The annual Dunsfold Wings and Wheels returned over the August Bank Holiday weekend for its 13th edition. Wings and Wheels has its own unique atmosphere and the emphasis is firmly on having fun. As ever, there were some of the very best flying displays in the UK, some really exciting cars racing up and down the runway made famous by BBC’s Top Gear plus a host of other entertainment in the various zones that make up the show arena.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Dunsfold Wings and Wheels is one of the events I most look forward to each year. It comes towards the end of a busy season of airshows, but it one of the most fun. It is a unique airshow on the calendar with aviation sharing the limelight with motoring.
Within the arena there was a large military vehicle gathering plus displays from a number of car clubs. On the runway, there are motoring demonstrations between flying displays. There is always a good cross section of vehicle running up and down the runway made famous in BBC’s Top Gear which this year included everything from vintage Bentleys, Mustangs and even a LaFerrari hypercar. Even after the flying and motoring have ended, the entertainment in the form of live music continues into the evening. It is always a professionally run event, but never fails to be friendly and upbeat.
As always, there was a small static display of aircraft centred on the Dunsfold-based Boeing 747 and BAC VC-10 K2 aircraft. These two resident aircraft are open for tours and the VC-10 also performed engine runs on both days. Dunsfold is home to Aces High who provide aircraft for various filming projects and there are always some of their aircraft on show such as their famous Douglas C-47A Skytrain, ex-RAF BAe 125s, Jetstreams and Sea King. There were also visiting aircraft on show with a de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk on show alongside military aircraft. Dunsfold’s history was reflected by two RAF BAE Systems Hawk T.Mk.2s, the latest generation of the famous jet trainer that was developed at the Surrey Airfield. 72[R] Squadron also continued their centenary tour of airshows with a pair of Shorts Tucano T1s including their specially marked aircraft representing their Battle of Britain history. Flying in on the Saturday was a RAF Benson based Airbus Helicopters Puma HC2. It was also good to see contributions from the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps who had examples of the Leonardo Wildcat HMA2 and AgustaWestland WAH-64D Apache AH1 on static display.
The flying displays at Dunsfold this year involved many different forms of aviation. As always, the displays were supported by the legendary commentary team of Melvyn Hiscock and Brendan O’Brien who never fail to inform, raise a laugh or two and generally entertain with their enthusiasm. Dunsfold would not be the same without them.
Brendan in fact opened the flying on both days flying his Piper J3 Cub in one of the most classic of all air display routines – crazy flying and the trailer-top landing. A Piper Cub may seem like a fairly mundane aircraft, but in the hand of Brendan it really is quite performer with its monster smoke system. The trailer top landing is always exciting to watch and the perfect weather allowed Brendan to make landings on both days much to the delight of the crowd.
Rich Goodwin returned with his incredible Pitts S-2S Special otherwise known as “The Muscle Biplane.” Rich is a true showman and got into the spirit of Wings and Wheels performing some amazing low passes with a Hotchkiss Racing cars before and after his full-on routine of eye-popping aerobatics. More traditional formation aerobatics came from Dunsfold favourites, The Blades. Dunsfold is an important show for the team being the home show for their main sponsor Aerobytes who also support the show.
Each year, Dunsfold always brings in a number of new acts and the Rotorsport Calidus flown by Peter Davies. Peter flies a really fun and engaging display in the Calidus keeping action close to the crowd at all times as well as interacting with them waving from the cockpit. Peter was also able to fly a small tribute to Harrier which is synonymous with Dunsfold by performing a neat little bow at the end of his display.
This year saw Dunsfold host a large number of displays by historic aircraft. The strong connections with Brooklands and Hawker Aviation were remembered with a display by Peter Teichman in his lovely Hawker Hurricane IIb. Peter’s ‘Hurri-bomber’ has recently returned to the display circuit after a fairly long lay-off and it was great to see it back in the air being flown through a very elegant sequence.
