XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society

Wings and Wheels 2011 29/06/2011

All photographs on this page except where otherwise stated are Copyright© Clive Hanley

Well those of you who were at Wellesbourne on Sunday 26 June will know what a magnificent day it turned out to be - we couldn't have asked for better weather, warm (about 28 degrees Celsius air temperature), sunny and with a moderate southerly wind straight down the active runway. The favourable conditions resulted in the star of the show - XM655 - looking as good as she ever has done glistening on the inactive runway whilst the ground crew completed their preparations for the two taxy demonstrations.


With our stalwart commentator, Dave Rowland, at his usual place behind the microphone (where would we be without you Dave?), the largest crowd we have had for many years was informed, entertained and educated in the way that the BBC used to do before dumbing down began - something Mr Rowland will never do!

Our regular visitors to Wings & Wheels will have noticed a change to the show layout for 2011 - we created a 'Town Square' for a more intimate feel for the show and with a lot less walking from one end to the other compared with previous years (and many other airshows as well). Inevitably there was the odd teething trouble with the new layout - but we'll learn for next year (yes, there will be more bins within the Town Square!). Feedback from members, exhibitors and entrance fee-paying spectators was overwhelmingly positive - we hope to build on these changes in time for 2012 (see elsewhere in this edition of the newsletter for details of next years' Wings & Wheels. 

The Aircrew Back to the show - we had a slightly different aircrew for 26 June as our regular captain, Sqn Ldr David Thomas (RAF Retired), was unfortunately (for us that is) very busy at RAF Waddington putting the last minute details together for the flying displays at the airshow which was planned for the weekend after Wings & Wheels. So as Vulcan pilots seem to be available for such onerous tasks as demonstrating the world's only fast taxying Olympus 301-powered Vulcan B2, we were able to sign up Sqn Ldr Martin Withers, DFC (RAF Retired) to assist our captain Wg Cdr Mike Pollitt (RAF Retired), and in the back we had our faithful and ever youthful AEO Sqn Ldr Barry Masefield (RAF Retired). You will probably all be aware that Martin's day job is Senior Display Pilot for the Vulcan to the Sky Trust flying XH558, Barry is the Lead AEO for VTTST and Mike was until recently their Operations Director - so we had an aircrew with 'currency'!

We had invited as many 'interesting' aircraft to visit us during Wings & Wheels as we could contact, but you can never be sure of what will turn up on a beautiful Sunday in the middle of the airshow season - so we were delighted, therefore, to receive a few minutes warning from Frankie in the control tower that Peter Teichman was inbound to Wellesbourne in his magnificent Mustang P-51D 'Jumpin Jacques'. Having given the crowd an impromptu display, Peter then landed and taxied to our static aircraft park giving our aircraft marshallers something rather special to 'bat' in to park a safe distance from '655's engine efflux.

Mustang P-51D 'Jumpin Jacques'

Our other most celebrated flying visitors that day arrived, bang on cue, just as '655 was taxiing to the 18 threshold prior to the fast taxi run just after 2:00pm. Heading in from the north west at 2,000ft and in glorious conditions were the Avro Lancaster, Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane of the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - what a sight for sore eyes as they passed directly overhead the Vulcan and then proceed to make three immaculate orbits of the airfield in full view of the appreciative crowd before departing to Cheltenham.The sound of six Merlins was memorable and so in contrast to the roar of four Olympus a few minutes later!

  The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

The fast taxy by Mike, Martin and Barry in XM655 was faultless as we've come to expect from both aircraft and aircrew, and drew an appreciative cheer from the crowd as the Vulcan's nosewheel was lifted into the air to provide aerodynamic braking (as well as a good photographic opportunity for many hundreds of cameras) when Mike aborted the take-off after about 10 seconds of 97% thrust of the four mighty Bristol Olympus 301 turbojets. 

Nosewheel Airborne!

