Now in its eleventh year, the Dunsfold Wings and Wheels show has cemented its place as one of the best annual events of both the UK’s aviation and motoring scenes. Having raised in excess of £250,000 for various charities since its inception, 2015 was billed to be yet another show to remember. AeroResource’s Jamie Ewan made the journey down to the historic airfield for a look at the flying action.
Better known as the home of ‘that’ motoring show (Top Gear), the secluded airfield at Dunsfold has until fairly recently been effectively shrouded in secrecy. Found in the deepest, darkest reaches of Surrey, the airfield has been both a hub for the UK’s aviation and automotive movements and it is these two that make the show what it is – a huge exhibition of both ‘Wings and Wheels’. Given the popularity of these two subjects, it’s not surprising that last year’s edition saw the site welcome more than 40,000 people for what was said to be the best in its history. With that in mind, it is fair to say that the challenge was on for the team behind the show to try to equal, or even better, last year’s success.
In the lead up to the show, two distinct themes could be seen in the listed winged participants due to fill the skies during the planned five-hour flying display – types with a historical connection to Dunsfold and a plethora of classic jets.
Sadly, as many will know, both the airshow and classic jet world saw tragedy with the horrific incident involving Hawker Hunter T7 WV372 on the West Sussex coast. With many questioning the need for display flying, especially by vintage jets, airshows in general and the like, it wasn’t far from the minds of most as to whether or not the show would be limited or even happen at all. Following an announcement by the Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA) restricting all vintage jets from performing high-energy manoeuvres, the team at Dunsfold announced that the participation list had been revised to allow for these changes. To meet them, two of the aircraft due to give displays were limited to a series of flypasts – these being Jeff Bell’s immaculate BAC Jet Provost T.5 XW324 (G-BWSG) and the beautiful Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15UTI of the Flyvåpnets Historiske Skvadron (Norweigian Air Force Historical Squadron). That said, due to restrictions keeping the JP on the ground at Shoreham Airport following the accident, it was understandably pulled from the line-up.
As well as the general restrictions placed by the Civil Aviation Authority, further precautionary steps were taken and a temporary grounding on all variants of the Hunter was issued by the CAA. For that reason, the planned appearance of the type was cancelled – a shame considering the connection both the airfield and jet have with one another, however understandable given the very sad circumstances. In a very touching move by the organisers of the show a minutes silence was held just prior to the flying in remembrance to all of those involved in the tragic events at Shoreham.
The honour of opening the weekends flying fell to the one and only Peter Teichman in his wonderful 1943 built Curtiss P-40M Kittyhawk ‘Lulu Belle’ (G-KITT) with a superb example of energetic warbird flying – including his usual topside passes. Kudos must go to Peter for his arrival on the Saturday – as silence prevailed over the aerodrome many could not have missed the ‘dot’ that had been holding to the north skimming the trees accompanied by the distant growl of an Allison engine slowly approaching. As the silence came to an end the air was suddenly filled with the shriek of the Kittyhawk as the aircraft was pulled up into the vertical to start the display. The only other noise to be heard – the applauding crowd! In the first of many links between the aircraft and the airfield, the Kittyhawk was one of the first types operated from the site by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during the Second World War. The type was also flown by the legend that is Neville Duke in the North African campaign before he became a Test Pilot flying for Hawker out of Dunsfold.
Other world War Two fighters came in the form of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) with one of their two Hawker Hurricane IIcs and the ‘baby spit’ Spitfire while the Old Flying Machine Company (OFMC) provided both Spitfire IX MH434 and P-51D Mustang ‘Ferocious Frankie’.
With Hawker Hurricane IIc PZ865 in the hands of the BBMF’s Officer Commanding, Squadron Leader Duncan Mason and Flight Lieutenant Antony ‘Parky’ Parkinson MBE in the cockpit of Supermarine Spitfire IIa P7350, the pair flew a ballet of formation passes, before splitting and filling the sky with the sweet sound of the Rolls Royce Merlin during solo efforts from each. In this, the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, it was rather fitting to have P7350on display duty as the aircraft is in fact a veteran of the battle – the scars of which can still be seen up close.
Having been the home of Hawker Aircraft Company it was again somewhat fitting for PZ865 to display, especially given that the aircraft once called Dunsfold home while being used by the company from 1950 until the early 1970s when it went on to join the BBMF. As well as the Hurricanes unique link with the site, examples of both types destined for the Força Aérea Portuguesa (Portuguese Air Force) were refurbished and then test flown from the airfield.
