For a Change - An Air Display

Just as a change from motor-racing, and because crowded roads may induce people to combine motoring with flying, we went to the grass aerodrome at Elstree on May 25th, for Elstree Flying Club’s Air Display. It equalled those we used to enjoy before the war in everything save variety of aeroplanes. It really was a creditable show, enhanced by a straightforward, well-informed commentary.

Although a strong wind caused the delayed parachute drop and ladies’ high-speed demonstration to be cancelled, there was plenty to see, and an intrepid police pilot of a Slingsby sailplane elected to be towed off behind an Auster Autocrat in spite of the dangerous conditions. One couldn’t blame the parachutist for abstaining, because Elstree aerodrome is flanked not only by a lake but by the now-inevitable overhead cables.

After Messrs. Ogilvy, Bailey and Miss Windle had displayed, respectively, Auster Autocrat, D.H. Chipmunk and Miles Hawk club aeroplanes, the Chipmunk doing a wind-behind fly-past at some 150 m.p.h., members of the enthusiastic Tiger Club gave a racing demonstration (the word “race” is verboten!), led by a Tiger Moth with canopy over its front cockpit.

Next came a comic turn in which an old fool fooling with a Chipmunk turned out to be Bill Bailey doing 100 per cent. accurate low-flying, loops and stall turns in spite of the wind. Four Elstree instructors, including Miss Windle, contested a three-lap “pylon racing demonstration” in Miles Hawks, finishing with only 5 sec. between the lot, with Bailey home first in a “photo finish.” A U.S.A.F. pilot demonstrated a Cessna 172 tricycle highwing monoplane, a clean quiet machine with a 20,000-ft. ceiling, 800-mile range, and a top-speed of 140 m.p.h., described by the vintage-loving commentator as “a modern metal monstrosity”! The vintage demonstration lacked the 1932 Hawker Tomtit which had lubrication trouble, but Ogilvy took a 1932 Comper Swift (Pobjoy Niagara) out of six-months’ hibernation and gleefully threw it about the blustery sky. It was once owned by Roger Frogley, of dirt-track fame. Mr. Whitehead next flew away in the A.A.’s Auster Alpine (Gipsy X) to report by radio on local traffic conditions to an A.A. motor-cycle patrol in the public enclosure, round whom the crowd congregated. This yellow Auster is appropriately registered G-APAA and uses three radio sets, by Pye. Incidentally, Mr. Whitehead, who is also an A.A. engineer, is a keen Renault man and makes his own contribution towards reducing road congestion by using a small car —  a Dauphine.

A first-class exhibition was put on by C. A. N. Bishop. C.F.I. of the Tiger Club, who looped, slow rolled, half-rolled out of a loop, did hesitation rolls and flew inverted, both engine-off and on a special petrol supply with engine-on, in conditions which had turned the birds into pedestrians. A flapping locker-lid on his Tiger Moth added additional suspense. The newest crop-spraying Percival EP9 six-seater was demonstrated and then five Tiger Moths, a Chipmunk and four Hawks indulged in heart-stopping formation flying of a high order, peeling away at the end in real Hendon style. A three-lap “racing demmo.” between Tigers and Hawks was dealt with too leniently by the handicapper (the first Tiger had 48 sec. start) but the tight turns were splendid to behold. After the Slingsby had returned and done many graceful manoeuvres this three-hour display ended with joy-rides for the spectators in an Auster. A good show — if you missed Elstree’s At-Home this time make sure you go next year! — W. B.