The only technical glitch, and it is traditional for there to be one, was with the Volkswagen-mounted Airesearch air starter. This small gas turbine engine is required to start the Olympus engines by providing a plentiful supply of compressed air to rotate each engine in turn up to the point at which (once fuel is introduced and ignited) the whole process becomes self-sustaining.

Of course, in order to do that, the air starter turbine has to start on command itself, which ours didn't want to do. The glitch required some quick thinking by Eric, our Chief Engineer, in order to overcome a fault which prevented the air starter from igniting. In fact Eric, helped by Roger B and Len, sorted out the problem so quickly most people didn't notice that anything was amiss at all....
 Fixing the Air-Start
Wings & Wheels isn't just about aeroplanes of course - the Classic Car show is just as key an element to an enjoyable show for everyone as any other single attraction. This year was no exception to the quality of the cars on show, thanks to the loving dedication of their faithful owners. The number of classic cars was a little lower than the last few years because of an unfortunate clash with the Wings & Wheels show at Baxterley - this having been unintentionally caused by both organisers choosing different dates to their 'usual' summer date - we will try to avoid a repeat of this clash in the future!  Classic Car Line-up

Martin Withers Presents

  The cars and other vehicles on show covered a wide range of ages and types, and the winner of the vote for "best in show" was an immaculate VW camper van. The winner was presented with his trophy and rosette by Martin Withers, in between his two sessions of cockpit responsibility.
This year, after a break during 2010, we were delighted to be joined by the lovely Dragon Rapide from the Classic Flight at Coventry Airport. This venerable aircraft was providing pleasure flights throughout the day and demand seemed high as the aircraft was constantly boarding and un-boarding passengers...

Dragon RapideDragon Rapide

Isaacs Fury 11

.....and as one pretty bi-plane just isn't enough, we were also joined by this very attractive Isaacs Fury 11, which flew in to join our static aircraft display.

Amongst our exhibitors we were honoured to have two authors of Vulcan books who are legends in their own lifetime. Tony Blackman was an Avro Test Pilot involved throughout the development period of the Vulcan prototypes and B1 and B2. In fact Tony flew well over 100 different Vulcans for their first flights from Woodford aerodrome including XM655. We were also delighted to have with us Craig Bulman, author of 'The Vulcan B.Mk 2 from a different angle'. 

In order that Wings & Wheels is both safe and well organised, year after year we rely on cadets and their adult staff from various local (and not so local) Air Cadet Squadrons. This year we had no less than six squadrons present, all but two of which had not been to Wings & Wheels before. It was a tribute to their efforts that we had such good feedback about the marshalling, pay gates, and car parking of the whole event by many spectators. We were supported by 1046 Fordhouses Sqn, our most experienced squadron, together with a small band from 1460 Banbury Sqn. The Squadrons helping us for the first, but hopefully not last, time were 150 City of Oxford, 1200 Polesworth, 785 Tewkesbury and Haileybury School CCF (Air Section) - a big thank you and well done to all of you!

The ATC Cadets Parade

The Wellesbourne Fore Crew

On the safety front, we also receive a great deal of help and support from our local retained fire station in Wellesbourne, part of the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service. This year the crew were on-site with their appliance all day, initially supplying multiple tanks of water to one of the kids' attractions, and then providing emergency cover for the event.

Of course the primary reason for holding Wings & Wheels is to raise funds for the upkeep of XM655, and in that respect we were very excited this year that we were able to attract a commercial sponsor, Aerobytes Ltd, whose Managing Director Eddie Forrester has been a major supporter of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust over the last few years. Eddie was approached by our Exhibitors Coordinator, Damaris Tapp, shortly before Wings & Wheels and was very generous in his financial support for us - thank you Eddie.

Our loyal band of volunteers and engineers all worked ridiculously long hours throughout Saturday and Sunday(with a few having worked on Thursday, Friday and Monday as well), but the efforts definitely paid off. They all went home on Sunday tired and sun burned - but with happy smiles on their faces - thank you to all of them!

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