When compared to the more sedate and ballet like display of the BBMF fighters, the OFMC pair are in a league of their own, especially when it comes to close formation work and warbird solo displays. With Brian Smith leading the way in possibly the most famous flying Spitfire of all (MH434), Steve Jones flew expertly on his wing in the Mustang before splitting up for blistering solo routines – ‘Frankie’ producing her well known spine tingling whistling howl throughout. To think, that unique sound was no doubt heard for the first time over the Surrey Weald more than 70 years ago with a number of RCAF units operating Mustang Mk Is from the aerodrome in 1942.
Second World War heavy metal was on show with displays by both a North American TB-25J Mitchell, yet another link with the airfield’s history, and a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, the latter being announced in the week leading up to the show and a very welcomed addition. Better known as ‘Sally B’, the aircraft performed the usual high standard of display with Peter Kyper at the controls. Included in the display was the traditional sweeping topside pass with white smoke billowing from her port engines in salute to the 79,000 Allied aircrew who lost their lives in the skies of Europe during the Second World War.
Operated by the Koninklijke Luchtmacht Historische Vlucht (Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight) the TB-25J (PH-XXV) wears the colours of No. 320 (Netherlands) Squadron RAF, which also called Dunsfold home during the last year of the Second World War. Having been seen in the UK on numerous occasions it was a delight to see the aircraft thrown around as if it was a fighter, yet with the grace and elegance of a bomber.
Support from the Royal Air Force came in the way of the Red Arrows, the excellent Eurofighter Typhoon, the evocative Synchro 75 pair, the mighty Tutor, the jaw-dropping Chinook and the new boys on the scene, the Hawk T2 Role Demo, with the latter providing a look at the legacy of a type that took to the skies for the first time just over 41 years ago from the very runway they were operating from – the Hawk T1. The added pyrotechnics and well thought out commentary really do give you an insight into what the aircraft, pilots and IV(R) Squadron undertake day to day at RAF Valley. An added bonus was the aircraft using their brake chutes as they rolled out – something not often seen in public!
With a plethora of centenary schemed aircraft available, the question many ask when it comes to the solo Typhoon display provided by 29(R) Squadron this year is ‘what jet will it be?’. The honour fell to the squadron’s centenary jet (ZK353/BQ) which has been dubbed as the ‘red’ or ‘ruby’ jet due to its striking tail and canards. Flown by display pilotFlight Lieutenant Jonny Dowen, the aircraft was flung round the skies with ample amounts of noise, burner and just a hint of vapour as he pulled the jet round with gusto.
A second Typhoon with Flt Lt Ben Westoby-Brooks in the cockpit was on hand to join up with the BBMF’s Spitfire IIa for the Royal Air Force’s expressive salute to the ‘The Few’ who defended the skies 75 years ago. Unlike the standard grey Typhoons that sit on Quick Reaction Alert – very much like ‘The Few’ did – this jet was the camouflage painted jet ZK349, or ‘GiNA’ as it has been christened, wearing the codes of Fighter Commands only Victoria Cross recipient – 249 Squadron’s Flight Lieutenant James Brindley Nicolson. Separated by some 55 years of aerospace design, the two aircraft flew around in perfect unison and then split for a number of opposition passes before departing in their own unique way – the Typhoon vertically into the murk with burners blazing and the Spitfire into a victory roll – the sincere pair is a fine tribute and, no matter how loud the Typhoon’s EJ200s are, there is always the slightest hint of the Spitfires Rolls Royce Merlin growl fighting back as the pair conclude their show.
Taking part in the flying on the Saturday only, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team were sadly restricted to a ‘rolling’ show due to the rather inclement weather during their slot. Although the team did have nine of their distinctive red jets, only eight of them were fitted with their smoke system as a number of jets have been swapped out with other airframes.
Both the Chinook and Tutor flew excellent solo displays with the latter showing the crowds an excellent example of both height and energy management in the hands of Flt Lt Andy Preece, whilst the Chinook beat the air into submission with huge amounts of ‘bladeslap’. Those there on the Sunday were lucky enough to see the display carried out by the elusive yet beautifully marked 18(B) Squadron centenary machine (ZA712/W) nicknamed ‘Pegasus’.
Further RAF support could be seen in the static display with 208 Squadron sending one of their Hawk T1s and the jet in question being their well thought out centenary marked example. Alongside this was one of RAF Benson’s workhorses in the form of a Puma HC2. Although not technically RAF assets anymore, a number of ex-RAF BAe 125s in various states were also placed in the static park all still wearing their 32(TR) Squadron schemes. Other aircraft on show included Dunsfold’s very own Hollywood star, Boeing 747-200 G-BDXJ, Aces High Douglas Dakota C-47A Skytrain N147DC and ex-Qatari Air Force VIP flight Westland Commando 2C wearing the serial SL-01 of Sierra Leone, as well as numerous general aviation types.
