From the fantastic feedback that we have had from everyone who came along to Wellesbourne on 17 June, Wings & Wheels 2012 was the best one yet!
The only literal dampener for the day was the very typical summer 2012 weather – it was cold, grey and with several showers interspersed throughout the show; with perfect ironic timing it started raining at the beginning of both taxy demonstrations by the Vulcan – typical…….!
After the slightly different arrangements for 2011, when David Thomas was busy with the RAF Waddington airshow, for 2012 we were back with our usual (and always welcome) aircrew of Sqn Ldr David Thomas and Wg Cdr Mike Pollitt in the front seats and Sqn Ldr Barry Masefield as AEO – but with an addition….
I was asked a few weeks earlier by David if he could bring along another Vulcan ‘old hand’ to Wings & Wheels ‘for old times’ sake’.
I said yes and wondered who he might mean? During the rehearsal day on Saturday I was introduced to none other than Gp Capt John Laycock, former Vulcan and Victor pilot and Station Commander at RAF Waddington during the Falklands war.
I had previously met John when he had attended an earlier Wings & Wheels with other members of his family as a ‘customer’, but this time he was here to earn his keep!
John had not been at the controls of a Vulcan for nearly 30 years but under the careful eye of David (standing on the steps between the two pilots seats) and with Mike standing by, just in case, John was soon taxying the aircraft around the inactive runway like he had never been away!
So on the basis of this, David declared John ‘fit solo’ and when Mike captained the Vulcan for the slow and fast runs on Sunday, it was John in the co-pilot’s seat with David once again supervising him from the ladder between the seats….
The show itself has taken on a familiar and comfortable feel enjoyed by all who attend – this year we had an all-time high in attendance numbers at the gate – with the commentary as usual expertly and mellifluously spoken by Dave Rowland FRAeS, former Concorde pilot and Fleet General Manager.
The regular ‘wheels’ part of the show was expertly and jointly organised by Bryan Hull and his partner, and our Membership Secretary, Avril Magill, with a pleasing increase in the number of classic cars attending this year.
The ‘best in show’ prize (voted for by the owners of the vehicles themselves) was Mr Brian Baston in a Riley RME, with second prize going to Mr Ray Reeder in a MGC Roadster and third prize awarded to Mr Shaun Walsh in a Rover P6 3005 – many thanks to them and indeed all the devoted owners who bring their ‘pride and joy’ along for everyone’s enjoyment to add to the fun of Wings & Wheels each year. Next year we are planning to include two wheels, as well as four, and have classic motorcycles included as well – interested anybody?
Under the leadership of Warrant Officer Keith Vickers from 1046 (Fordhouses) Sqn ATC, we had our largest (and best co-ordinated) group of Air Cadets yet to help with safely and efficiently marshalling cars and people before, during and after the show. In total we had 100 cadets from squadrons including 1046 (Fordhouses), 1460 (Banbury), 150 (City of Oxford), 240 (Darlaston) and 1200 (Polesworth). In addition 1460 (Banbury) provided a band to entertain the crowd just after the first taxy demonstration by ‘655. The cadets also did a first class job of catering for themselves and our volunteers on the Saturday evening and throughout the day on Sunday thereby providing some much needed funds for the Fordhouses Sqn.
One of the two most rewarding parts of the organisation for Wings & Wheels this year was to invite two gentlemen with the same name – Jo(h)n Tye – to join us to be interviewed on the PA by Dave Rowland about their respective lives as pilots. The connection between the two men (apart from their names) is that they have each spent a good part of their lives flying aircraft propelled by Olympus engines – Jon as a Vulcan pilot and QFI and John as a Concorde pilot! The two had never met prior to Wings & Wheels but have now promised to keep in touch. It transpired during their interview on the PA system that John had lost count of the number of times that passengers on his British Airways flights (he currently captains 777s) have asked him if he used to fly Vulcans – now he knows why! The two Jo(h)ns both flew in to Wellesbourne for the event (although sadly in neither a Vulcan nor a Concorde) and agreed to make the presentations to our Classic Car competition winners as well.
The second rewarding part was to do with our very own adopted air cadet squadron, 150 (City of Oxford), who have been providing a valuable source of engineering labour to MaPS now for more than two years. At least once a month we have a working party of cadets and civilian/RAF instructors who muck in, whatever the weather, and help us to keep ‘655 alive. We had been wracking our brains trying to think of something to recognise their efforts when out of the blue Barry Masefield came up with the answer at our last Christmas lunch in Halford Bridge. Barry, who it turns out is a craftsman in his own right, had produced a highly polished and beautifully mounted Olympus 201 HP Compressor Blade for MaPS to use in whichever way we thought fit.
Rather than us selling it (as Barry initially suggested), We thought it would make a wonderful Trophy to be awarded to the 150 Sqn cadet who, chosen by the Sqn staff, was most deserving of the award to be made annually at Wings & Wheels. I mentioned to Barry that I would like to call it the ‘Barry Masefield Trophy’ but he was horrified saying it sounded like he was already dead! So, it gave me great pleasure at Wings & Wheels to be there when Barry presented the ‘MaPS Trophy’ on behalf of all of us to Cadet Alex Weller as the inaugural winner of this award.
