NOSTALGIA: Insight into the last air display at Wilmington

Flight, founded in 1909, is the world's oldest continuously published aviation news magazine
Flight, founded in 1909, is the world's oldest continuously published aviation news magazine

This feature from Flight magazine of 1939 colourfully describes the final event which took place in the skies above Wilmington Aerodrome before the facility was handed over to the Ministry of Supply at the onset of the Second World War.

Although Eastbourne Flying Club’s garden party at Wilmington Aerodrome on Saturday August 12 1939 was not graced by those high officials in aviation circles who add tone to such meetings with their speeches, there is no doubt it was one of the most enjoyable functions of its kind.

What is more, it took on quite an international flavour for the many visiting aircraft from across Europe.

Overall the sunny afternoon, a somewhat massive but excellent supported programme was attacked and frequently departed from in a delightful impromptu manner.

But as was the case last year, the only criticism that could be offered was on the score of its length.

At the same time it should be stressed that the club had seen fit to introduce one or two instructive items not strictly connected with flying but which did provide a refreshing break to those who had seen one or more demonstrations beforehand.

Between midday and 2.15pm aircrafts began to arrive for within this period an arrival competition was being held.

Visiting pilots were directed where to park their machines by the ever-handy AA scouts and then greeted by officials who drove them to the clubhouse where they were welcomed by the Eastbourne club’s chairman C Wilson.

By this time the enclosure in front of the clubhouse had begun to fill while spectators from Eastbourne and the surrounding districts arrived.

The first part of the programme was devoted to demonstrations headed by a Tipsy piloted by A Munro in the place of Squadron leader E Mole, who is still unfortunately hors de combat after his accident in the Folkestone Trophy Race the previous weekend.

Munro showed how the Tipsy could climb. In fact one could be pardoned for suggesting that it climbed almost too well for although the Tipsy was made to loop and spin with ease, it required good eyesight to see these manoeuvres.

A rather more dashing show was put across by F/O Pickard in the low wing BiBi-Be 550. After a series of smoothly executed steep turns and dives the BiBi was brought in rather too low over the aerodrome boundary hedge for the mental comfort of onlookers.

Even so, F/O Pickard was able to pull off a very neat three-pointer at the critical moment.

Almost before he had landed, Mr Hollis Williams was off the in the General Aircraft Cygnet, which incidentally was the first production model of its type.

After last Saturday there can be no doubt that Mr Williams has got this tricycle business thoroughly weighed up. His high speed approaches were enough to make any sensitive pilot groan in anguish as the Cygnet merrily romped into the ground at a steady 75mph, but seemingly miraculously was able to pull up within 70 or so yards without any difficulty.

At other times he showed how easy this machine would be to put down in a small field.

Gaining a little altitude the Cygnet was made to loop and halt roll out of the top and even to dive on its back just to show that a machine which is easy to fly can also be acrobatically minded.

Next came George Miles who proceeded to put the latest Miles Monarch through its paces with a series of perfectly judged turns and loops finishing up with an almost lift-like approach after the best Miles traditions.

By this time one demonstration was beginning to get rather like its predecessors.

G Wickner took up one of the new Wickos and showed, at a somewhat nerve shattering low altitude, what a handy acrobatic machine a two seater cabin aircraft can be.

The demonstrations proper were brought to a close with a neat performance by B Hardy in a Taylorcraft. Approaching parallel to and quite near the lines of spectators,he proceeded to clear the boundary by a matter of inches and landed.

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