The "Daily Express" Air Pageant

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The Air Pageant put on by the Daily Express at Gatwick on July 10th  attracted crowds reminiscent of the Grands Prix at Donington before the war, when the German teams ran. For us, the event, was a welcome “busman’s holiday.”

Light aircraft were demonstrated in the morning. We saw the Auster “Autocrat,”  the Chrislea ” Super-Ace” and the very attractive triycycle-undercart Newbury “Eon” deport themselves, the Goodyear “Duck”  give a most spirited display, the Percival “Proctor V” do admrable climbs and  tight turns, the tiny Fairey “Junior” display liftlike climb, small radius turns and excellent rolls off the top of its loops, and, finally, Bell and Sikorski helicopters demonstrate their manoeuverability. 

The Pageant proper started with a fly-past by three Gloster “Meteor IVs” and three D.H. “Vampires”  —  less thrilling than we expected until we realised how fast these steady formations were flying by the distance they covered in just no time at all.

Next came a fly-past of civil air liners, the Constellation being absent on a flight to New York. The B.E.A. Vickers “Viking” was admirably flown by Capt. Wymer, of Aldermarston, the KLM Douglas D.C. 6, flown by an ex Dutch and R.A.F. fighter pilot, dived in with commendable showmanship, the BSAA  Avro “Tudor IV” lower still and more noisy, returned to display its climb, and then the Air France four engined Languedoc, bringing 32 travel agents as passengers, flew past most gracefully. The Skyways Avro “York” was noisy, but steady as a die, the BOAC  “Short Solent”  flying boat came over low, with one engine off, as if in contempt of the absence of water, and this fly-past was concluded by a fast run-in by an Olley Air Services D.H. ” Dove.”

Six Avro “Lincoln” bombers gave an impressive formation fly-past, and then four D.H. “Vampire” jet fighters, led by Fl.-Lt. Draper, from Odiham, did what they could under a very low cloud  base, which, unfortunately, restricted them mainly to excellent close-formation flying.

Two D.H. “Tiger Moths,” untroubled by the weather, indulged in the ever popular crazy-flying  —  and excellent aerobatics they did  —   and a Franklin-engined Sikorsky “Hovertly ” helicopter sat down before the public enclosure and rose again, to be admirably  flung about in the murk. In contrast, twelve Mk. 16 Supermarine “Spitfires” gave a fine show of precision air-drill, and then came one of the big displays of the day  —  the grotesque pick-up of Michael Cain by a Stinson “Reliant” flown by Norman Rintoul. Cain was fairly whisked into the air, waving his arms as he went, and thereafter he dangled from his nylon rope waving to the appreciative audience, before climbing his rope ladder and entering the cabin. Whereupon the Stinson did a fine “beat-up” before landing.  R. L. Porteous next treated us to some very nice dives, low loops and rolls in the 2-litre Chilton monoplane.

Another “winner”  —  the first public demonstration of Bernard Lynch being ejected from a Gloster “Meteor” in the Martin-Baker Ejector Seat, an event ably described by Charles Gardner, who gave an excellent commentary, as “the record kick in the pants.” It was a dramatic show, because the “Meteor” entered‘ cloud before the demonstration. We heard the cartridge fire and then out of the cloud came the two parachutes, one dangling Lynch, the other his Ejector Seat. After a neat landing this brave man calmly folded his ‘chute before the enclosure—and the public didn’t even clap!

The weather ruined aerobatics by D.H. “Sea Hornets,” but they did contrive to fly-past with starboard propellers stationary. Six Hawker “Sea Furies” gave one of the best shows of the day, “deck”-landing, to taxi-in with a grand tick-over, afterwards rolling past the enclosures line-ahead with their wings folded, prior to lining-up and taking-off one after the other. A lone “Sea Fury” then gave a truly fine acrobatic display, rolling on to its back for an inverted flight over the airfield, and later doing slow rolls in eight distinct movements, grand flying backed by ample noise.

Robert Fulton, junior, motored and flew his amazing Franklin-engined Fulton ” Airphibian,” which is taxed in this country as a 15-h.p. car and is capable of a land speed of 45 m.p.h., or 122 m.p.h. as a fool-proof monoplane which lands neatly on its flexibly-sprung four wheels. As a car one rudder pedal becomes the brake pedal and the same steering wheel serves both in the air and on land.

Gwynne Johns gave us a delayed parachute drop from a “Dakota ” but, alas, had to leave the airfield in the ambulance. The Newbury “Eon” towed off  an aerobating Olympia ” Eon “;  the Nene-Lancastrian was most impressive, on two “Nene” jets only or two “Nenes” and two  “Merlins”;  a Gloster “Meteor IV” did what it could to amuse us under a lower-than-ever cloud base; and the Pageant wound up with an attack on the airfield by paratroops from Dakotas, by Horsa and Hadrian gliders, and by a Jeep and six-pounder gun dropped from a Handley Page “Halifax”  Finally, a Hadrian glider was “snatched-up ” by a Dakota  —  which is an almost unbelievable sight. All these demonstrations went off without a hitch, and were highly instructive, although the programme dragged a bit towards the end.

We enjoyed this “busman’s holiday” and hope the Daily Express  will make its Air Pageant an annual fixture, preferably on a day when no motoring events are taking place.  —  W.B.

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