Aerobatics were aplenty with an energetic display from a Yak-52 in the hands of Glider FX maestro Guy Westgate, who later went on to fly his superb gliding ballet in the Marganski MDM-1 Fox after being towed to height by Paul Gallacher in the team’s Piper PA-25 Pawenee albeit not before flying various rolling and inverted manoeuvres while on tow.
Having been displaying for just over a half century in many, many types Rod Dean was on hand to show off the Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1 with his impressive medley of loops, rolls and stall turns showing the crowds a well executed and polished routine. With the RAF’s Tutor on just before the Bulldog it was a great contrast to see, the younger trainer pitted against the older brethren it replaced in RAF service.
Rich Goodwin flew his ever popular, stomach churning display of unlimited aerobatics in his highly modified Pitts S-2S ‘Muscle Biplane’ which had the crowd gasping and clapping in delight from start to finish. However, it was his take on ‘wings and wheels’ that had to be applauded as he started his slot by racing a Porsche 911 up and down the runway, where moments before he performed his own take of a burn out – a smoke out!
Further examples of the art and skill of formation flying during the show were provided by both The Blades and the Breitling Wing Walkers – the latter in place of the Red Arrows on the Sunday. Made up of four ex-Red Arrows pilots, the Blades have become one of the circuit’s favourite acts with their mixture of basic and advanced aerobatics in both formation and with their solo Blade 4, Andy Evans. Sadly, the teams display on the Saturday was cancelled after just a few manoeuvres due to an intercom issue in Blade 1 Mark Cutmore’s Extra EA-300LP.
Making a welcome return to the skies of Surrey were the delightful Turb Team and their four diminutive D31 Turbulents. One of the longest-established flying display teams in the world forming in 1959, team must be commended for their efforts on the Saturday given the horrendous rain they held in at the end of the runway for their slot and then proceeded to display in – especially considering the aircraft are low wing monoplanes with open cockpits! A highly entertaining display of formation flying followed by balloon bursting, flour bombing and flying the limbo, but what is even more remarkable is the fact the display is flown and organised by the use of hand signals from the lead aircraft.
Although a different form of formation flying, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment’s Parachute display team, The Tigers, were on top form on their eleventh appearance at the show dropping from the grey skies with smoke trailing, flags flying and some excellent formations during both freefall and under their chutes.
By far the highlights of the show were two classic jets, one well known (the most famous classic jet of all?) and the other taking the UK airshow circuit by storm – Avro Vulcan B.2 XH558 and the MiG-15UTI.
As October approaches, so does XH558s last ever foray into the sky before the curtain is closed on her second flying career after eight glorious years. As has been seen at pretty much any event that the aircraft has appeared, the so called ‘Vulcan Effect’ was more than evident as people strained to catch the first glimpse of the aircraft in the murk on the Saturday. Crewed by Kev Rumens, Bill Ramsey and Phil Davies the crew howled and danced their way through a slightly amended display with the recent restrictions seeing some slight changes and the removal of the traditional zoom climb and wing over on departure. Although not quite as powerful as normal, the crew did give a slight climb out and bank as they shot off for their next commitment. Sadly, the weather on the Sunday beat them and despite the aircraft trying, the crew elected to turn round and head back for home – a huge loss to the show and those who had hoped to catch the Vulcan one last time.
Even with the loss of the ‘Delta Lady’, the Sunday crowds were still treated to another British built four engine jet – albeit on the ground. Having calling Dunsfold home since its retirement in September 2013, Vickers VC10 K3 ZA150/J or ‘Juliet’ took part in the show with a fast taxi demonstration for the first time allowing the crowds to hear and witness the incredible site of a ‘ten’ on full chat.
However, for many the ultimate highlight of the weekend was the appearance of a true Cold War icon in the form of a MiG-15UTI – actually a 1952 Polish licence built SB Lim-2. Adorned in a simple all over silver scheme, accentuated by a deep red nose trim and a simple ‘18’, the aircraft represents a “Fagot” (the NATO code name for the aircraft) flown by famed Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin before he became a household name in 1961. Although the aircraft was unable to complete its full display, it was hurled around the sky with numerous fast passes and a very welcome number of topsides thrown in for good measure.
With a five hour flying display on both days that included jets, props and warbirds and, despite the usual UK Bank Holiday weather doing its best to ruin the Sunday, the team behind Dunsfold Wings and Wheels certainly gave the strong 38,000 plus crowds a show to remember!