Gary Stedman reviews Rougham's annual Wings, Wheels and Steam Fair, held over 23/24 June
Unlike Rougham's annual airshow, which is held later in the year, the 'Wings, Wheels and Steam' Fair incorporates a large steam and vintage vehicle rally alongside a general aviation fly-in as well as a modest, but varied, air display. With the prospect of a new road cutting through the grass airfield and house building creeping ever nearer the future of Rougham's grass airstrip has been under threat for sometime now, so this year's series of events may be one of the last chances you will get to see this historic airfield operational.
Sunday morning started as one would expect for the summer of 2007 - grey skies and probable rain. Your correspondent started the day well by getting stuck in the mud on the approach to the car park and having to be towed out by local volunteers! Given these appalling conditions, visiting aircraft were few and far between although the planned display items did manage to make it through. Richard Grace's two Cassutt racers got to Rougham at their second attempt that morning, having had to turn back to Duxford previously.
One well-known performer who arrived as planned was Denny Dobson and his striking blue and yellow Extra 300. Denny had a little something 'extra' planned for Rougham that afternoon. The ribbon-cutting routine is the finale to Denny's display and he is the only regular aerobatic pilot on the circuit to perform it. This involves having drafted 'volunteers' holding poles upright, which are connected together by bunting at the top, Denny then flys a knife-edge in between, cutting the ribbon with his propeller blades. Precison flying by Denny, steady nerves from the pole holders and a regular supply of bunting are all required in abundance! Denny doesn't just do this with one ribbon however, and until that Sunday, had worked his way up to cutting thirteen ribbons in just one pass. He now planned to go that one step further and I was there to photograph the record breaking attempt in a single pass - no pressure then!
Before Denny's show stopping finale a few other performers braved the wind, rain and dark skies to entertain what was still a fair sized crowd given the conditions. As mentioned, Richard Grace and company had somehow managed to bring their tiny and striking Cassutt Racers in for a well choregraphed two-ship performance of fast run and breaks. Nigel Wilson had rather less distance to travel and his Yak 52 is well known locally and can often be seen over Suffolk, particularly at the weekends. He has even practised his aerobatic routine at Wattisham several times recently while the Army were away at the request of their rather bored ATC!
Charlie Brown seemed to have mislaid his trademark Spitfire at Rougham, performing in a rather more sedate Chipmunk. Something that you don't see very often is a display by a GA type - in this case a Piper Arrow flown by Martin West, a suprisingly spirited performance.
With the skies getting ever darker, Denny took to the sky and started his aerobatic routine, while Sandra down below organised the army of pole holding 'volunteers' for the finale. A few passes to get his bearings, and then straight through, with ripped bunting everywhere as proof that Denny has now cut fourteen in a single pass, although that number probably won't stand for very long either!
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