Battling for North Weald
FlyPast 'Battling For Britain' Fly-In, 12 September 2004
Andrew Bates reports from deepest Essex
Timed to coincide as closely as possible to Battle of Britain Day, this year's annual FlyPast Fly-In at North Weald was officially dubbed the 'Battling For Britain' Fly-In 2004. This accolade could not have been more prophetic. Although the skies were blue and the sun was shining brightly as the gates opened at 0930, it quickly became apparent that any visiting pilots would be faced with quite a battle against the elements, thanks to some extremely windy weather, which did little to abate throughout the day. As a consequence of this and blustery conditions elsewhere, the number of visiting aircraft was unfortunately lower in comparison to previous years. However, despite this, enthusiasts were still treated to a diverse mix of classic types in attendance and for those pilots who did bravely battle their way over to the event, one could only admire their skill and tenacity.
One of the first pilots to take on the vicious cross-winds was Clive Denney, arriving after his short flight from Duxford in the Historic Aircraft Collection's Hawker Hurricane G-HURI. His arrival was most welcome, as in keeping with the theme of the fly-in, the Hurricane was destined to be the focal point of the day, parked in one of the historic blast-pens, complete with period equipment and suitably attired personnel from the RAF at War re-enactment group. There was destined to be more Merlin magic later in the day with the arrival of two Mustangs, Rob Davies's G-HAEC 'Big Beautiful Doll' and Maurice Hammond's G-MSTG 'Janie'. Maurice also thoughtfully arranged for his Harvard G-ELMH 'Fools Rush In' to be flown in shortly afterwards. Other interesting attendees braving the elements included a trio of Austers, an ex-RAF Chipmunk, and from Old Warden, Magister G-AKPF and Ryan PT-22 G-BTBH.
As ever, many of the North Weald based machines were also on display, so despite the depleted number of arrivals, there were still much to interest the majority of enthusiasts. Apart from a plethora of Jet Provosts, there was a pair of L29 Delphins, an ex-Yugoslavian Kraguj and G-2 Galeb, TBM-3 Avenger, ex-CAF CT-133 in USAF Thunderbirds markings, and arriving from Leuchars during the afternoon, Red Arrows liveried Gnat T1 G-BVPP, which sadly suffered an incident on take-off a few days later, fortunately without injury to the pilot or major damage to the airframe. Added to that, there was a trio of classic Douglas propliners over on the Aces High ramp; a C-47, a C-54 and a DC-4. As if all this was not enough, the event also attracted some support from the RAF in the shape of a pair of 72(R) Squadron Tucano T1s.
Traditionally, North Weald is one of those airfields where you can always guarantee that there's something of interest for the aviation enthusiast, so despite the weather, thanks to the combined efforts of FlyPast, The Squadron, and all the participating owners and pilots, that tradition was upheld once again. Sadly though the airfield is under threat of brown field development for housing by the local authority - see the thread here for further information. Maybe the next photocall should be called 'Battling for North Weald'?