Little Gransden Charity Car & Air Show Report

Sunday 28th August 2011

Every year on the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend the small airfield at Little Gransden in the picturesque Cambridgeshire countryside holds an air and car show to raise money for Children in Need and other charities. Dave Poile MBE and his small team of volunteers, who help organise and run the show, have a history of attracting participants that are rarely seen at other shows in this country. These range from vintage aircraft of the pre-war years right up to modern day military heavy metal. Little Gransden may be one of the smallest venues on the UK air show calendar but the show has big appeal.

Stuart Norris reports from this little grass strip in Cambridgeshire. Additional photography by Dan Butcher & Phil Whalley.

This year's show followed the tried and tested formula of previous years with a selection of aerobatic displays, warbirds, rare formations and some regular performers at Little Gransden in a flying display lasting around four hours. The F-86A Sabre of the Golden Apple Trust was the first aircraft to display, performing two flypasts, the first of which caught everyone by surprise. Its low, fast and loud arrival had people scrambling for their cameras and those who found them in time were rewarded with topside photos as Mark Linney made full use of Little Gransden's 'bent' display line before heading off to Dunsfold Park.

The Thruxton Jackaroo, complete with two parachutists, started the show proper. Unable to take part last year due to the strong winds it was good to see them back complete with the Union Flag. Aerobatics at this years show was provided by the RV-8 pair with Peter Lawton and Stan Hodgkins showing what these home built aircraft are capable of. The nimble DR107, Nigel Willson in his Yak-52, SWIP team and The Pitts Pair all put on fine aerobatic displays. Completing the line up of aerobatic acts were eight times national glider aerobatic champion Guy Westgate and nine times British aerobatic champion Mark Jeffries in his Extra 330SC. The routines from both pilots showed exactly why they have won so many titles with Mark's trademark take off drawing gasps from the crowd.

There were a number of notable formations this year. Representing the early years of aviation were the beautiful Royal Aircraft Factory BE-2c and Fokker DR1 flown by Matthew Boddington and Dan Griffith. The BE-2c wouldn't look out of place with the Edwardian aircraft at the Shuttleworth collection. The immaculate Spartan pair, flown by Bob Morcom and Ian Austin, flew in formation with a Staggerwing flown by Nigel Willson. These three executive aircraft together created a magnificent sight and sound taking the crowd back to the 1930's when flying as a passenger was for the rich and not the masses. Simon Wilson, in the Provost, and John Beattie, in the Jet Provost, were the third of the notable formations before breaking to perform solo routines. A show at Little Gransden wouldn't be complete without a P51D Mustang or two and Maurice Hammond and Dave Evans obliged flying their familiar routine in “Janie” and “Marinell”.

The T28 Fennec put on an impressive display, with Clive Denney performing a more sedate display in the Chipmunk. A Boeing Stearman, complete with Wing walker, took part in this year's show but not in the familiar colours most people have come to expect. The original girl on the wing, Helen Tempest, showed she is as agile as ever with Mike Dentith flying the Stearman proving there other alternatives to the well known Breitling Wingwalking team.

The most unusual display of the day came from Peter Holloway in his Storch which seems to defy the laws of physics with its slow speed and ungainly appearance. The display proved very popular with the crowd. The headline participant in most peoples opinion this year was the CP-140 Aurora from 405 Squadron Canadian Armed Forces. Displaying later in the day than planned due to technical reasons the Aurora provided a full display which was a pleasant surprise, as most people were expecting a couple of flypasts. During World War Two 405 squadron were based at nearby RAF Gransden Lodge flying a number of types including the legendary Avro Lancaster. Personnel from the present day 405 squadron stood alongside members of the Air training Corps and Royal British Legion during the short service held to remember those who have fallen in conflict. The impeccably observed one minute silence was broken by the sound of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster flying over the airfield. It really was a poignant moment.

Before the memorial service Dave explained the planning that had gone into getting the Aurora and the Canadians to attend the show, and he and his team deserve huge credit for putting on another wonderful show this year for terrific value. Ticket prices were £15 for an adult, £10 for a pensioner, £7 for child aged between 5 and 16 with children aged 4 or under getting in for free. A family ticket for two adults and two kids cost £40. All in all Little Gransden offers a great value day out for the whole family with a relaxed atmosphere few shows, if any, can match.