As it was the first year, the Sqn staff asked that we also made a ‘runner-up’ award to Cadet Finley Moncur, his prize being a VIP tour of the aircraft for his family. Well done to both cadets, and we look forward to this award being a regular part of Wings & Wheels in the future. My thanks also, of course, to Sqn Ldr Barry Masefield for being such a good sport about providing the trophy and supporting our endeavours….
Although neither the Red Arrows nor the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were available to give us an overflight this year (We do put in a bid each year), we were at least blessed with a variety of aircraft saying hello to us at some point during the day: this started with the Aerostars, a superb aerobatic team flying Yak 50 trainer aircraft.
Then Classic Flight from Coventry arrived with their AVRO Anson Mk1 which was on the static display line for the whole day, attracting a good deal of attention.
This was followed by Sybille, one of Classic Flight’s beautiful de Havilland Dragon Rapides, which provided pleasure flights of the area for the duration of the show.
Later on we had a brief flypast by both the Blades and the Twisters aerobatic teams on their way to Cosford, and toward the end of the day Peter Teichmann flew in to park next to the Vulcan with his completely original WW2 Kittyhawk on his way back from Cosford. We were also blessed with a number of fascinating aircraft on the static display including two Chipmunks, Michael Littler’s lovely Piper Cub, Jon Tye’s homebuilt Eurostar, and a Luscombe Silvaire amongst several others.
As the allotted time for the highlight of the day – the fast taxy demonstration – drew near, it started to rain (again) and the Vulcan started up without any problems for her big moment, she was directed to the southern end of the main north/south runway (which is a bonus for the volunteers as it means that we don’t have to send two of our number out to the road that runs past the northern end of the runway to temporarily close it to passing traffic) and the aircraft accelerated briskly under the power of her four mighty Olympus engines running at 97% for just under 10 seconds. Would the pilots feel confident enough to raise the nosewheel off the ground to aid aerodynamic braking? They certainly did! The nosewheel came up so decisively that the front four tyres on the port main undercarriage all too briefly left the ground in sympathy with the two tyres on the nosewheels. Six tyres in the air – that’s something that XM655 hasn’t done without the aid of jacks since February 1984, and can be seen in the photo below.
For all that excitement, the aircrew reported that the aircraft was fully serviceable, although Barry did mention that the AAPP (the ‘Rover’) was so excited with the day that it was producing rather more than the 115v that it should have been. Another small problem that the eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed is that the port landing light failed to retract after the fast taxy demonstration. It stubbornly remained out even after the MaPS engineers had a go later on that day and it transpired that the linear actuator electric motor had failed – never mind, our friends at VTTST were able to provide us with a replacement and it was fitted and working within a couple of weeks.
|Wings & Wheels 2012 saw a repeat (and dare I say it, a further improvement) on the Town Square-type layout that we used for the first time in 2011. We had a few more stalls and exhibitors and we all think it worked very well, with everyone being near the action and the Classic Cars and car parking having plenty of space available.|
The organisation of the day takes many months to plan, indeed we have already started the planning for June 2013 in September 2012. The safe execution of the day is really too much for our stalwart volunteers who spend every Saturday of the year helping on the aircraft. For this reason we were very grateful to have some additional helpers along for the day – this year that included Bob and Isabel Jackson along with Chris Jones and Paul, all from VTTSC (through Damaris), Terry, John and Kim (arranged through Avril and Bryan), Emma and Suzie (through Len) – we thank them all for giving of their time and energy so selflessly.
Our regular volunteers all worked their socks off to make the day enjoyable and successful with Len and Ian marshalling aircraft, Sarah and Avril looking after merchandise, membership and silent auction in the Tents, Roger towing the aircraft, Eric as Crew Chief, Bryan and Ben on the ‘see-off crew’, Damaris looking after all the commercial activities, Malcolm overseeing the pay gates, Bry and Avril also looking after the classic cars, and Kev in his element as Safety Officer. It never ceases to amaze me how so few people are able to achieve so much.
Once again, I must say how grateful we were to receive financial support to help us pay for the fuel used during Wings & Wheels by our good friend and Vulcan supporter Eddie Forrester, Managing Director of Aerobytes Ltd, Cranfield. The cost of Jet A-1 has risen enormously over the last few years (mainly due to an absurd rise in VAT on the fuel), the Wings & Wheels weekend costs us nearly £5,000 in fuel alone and it is incredibly generous of Eddie to part-fund that cost, especially as he is now the single most generous benefactor of keeping XH558 in the air as well….
Finally, it is worth remembering that Wellesbourne airfield is a very busy general aviation airfield, particularly at weekends (in fact our aircrew always comment on how busy it seems to be). We are therefore very grateful to the airfield management that we are allowed to hold our Wings & Wheels events as we know that it does cause considerable inconvenience to airfield operations for three days altogether. We would like to say a huge thank you to John, Mick and Rob Littler for allowing us to hold the event each year and also an equally big thank you to Frankie Stuart and the other air traffic controllers who manage visiting aircraft movements so professionally and with such calm and polite attention…
All photos except where credited are Copyright© Clive Hanley