Chris Gurney avoids the crowds at Windermere and ventures into the deep dark wilderness of North-West Cumbria for Kirkbride's Fly-In on 30 July
Just six miles to the west of Carlisle lies Kirkbride Airfield. Though nowadays its residents are just a handful of privately owned aircraft and the NW Gyroplane centre, its history can be traced back to the beginning of the Second World War when it was established as No. 12 Care and Maintenance base. The idea for these bases was to keep factory-fresh aircraft safe and from danger until they were required for frontline duties. Many assorted types including Avro Tutors, Magisters, Spitfires, Lancasters, Liberators and Meteors were kept at Kirkbride until the RAF vacated the airfield in 1960, a Gloster Meteor being the last to leave. After the war the airfield was like a mini-AMARC with, at one point, over 1,200 airframes stored there. Onto more recent times and the military still uses the airfield fairly regularly, most notably in October 2004 when the airfield was used as a forward operations base during Exercise Eagle's Eye.
In association with Solway Light Aviation, Kirkbride held its annual Fly-in on Sunday 30 July. Although the weather was fairly breezy, a nice mixture of aircraft ventured up to this remote airfield in the Northwest corner of Cumbria. The day started off fairly slowly, so there was time to have a look around a couple of hangars, one of which contained Steen Skybolt G-CCPE, which was absolutely immaculate but unfortunately never flew on the day. With the odd bit of low cloud that soon cleared, proceedings were started by a resident Piper Cherokee Six flying some low bad weather circuits - it really is surprising how noisy one of these can become! With liberal use of the throttle in all the right places and some sharp turns the pilot certainly got everybody's attention. Mid-morning came and there was a steady number of movements, many of which were homebuilt designs, and by midday it seemed like there were aircraft arriving from every direction.
Highlights of the arrivals included a pair of Gazelles, one of which was resplendent in Royal Navy markings, and other former military aircraft present included a Beagle Pup and a De Havilland Chipmunk. The former of these flew several extremely low flypasts along the runway and was certainly one of the highlights of the day. The arrivals stopped just before 14:00 to allow the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight to provide several flypasts of the airfield - they sent along Spitfire Vb AB910, Hurricane LF363 and Dakota ZA947.
Unfortunately an Extra 300 and a Strikemaster aircraft scheduled to display failed to arrive due to bad weather at their home base, but fortunately an Isaacs Fury had arrived earlier during the day and FRA Aviation's Chief Pilot, Simon Johnston, put the nimble biplane through a fantastic display of classic aerobatics, which for myself and many others was the highlight of the day. After the display he took the time to chat to members of the crowd who had thoroughly enjoyed his earlier display.
So it was time for massed departures, nearly all of the morning's arrivals either kept low or came back for a fly-by giving plenty of photographic opportunities to the crowd. Last but certainly not least to leave was a Newcastle-based Jet Provost, which certainly kept low and provided a fitting end to this fly-in.
Many thanks to John Plaskett and his small team for organising a great day's entertainment!