two subjects that form the base for the annual Wings and Wheels event, now in its seventh year and already well established on the air show circuit as one of the best family-orientated displays in the UK.

Dean West shares a first timer's opinion on Dunsfold's combined aircraft and auto show. All photography by the author.

Situated in deepest Surrey, the two-day event managed to attract well over 30,000 visitors, keen to satisfy their automotive and aviation needs. The Wheels segment of the show opened with a mix of high performance cars, alongside the more classic types, taking to Dunsfold's 6000ft runway. There was also a vehicle stunt area and a large static display of everything from modern supercars through to retro military vehicles to keep the petrolheads happy.

The Wings element of the show opened on a poignant note, paying tribute to 'Red 4', Flt Lt. Jon Egging, who was tragically killed as the team made a recovery to Bournemouth Airport following a display over the seafront. The aerodrome fell silent for a minute, before the sound of the Rolls Royce Merlin filled the air as Peter Teichman appeared above the tree line in his Spitfire PR MkXI to put on a beautifully elegant display. Another warbird from Teichman's Hangar 11 collection was present, in the shape of the scarcely seen P-40M Kittyhawk, sporting recently applied Clawin' Kitty noseart.

With the Reds having understandably cancelled their Sunday only appearance at the show, the Vulcan would have undoubtedly been the star of the event. However, after overcoming a technical issue the week previous to the show, the aircraft suffered a major hydraulic issue on the transit down to Dunsfold on Sunday, forcing the Vulcan to divert in to RAF Coningsby and cancel it's appearance on both days.

It was therefore left to other classic types to steal the show, with the only flying F-86 Sabre outside of the USA proving to be a highlight for the enthusiasts. With the aircraft having been up for sale for the past few years, any opportunity to see the type in the air is always appreciated.

What could possibly be one of the best formations of the season then kicked-off a Hawker based section of the flying, with the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Sea Fury T20 formating with Jonathon Whaley's Hunter F58 'Miss Demeanour' for no less than four formation passes before Jonathon peeled away to let Lt Cdr Chris Gotke display the Sea Fury. The solo display of Miss Demeanour was shortly followed by Team Viper, flying 3 Hunters on the Sunday due to pilot availability. On the Monday the team were able to get 4 of Hawker's finest in the air, a great feat considering the costs and work involved in keeping these 60 year old aircraft in the skies.

The Royal Air Force's BAe Systems Hawk T1 solo display brought the Hawker theme through to the modern day, as the type, originally built under the Hawker Siddeley heading, went through its final stages of assembly at Dunsfold. The display by Flt Lt Juliette 'Jules' Fleming also helped celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first British woman to gain a pilot's licence, that being Hilda Hewitt at the nearby Brooklands airfield.

Alongside the Hawk, the RAF had the full contingent of singled-engined trainers on display, with Flt Lt Shaun Kimberley flying the Grob Tutor T1 and Flt Lt Dan Hayes displaying the Shorts Tucano T1. Kimberley, Fleming and Hayes are all first year display pilots on their types, attending a huge number of airshows and events throughout the UK and Europe.

It was two single engined pairs displays that impressed the crowds, with many applauding and cheering the looping manoeuvres of the Breitling Wingwalkers, with the Matadors, flown by Red Bull Air Race champion Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones, keeping the audience on their toes with a dynamic display of tight formation aerobatics. The team have a new mount for the 2011 season in the form of the German built Sbach 300, which seems to the aerobatic type of choice, with Gerald Cooper also putting the aircraft through its paces in a stunning display.

Brendan O' Brien's Flying Circus is always a crowd-pleaser. O'Brien, or should we say Captain Boogaloo, takes to the skies but unfortunately always seems to lose his glasses and only makes things worse by needing the loo! Obviously the easiest solution to these problems would be to land the Piper Cub on the top of a trailer being pulled along the runway by a rather plush Bentley.

The Turbulent Team provided a unique mix to the aerial display with some flour bombing, balloon popping and limbo-flying, while the Blades put on their usual polished display of formation and solo aerobatics. The Royal Navy Lynx HMA8 solo, SWIP Team and Glider FX also helped round up the flying element of the show.

However, it was left to Alister Kay to close the event, his steed being P-51D Mustang 'Ferocious Frankie' of the Old Flying Machine Company. Kay put Frankie through her paces to great effect with a truly graceful display, the beautiful high-pitched whine that's so familiar with the Mustang echoing around the Surrey countryside in the fading light. A glorious way to end a great day.