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To Hullavington and back

Cotswold treasures

Andrew Bates reviews the 2007 Great Vintage Flying Weekend, held at Hullavington Airfield on 19-20 May

After a tenth anniversary event at Keevil last year the Great Vintage Flying Weekend (G-VFWE) returned to the former RAF airfield at Hullavington in lovely Wiltshire in mid-May - this had previously been the venue for the ninth event, held in May 2005. During the last few years the hard work of the events committee has not exactly been rewarded by the weather gods, and at one stage it looked as if this year would be no exception with rain a distinct possibility, according to some pre-show forecasts. As it transpired, the weekend didn't turn out too badly weather wise - Saturday was a bit of a challenge for the pilots, thanks to the windy conditions, but apart from a couple of sharp showers it remained relatively dry and even managed quite a few bright and sunny spells during the afternoon. Meanwhile, Sunday was to prove much better, with relatively little wind, no rain and much more sunshine, so thankfully the weather on both days was an overall improvement on the previous two shows.

Hullavington, like a number of former RAF airfields, is now utilised by the British Army and is known as Buckley Barracks. However, there is still a small RAF presence in the shape of two Volunteer Gliding Squadrons, 621 VGS and 625 VGS, both of whom fly the Viking T1. One of these had been thoughtfully taken out of the VGS hangar and placed on static display alongside, for comparison, one of its predecessors, an immaculate Sedbergh TX1, which is also apparently still flown on occasion. Between them the two squadrons have over a dozen Vikings on charge, so the enthusiasts present were very appreciative of being allowed into the hangar by the VGS staff to check out the fleet.

As the Saturday morning progressed, the initial trickle of aircraft flying in to the event gradually increased to a steady stream and very soon the aircraft park began to fill up with all manner of classic types. Austers were very well represented, both military and civil versions, along with a number of Piper Cubs and Super Cubs, including an example all the way from Germany. Then there were one or more examples of all the old favourites such as Bulldog, Chipmunk, Tiger Moth and Hornet Moth.

From a photographer's point of view, the layout for the fly-in was perfect. The main taxiway over to the aircraft park ensured arrivals would proceed directly towards the camera before turning parallel with the public enclosure and then making their way to the allotted parking place. Occasionally, a short landing run would enable a pilot to take a short-cut across to the aircraft park, but the majority of aircraft were to follow the prescribed route enabling an absolute abundance of photographic opportunities.

As morning turned to afternoon, so the classics kept coming; Miles Gemini, Porterfield CP50, Tipsy Belfair, and a beautiful Percival-built duo of Proctor and Vega Gull, to name but a few. More potent arrivals were to be found with the arrival of Martin Willing's ex-French T-28S Fennec from Duxford along with Peter Teichman's North Weald-based P-51D Mustang 'Jumpin Jacques'. And, for something a bit more unusual, there was the ex-Swiss Air Force Pilatus P-2 all the way from Earls Colne and ex-Dutch Air Force Fokker S-11 Instructor from Spanhoe Lodge in a very smart looking Dutch Navy scheme.

As always, early afternoon saw the aircraft park thrown open to the public for a couple of hours so that they could wander at leisure amongst all the assorted aircraft and more closely scrutinise their particular favourites. This also granted all the photographers the opportunity to get some close up shots of the various types on display. Naturally plenty of patience is required here to get a clear shot of any specific type, but it was usually rewarded if you were prepared to wait.

After the allotted time had passed, the public access to the aircraft park was then closed in anticipation of the next round of aircraft movements as those pilots not choosing to night-stop got ready for departure. Once again more photo opportunities as aircraft started up and taxied past on their way to the runway. This pretty much dictated the rest of the afternoon's activities which was greatly assisted by some very welcome periods of sunshine at this point.

Overall this was again a very relaxed and entertaining event, which deservedly benefited from some better weather in 2007. Approximately 120 aircraft turned up on the Saturday, with about 190 descending on the Sunday. There are rumours that this might be the last G-VFWE event due to one of the primary members of the organising committee stepping down this year - hopefully this won't be the case, as this event is surely popular with both pilots and enthusiasts alike. Whether it's likely to be Hullavington or at another equally delightful venue, fingers crossed it returns next year, as this show has earned itself a rightful place on the air events calendar.


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