Another newcomer to Dunsfold was the Boultbee Flight Academy with their North American P-51D Mustang “Miss Helen” flown by John Dodd. P-51 Mustangs were one of the many types operated from Dunsfold by the Royal Canadian Air Force during the latter stages of the Second World War. “Miss Helen” is a true war veteran having flown with the 352nd Fighter Group. In fact she is the last known survivor from the 352nd FG! The American air power theme continued with Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Sally-B representing the bombers. It was nice to see Sally-B operating out of Dunsfold for the weekend giving spectators plenty of close up views as she took off and landed for her displays in the hands of Peter Kuypers.
More fighters came from the Old Flying Machine Company and Aircraft Restoration Company with Supermarine Spitfire IX MH434 and the Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchon. The aircraft, flown by Brian Smith and Steve Jones, re-enacted an airfield attack with pyrotechnics. The mighty Buchon is wearing a new weathered paint scheme and it looks wonderful, particular in the bright sunshine. After a masterclass display of tail-chasing the Buchon was finally seen off by the Spitfire with smoke pouring out of one bank of exhausts leaving Brian to performing some victory rolls over the airfield.
Rounding off the warbird participation was the solo Supermarine Spitfire PRXIX from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. With just the one Spitfire currently released to flight, the display duties were being shared out over the weekend. The aircraft arrived from Bournemouth Airport pilot by Flt Lt Antony Parkinson, but was displayed over the two days of Dunsfold by Sqn Ldr Andy Millikin.
The Cold War era was well catered for two. The Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron sent their elegant pair of de Havilland Vampire FB52 and T55 for some lovely sweeping formation passes while Mark Petrie gave an energetic account in his BAC Strikemaster Mk82a.
A very welcome aircraft making its Dunsfold debut was the Bell UH-1H Iroquois or ‘Huey’ from MSS Holdings. Pilot Neil Airey gave a wonderful account of the classic US Army and Vietnam veteran helicopter showing off the iconic lines and characteristic blade-slap and whine of its turboshaft engine. Complementing the American machine were a collection of aircraft from the British Army Air Corps’ Historic Aircraft Flight Trust. The HAF has been off the circuit until recently while its aircraft were transferred to the UK civil register and their pilots gain civil display authorisations. It’s been a long process by the Trust is finally making some headway returning more of its aircraft to the display circuit. For Dunsfold they mustered the de Havilland Canada Beaver AL1, Taylorcraft Auster AOP9 and Agusta/Bell Sioux AH1for a joint display and the Westland Scout AH1 appeared on the ground. It was was good to see the flight back on the circuit ‘en-masse’ and we look forward to seeing the full team back in the air very soon.
The Army cooperation story was brought right up to date with the Attack Helicopter Display Team and their explosive account of the AgustaWestland WAH-64D Apache AH1. Dunsfold was the final display of the season for the team and their very engaging role demonstration of Apache operations. It would not be the same without the hard working special effect team from Event Horizon who really help bring the display to life.
Saturday also saw the Royal Air Force Boeing Chinook HC4 in the air display. Chinooks are regular visitors to Dunsfold throughout the year using the relatively quiet and secluded airfield for a number of training tasks including the odd display practise. It was great to see the Chinook back at Dunsfold this year which is a spectacular sight in the air.
The highlights of the Royal Air Force display as ever were the RAF Red Arrows and the solo Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 flown by Flt Lt Ryan Lawton. The proximity to Gatwick does restrict both acts to rolling or flat shows but within the tight confines of Dunsfold they both put on really very impressive displays full of noise and colour that simply stop everyone in their tracks.
This year really saw Dunsfold Wings and Wheels at its very best. For once the show enjoyed superb weather throughout and even after the flying display ended plenty of people hung on to the very end taking in the events special atmosphere. You could not fault the event in any way with some really high quality entertainment on the ground and in the air. The really good news is that a 2018 edition of the event has already confirmed – we’ve already marked it our diary!!