It is nice to attend at least one Air Display a year, to see how motoring in the air is getting on and to keep a sense of proportion while contending with congested roads. So I chose the 3-Counties Show at Blackbushe, which gave the public nearly three hours’ display for the modest cost of 5s. plus a programme, with an excellent commentary, and highly efficient traffic arrangements by the local police, even to turning A30 temporarily into a one-way road.
The Show opened with a 3-Counties’ fly-past led by a D.H. Rapide, Chipmunks, Colts and a Tri-Pacer in formation. This was hardly over when the “Last of the Many,” in the form of Hawker-Siddeley’s Hawker Hurricane, came over at 4,000 feet, from Dunsfold, Bedford using its Rolls-Royce Merlin 502 engine to splendid effect in loops and rolls and fast fly-pasts. This is a Mk. HC Hurricane, the cannon-firing version,. and the last of 12,780 Hurricanes built in this country. This alone would have made the Blackbushe visit worthwhile, but—it was almost too good to be true—simultaneously Merryweather aerobatted in the 1930 Hawker Hart biplane (695-h.p. Rolls-Royce Kestrel), also venturing a loop.
After the Hurricane had victory-rolled away to the South against the encircling cumulus, seven parachutists jumped from the Rapide, from 5,000 feet. Then, from Lasham, came two light planes towing gliders, an Auster with a couple in tow, of which one skimmed the runway very low, while still attached, and a Druine Turbi. After the cast-offs, Derek Goddard performed some superb gliderbatics, ending with a low downwind fly-past before turning to land. Next, Michael Kennedy showed off the 45-hp. Tipsy Nipper II from Stapleford, a little fully-aerobatic wood-and-fabric single-seater weighing about half as much as a Mini.
The joke-turn was performed in an Auster J1N (Gipsy Major) by the C.F.I., Blackbushe, who simulated an escaped felon stealing an aeroplane—a topical touch in view of the escaped prisoners still at large!
An absolutely splendid item was the Vintage Parade. It was performed by two Comper Swifts, the 7-cylinder 75-h.p. Pobjoy-engined G-ABUU and G-ABVS., Ted Wilkinson’s 1938 Miles Whitney Straight (130-h.p. Gipsy Major), a 1932 Taylorcraft Plus D, a very smart blue and yellow D.H. Puss Moth, a couple of Morris Motors’ Tiger Moths, a Piper Cub, the 1959 (hardly vintage) Currie Wot 2 single-seater biplane with 60-h.p. Walter Micron engine, the sole surviving 1932 Robinson Redwing side-by-side 2-seater biplane and a 1937 Aeronca 100 with 40-h.p. J.A.P. flat-twin motor. The last two vintage aeroplanes circling over the pine trees, the Bluebird doing some heart-stopping slow turns at zero feet over the runway, was the finest part of a very enjoyable afternoon!
A brave and windswept pilot demonstrated the 15-100 m.p.h. speed range of the Wallis 116 Gyro-copter, its-rotor blades driven by the air stream like the original Autogiro’s and the engine a 72-h.p. McCulloch as found in outboard boats and rotary saws! A gate-crashing Beechcraft Bonanza having got down, four R.A.F. Jet Provosts from near-by Odiham performed formation aerobatic at 200-300 m.p.h., after taking-off together at nearly 100 m.p.h.; later, a solo Provost flown by Bob Holmes did it’s stuff to great effect.
A couple of Colts, an Auster 6, a Beagle Terrier, a Chipmunk, a Piper Tri-Pacer and a Piper Comanche 250, indulged in a so-called race, of steeply-banked turns, won by the last-named; Neville Browing did the best aerobatics of the Show in his Zlin Trainer-master (160-h.p. 6-cylinder Walter Micron), with bunts and level inverted flying—he wisely refrained from the temptation of “lowering” the wheels while flying upside down, explaining that the undercarriage electric motor gets hot and bothered doing this!—and Air Vice-Marshal Bennett, ex-racing motorist, demonstrated the Air Travel Linnet (Rolls-Royce Continental), a 2-seater capable of some 120 mph, on 100 h.p
Fly-pasts followed—of F./Lt. Ronaldson from Prestwick in a Lockheed T33A (5,100 lb. thrust R.-R. Nene), at least he was billed to do this but shot off to Odiham instead, probably wanting his tea, a big Douglas C47 of the U.S.A.F., this brass-hat’s staff-car taking an astonishingly short take-off run, and a Cessna 180 4/6-seater which cruises normally at 150 m.p.h. with 230-h.p. Continental engine. Incidentally, Cessna sold 4,188 aeroplanes last year and Rogers, who presented this one, have sold 63 of this model in this country since January last year.
The most technically significant aeroplane in the Show was an Auster Autocrat turbo-prop, using a Rover TP90 gas-turbine running at a constant-speed of 46,000 r.p.m, and driving a variable-pitch propeller turning at up to 25,000 r.p.m. This peep into the private-flying future was flown by Vivian Bellamy. A very good programme concluded with a taxi-past of Doug. Bianchi’s Fokker D3 Replica, which did not venture off the runway, although a 90-h.p. Continental flat-four masquerades as a 1914 rotary, and a demmo, by a Riley Dove 400, which isn’t a new B.M.C confection but an American conversion of the well-known D.H. Dove, The U.S.A.F. lent a C4 as a static exhibit, parachuting was by courtesy of the British Parachute Club, which landed six out of seven delayed-drop jumpers on target (out of the Rapide) from 11,000 feet in a 12-knot wind, and the spotters were in their element at Blackbushe on September 4th. Good show!—W. B.