Speed in the Air



The S.B.A.C. Farnborough Flying Display

My ticket for the annual Farnborough Flying Display was a one-day ticket dated September 3rd, which coincided with the return of the normal English summer. Under the shocking weather conditions prevailing the performing pilots coped admirably.

The Bristol 192 helicopter was untroubled by the low cloud-base and took off on one engine, but Westland stole the helicopter side of the Show. Their big Westminster ” sky crane,” with openwork fuselage like a pioneer aeroplane, was flown backwards, sideways, every way possible, and the Widgeon made the first roll off the top of a loop by a helicopter, after which all four—Westminster, Widgeon, Whirlwind and Wessex—stood still in line in the air before the President’s tent. The Fairey ultra-light ski-landing helicopter put in a brilliant display, the pilot landing it on its lorry (with the lorry in motion this year!).

The 800 Squadron’s formation aerobatics in seven Fleet Air Arm Hawker Sea Hawks, led by Lt.-Comdr. Pete Perrett, was masterly indeed, the formation roll in vie being their most difficult manoeuvre. They developed this display (which, with that of the R.A.F., puts Farnborough more in the tradition of old-time Hendon) in a matter of six weeks. The sombre sky showed off the closely-formating Sea Hawks to perfection. And their formation landing, together with that of four Jet Provosts later in the programme, makes motor racing look as tame as making mud-pies! After their display these Naval aircraft taxied-in with wings folded.

A lone Vickers Supermarine Scimitar, fastest Service fighter, from 803 Squadron, indulged in loops, after which it was the turn of the air-liners. A Continental Airways’ Viscount II, a B.O.A.C. Comet 4, a B.E.A. Comet 3B, and a Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer were demonstrated. Then we were told that five of 111 Squadron’s Hawker Hunters had taken off from Odiham in spite of the cloud-base being down to 500 feet. They gave an extremely polished display of formation aerobatics with coloured smoke-trails, including going from arrow to fork and then to box-formation, something like a mere 75 feet covering the span of the three leading aircraft. And weather conditions were deteriorating fast!

Four Hunting Jet Provosts from the C.F.S., led by Norman Gibbons, gave a neat display, in very close proximity.

The light aeroplanes performed next, including a crop-spraying demonstration by the D.H. Chipmunk, which I hope will improve the lushness of Farnborough’s grass! An Alvis-engined D.H. Beaver brought troops from Aldershot.

The Show speeded up again with controlled rolls and an inverted fly-past by a Jet Provost, and reached its peak when the Fairey F.D.2 hurtled past. Background was provided by the 48-seater Fairey Rotodyne as it rumbled vertically upwards. Very impressive was the take off in clouds of spray of the Gloster Javelin, after which rain fell in torrents, aerobatics by the Blackburn N.A.39 were out of the question, and the Hunters and Vulcans had to make radar-aided circuits. I was sorry not to see Mike Oliver fly the Folland Gnat—I recall hearing him discussing over- and understeer in aeroplanes at a party at Monza last year, of which I was reminded by seeing the Westland Wessex helicopter in a definite oversteer! Nor was the Handley-Page Herald present, Hazelden having skilfully force-landed it, on fire, on the Saturday prior to the Show, after one of its Rolls-Royce Dart engines had developed a serious fault at 6,000 feet. the fire being caused by bits which flew through the engine casing and severed the fuel lines. Warm praise must be accorded the Handley-Page Public Relations Department, which promptly issued a hand-out quoting the accident as proving just how robust and stable the Herald is—which seems to be more than Rolls-Royce could do for the recalcitrant Dart!

The Farnborough Show has many fascinating aspects, from the interesting vintage vehicles in the car parks to the Armstrong-Siddeley, Bristol and Rolls-Royce cars which one finds, appropriately, waiting for aeronautical V.I.P.s, these makes, with Alvis, having an Aviation Background. Then there are all the motoring celebrities you meet there—like Peter Whitehead, seen acting as voluntary interpreter to some foreign sailor visitors.

However, I think, in view of the Herald crash before the Show, the loss of a Sea Fury on the first day of the Show and the accident to a Vickers Viking which wrote off a house in Southall on the Tuesday, that Farnborough Council should be asked to take down those huge notices one encounters on entering their town, these reading : FARNBOROUGH WELCOMES SPEED IN THE AIR CARE ON THE ROAD

This time it doesn’t seem to have been the motorists who had the accidents!—W. B.