On Sunday 25 August seventeen cadets and four members of staff from 966 (Wallingford) Squadron ATC attended the North Moreton Air Pageant organised by Peter and Polly Vacher at Melhuish Farm.
This year, courtesy of 28 (AC) Squadron, RAF Benson, the cadets and staff were transported from Benson in the Merlin helicopter which was scheduled to be part of the event. The short flight which started out on a grey and drizzly day was the first time many of the cadets had flown in a Merlin. After disembarking the cadets were soon briefed by Polly about their duties of the day, which involved helping with event activities such as, manning the entrance gate, keeping the site free of rubbish and crowd control.
There were a number of static aircraft on display including the Piper PA-28 Dakota in which Polly became the first woman to fly solo over the North Pole, Antarctica and the seven continents.
The event started with a flying display of model aircraft followed by an exhilarating aerobatic display by a Pitts Special.
By now the weather was definately taking a turn for the better with grey skies giving way to sunny periods. The pig roast and ice cream sellers were doing a brisk trade while everyone waited for the next display. After a short delay due to weather conditions at their point of departure in Surrey, the crowd were entertained by what was undoubtedly the highlight of the event – the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight comprising a Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane who put on a full 15 minute display over the airfield.
Following the departure of the Memorial Flight there then followed a more unusual event – a glider from the Wyvern Gliding Club performing an aerial display synchronished to the classical tune of ’Air on a G String’ by JS Bach!
Next to take to the sky was a Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 which has the distinction of being one of the few remaining aircraft to have seen action in the Battle of Britain. This aircraft, which was flown on the day by a pilot whose normal job is flying 747s, has been restored to its former flying self by Peter Vacher and now wears the same colours it last wore in August 1940.
Following the Hurricane was a Tiger Moth display team of 8 aircraft whose pilots put on a spectacular display of formation flying with their vintage aircraft.
With the event nearly at an end it was time for the Merlin to leave. The large crowd of people who had gathered to watch this departure were kept at a safe distance by the cadets as the aircraft started up before, they themselves, boarded for the return trip. Once airborne, the Merlin performed an ‘exhilarating ‘ tight turn at the end of the airfield in order to perform a low pass in front of the crowd line before returning to RAF Benson.
A very successful and enjoyable day and thanks should go to Polly and Peter Vacher for the invitation and to 28 (AC) Sqn RAF Benson for the excellent transport arrangements!