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Great vintage washout!

Air Atlantique's Twin Pioneer dominates the flightlinePaul Fiddian reports on G-VFWE's wet weekend...

Vintage weekenders
Thales DC-3
Hornet Moth
Tipsy Belfair
Beagle Auster
Cessna 180A
Piper L4J
Twin Pioneer
Sedburgh TX1

On 21/22 May the Great Vintage Flying Weekend (G-VFWE) was held at the historic airfield of Hullavington, North Wiltshire. Hullavington, once an RAF base, has been through various guises, including hosting the World Aerobatics Championships in 1970. These days, gliding is the main focus so G-VFWE was the largest aviation event held there for some time. With extensive advertising in the aviation press and a reputation gained from excellent previous events at Abingdon, Kemble and Wroughton (to name but three), I was filled with anticipation as I turned off the M4 and good access to the airfield combined with well organised parking only heightened this.

Through the already spitting rain Air Atlantique’s Twin Pioneer and Dragon Rapide elegantly arrived overhead and joined their stablemates gathered together on the ground, including the Thales testbed Dak, Anson and Prentice, as well as two An-2s. Around 12:00 a number of these were opened up to the public, but even without going inside, with no barriers in place, complete access provided opportunity for some unusual photo angles around all Antonovs two...of them. A good start! Much consideration was given to photographers and the impact of seeing the aircraft at close range, with most arriving types directed down a taxiway that ran parallel, and very close to, the crowdline. A good selection of traders was also present-providing welcome relief from the deteriorating weather (Air Atlantique’s pleasure flying Dove reported the cloudbase down to 800ft at one point!).

Scheduled in the programme as a two-hour slot between 12:30 and 14:30 was a chance to wander out to the aircraft parking areas, but this was reigned in on account of the conditions. Delayed by a nasty shower, this eventually ran for just over an hour and was graced by the best of the day’s weather - a great opportunity to see a select range of types in ultra close-up 360-degree detail was presented. It was a real pity, though, that the hordes of Thirties classics, with which the event has become synonymous, were so sparsely represented, with the majority of the types there being Cessnas, Pipers and the like. Plaudits to the pilots that did brave it, as there were still some notable highlights - a beautiful pair of Hornet Moths stood out, together with a solitary Stearman and a gorgeous Tipsy Belfair, similar to the Tipsy Trainer that often displays at Old Warden, but with an enclosed cabin and decadently decked out in red. Further nostalgia came from multiple examples of Piper Cub and Auster, and the prototype Taylor Monoplane, its diminutive size highlighted by the walkaround, as many curious visitors peered down into the cockpit!!! Other personal highlights were a Cap 10 and its predecessor, a neat Piel Emaroude, sadly not side-by-side.

In one of the brighter moments, Hullavington's hangars provided a picturesque backdropJust before 14:00, event sponsors the Met Office warned of a squall on the way. A scheduled flypast by the BBMF had already been pulled and a decision was made to leave earlier than I expected to. By this time a steady trickle of aircraft had begun to depart and the highpoints of the day looked to be over.

With the kind of access and photo opportunities presented here, I wish that I’d made it to previous events! Overall G-VFWE 2005 was disappointing, with the range and quality of its participants well down on previous events, mainly due to the poor weather. 2006 sees G-VFWE celebrate its tenth anniversary and current plans see it again at Hullavington. Here’s hoping for some sun!


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