Warbirds at West Malling

Author

admin

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Warbirds at West Melling

ALTHOUGH Britain has several fine collections of historic aircraft, nowhere in the world are fighting aeroplan. of World War Two preserved in such numbers, and with such devoted care, as they are in the USA. What is more, their owners fly them regularly, and who can blame them for adding showmanship and razzamatau to their flying displays if it all helps to keep fine aircraft flying, and before the public eye?

The displays of the Confederate Air Force, for instance, have an amazing theatrical accompaniment, but the pilots and their aircraft provide a spectacle of truly astounding proportions.

Such huge gatherings are unknown in Britain, but in September the group of people dedicated to the airworthy preservation of “Sally B”, the only 1317 Flying Fortress left flying in Europe, organised a display at West Mailing airfield in Kent and succeeded in bringing together a most respectable array of historic aircraft.

The idea of the display, and of holding it at the former RAF Station, was that of Ted White, a vintage aircraft enthusiast of worldwide reputation who flew his own AT-6 Harvard and was largely responsible for the acquisition of “Sally B” from France in 1975. Tragically, he and his good friend Mark Campbell were killed in Matta in July when the Harvard — he preferred the some Texan — mysteriously crashed after winning the Concours d’Elegance of the Malta Air Rally.

The display of Great Warbirds at West Mailing was dedicated to their memory, and proceeds went partly to the Sally B Preservation Fund — her fuel and spare parts bills are huge — partly to the Duxford Hangar Appeal of the Imperial War Museum, and partly to charities nominated by Kent County Council.

Despite atrocious weather, spectators turned up in many thousands, braving downpour after downpour to be rewarded by an excellent flying display by pilots who themselves braved some pretty heavy murk. Star of the show was Sally B herself, actually the aircraft which featured in the television series We’ll Meet Again which was filmed largely at West Mailing. It is powered by four turbocharged Wright Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engines, each

giving 1,200 b.h.p. for take-off. It is kept normally at Duxford, maintenance being undertaken by volunteer members of the Duxford Aviation Society.

Another aircraft not unknown to TV viewers was the Douglas DC3 Dakota, built in 1942, which was rescued from the Catterick bonfires by the company Aces High. It icon permanent loan to the !WM at Duxford, but appears at displays and in films, including the series Aldo:, and still bears the paintwork of “Ruskin Air Services”. A North American TB-25N Michell, front the same stable as the Harvard, is also a flying lihn star, and carries the name “Big Bad Bonnie”.

Robs Lamplough’s Beechcraft Staggerwing was there, painted in RAF colours to represent the Traveller used in the UK during the war by Prince Bernhardt of the Netherlands, Adrian Swire’s Booker-based Spitfire flown by Ray Hanna, and Lindsey Walter’s Me 108 Taifun, although this is actually a Nord 1002 Pinguine 2, built in France in 1945.

The powerful Pilatus P2 owned jointly by Ray and Alarit Hanna, John Watts and Arthur Gibson, was demonstrated most effectively by John Watts. This Swiss-made aircraft, based at RAF Cranwell, has an Argun I2-cylinder inverted-vee engine and is capable of 450 m.p.h.

Another powerful aircraft was the Chance Vought F4U Corsair in the colours of the French Aironavale which Lindsey Walton also has in his collection. Built from 1940 to 1952, the Corsair was America’s last piston-engined fighter, and the first to exceed 400 m.p.h. Agile, and with excellent forward vision, it was flown most dramatically at Wont Mailing by Op. Capt. John Allison, formerly of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and soon to be Station Commander at RAF Wildenrath.

In complete contrast was the 1945-built Storch bought by Graham Warner in 1980 and now in Luftwaffe colours. A tine air observation post, it can fly as slowly as 32 m.p.h. and can operate from very shore strips indeed. It currently has a Jacobs 7-cylinder radial engine, as of the MS505 model, but Warner hopes to replace it with the original in-line Argus engine of the MS500. There were numerous other well-kept aircraft flying during the day, and we can only trust that the occasion will not be allowed to go unrepeated.

G.P.