Air display

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Regular readers may remember that I like to go to one air display and one traction-engine rally a year, to keep a sense of proportion and see how the “other half” functions. So this year I went to the show at my nearest aerodrome, Shobdon, in the pleasant rural back-o’-beyond near Leominster. There, on July 25th, it was possible to see surely one of the most comprehensive air displays put on anywhere in the country.

First, we saw an air race. Not the faked display sort of race but a genuine Royal Aero Club handicap, with 20 starters, flown over four 18.2-mile laps, with turning points at Bearwood, Upper Hill, Kingsland and Shobdon, the 9th race put on at this 10th annual display. The field included such diverse aeroplanes as a Buccaneer Lake amphibian, two Monsons, one flown by ex-racing driver Geoff. Richardson, an R-R-engined F1 Beta, and an out-handicapped yellow BA4 biplane which Mike Carlton afterwards took away on its trailer, just as if it was a vintage racing car. The winner was John Spiller’s aged Cessna 180.

Shobdon, under Wing Comdr. Jimmy James, OBE, embraces flying, gliding and parachute jumping, as the first display item reminded us, the Herefordshire Parachute Club demonstrating drops from its Cessna 180 at 4,000 ft., this machine having a glider tow-hook copied from Cosworth’s Cessna. The Herefordshire Aero Club’s 50-year-old Chairman, Brian Webster, next aerobated in his 25-year-old DH Chipmunk. During the rest of the afternoon there were more drops, by the aforesaid parachutists, from a DH Rapide, and by the RAF Falcons from a Hercules, one of whom landed outside the field and had to be retrieved by the team’s Land Rover. The Barnstormers with Tiger Moths did all the old air-display routine, of crazy flying, balloon bursting, bombing a fort, flying under “goal-posts”, etc., including a wing-ride above Barry Tempest’s Tiger by Sue Ellis, the most daring wing-walk permitted by the present-day Air Ministry. Later it was Tempest who “stole” a Tiger, his novice antics well described over the excellent p.a. system by Ron Barker.

If the high-spot was the formation aerobatics by the Hawker-Siddeley/Gnat Red Arrows from Kernble, that invaluable piece of skilled propaganda by the RAF, the Rothmans pair of American Pitts S2A biplanes was able to follow without any disgrace. Incidentally, the Red Arrows had two other engagements that day, apart from appearing at Shobdon. The gliding was slightly marred by a broken tow-line but the VW-powered Falk motorglider gave us a touch of Lympne, 1923. Unexpected was the Laura Ashley Display, this famous dress-making concern basing its aeroplanes on Shobdon and now contrasting its 1938 Tiger Moth with its 1974 Piper Navajo, the latter a 275 m.p.h. 7-seater with two turbocharged Lycomings, possessing a range of 1,500 miles and able to do London-Paris in 95 mm. Whereas the girl who flew in the Tiger was met by a local 1926 Rolls-Royce Twenty, the Navajo’s passengers were collected in a Jaguar XJ-S. From time to time excellent displays were given of radio-controlled 90 m.p.h. one-b.h-p. model aeroplanes, Delta-wing, Spitfire and Hornet Moth, etc., by the Herefordshire MAC, the biplane model, as it were, deputising for Haytor’s real Hornet, which was unready, so that he had to borrow a Piper Cub for the aforesaid race.

Flt. Lt. Ian Hill showed off a 450 m.p.h. Mk. V Jet Provost, Lt. Comdr. Peter Shepherd provided the nostalgia by arriving from Yovilton in a RN Fairey. Swordfish (750 h.p. Bristol Pegasus) complete with crew and torpedo, before going off in a tight turn to another engagement, and Lt. Neil McMillan displayed a RN 1949-type Fairey Firefly (386 h.p. R-R Griffon), saved from the scrapheap in 1966. Its radio going u/s, it came in on a green-light signal. When I left after 41 hours of it, the Army Blue Eagles Sioux helicopter team was about to perform, a splendid propaganda piece which the financial cut-back will unfortunately axe next year, and there were still to come displays by Harvard IIB, James Gilbert’s replica Bucker Jungmeister, and a hot-air balloon. About as complete an air-display as you could wish for, I suggest. Shobdon 1977 should be worth an entry in your next year’s diary.—W.B.

Mercedes-Benz Diesel Records

Record breaking is not the prolific undertaking it was before the war and most of the activity is now in the c.i.-engined category. Mercedes-Benz are the latest claimants, using a C111 coupe with a supercharged fivecylinder 3-litre diesel engine. Driven at Nardo, Italy, in June, by Liebold, Waxenberger and Kaden, the car averaged 253.030 k.p.h. for 24 hours. The drivers changed at 2 1/2-hour intervals, when the car’s tanks were replenished with about 140 litres of diesel fuel. The engine was virtually a production unit, with single o.h.-camshaft and Bosch fuel injection, turbo-charged with a Garrett T-04B compressor. A 0-60 m.p.h. time of 6 1/2 sec. is claimed for the car, which weighed approx. 1,300 kg. World and Class records are claimed in the c.i.-engine category, subject to FIA confirmation, including 5,000 miles at 157.837 m.p.h., 10,000 km. at 157.655 m.p.h. and 10,000 miles at 157.373 m.p.h.—W.B.

Brighton Speed Trials— Sept. 11th

As we mentioned last month, the Brighton Speed Trials, which date back to 1905, will be held again this year on Sept. 1 1 th, thanks to new sponsors, the well-known tobacco company of Fribourg & Treyer, who have found the required finance. The traditional f.s. kilometre course along the Madeira Drive will be used and the Brighton and Hove MC expect over 200 entries, running in pairs, including Purley’s Chevron B30, Riley’s Brabham BT33, Marley’s UOP Shadow, Williarnson’s Surtees TS11, etc. All manner of sports cars, vintage and modern, will run in the morning, the racing cars from 2 p.m. onwards. A most interesting, illustrated history of this 71-year-old event has been prepared by Fribourg & Treyer, obtainable from high-class tobacconists and certain hotels in the Brighton area, or by sending a 6 1/2p 8 in. x 6 1/2 in. s.a.e. to Abbott Norris, 16A, West Central Street, London, WC1A 1JJ.