The Great Vintage Flying Weekend (G-VFWE)
(The largest and best gathering of vintage & classic civil aircraft in Europe)
Abingdon May 14-16, 2004
From May 14-16, 2004, Cirrus Associates held their eighth annual Great Vintage Flying Weekend or G-VFWE, as they like it to be abbreviated to. This year it was held at Abingdon airfield (Oxfordshire, UK) or Dalton Barracks, as it has become, since the RAF moved out some years ago. Last years, very successful event, was held at the Cotswold Aviation Centre at Kemble Airfield. As previous events, which are really meetings rather than air shows, have been held at Old Sarum, White Waltham and Thruxton. It is clear that they like to move around.

The aircraft present live up to the organiser's dream of accumulating the biggest gathering of vintage and classic civil aircraft in Europe. 600 aircraft, a record for the event, were pre-registered this year. Not all the visitors were vintage, a number of modern 'tins' were to be found and to some extent were parked away from the historical flying greats, as so not to spoil the affect. With lines of Austers, Miles, Percival (Provost and Prentice) and de Havilland (various Moths and a Dove) types, this was a real treat to the eyes. At 12:40, when the last visitors had arrived, the public was allowed to wander around the aircraft park, a major plus for the show.

Anyway on with the show, which consisted of 100s of rare vintage aircraft, some seldom seen during the air show season. What caught your eye immediately was the large and clumsy shape of the ex-East German Air Force PZL Antonov An-2T (D-FKMA ex LSK-440) in an 'Aero Troika' livery. It is believed to be currently based at the nearby Wellesbourne Mountford airfield.

Multi-engine veterans included the Twin Pioneer painted in ETPS raspberry ripple scheme but flying with civil registration G-APRS. Other ex-military aircraft noted were a pair of ex RAF Pembroke's (WV740 and XL954) in the original white (above centre), blue cheat line and grey colours. The arrival of the 4 engine DH.114 Heron (G-AORG), was a thrill to see and by chance, I was in good position to get some decent shots, as it taxied to its parking place, but some distance from the crowd line. It was previously with the Royal Navy as a Sea Heron C.4 (XR441) but is now painted in Jersey Airlines markings.
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Left to right: Antonov An-2T (D-FKMA ex LSK-440), Twin Pioneer (G-APRS), DH.114 Heron (G-AORG) and Sea Heron C.4 (XR441).
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Left: Austers of various marks were abundant, the organisers announced that over the weekend 49 of these wonderful British built civil and military light aircraft, were pre-registered for the event.

Right: The Civilian CAC.1 G-ABNT particularly caught my eye today, nesting in the long grass.
We must thank the organisers and particularly the Miles Aircraft Collection for their attendance. Ten or more of these venerable old ladies, included such types as; Messengers, Gemini's, Hawks, a Falcon and Magister.
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Above left: Roger Mills' Miles M.21 Hawk Speed Six racer.  Centre: Miles M.38 Messenger 4B built in 1945 for the RAF as RH427. Right: Miles M.38 Messenger 2A built in 1946, seen shortly after arriving.
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Left to right: Grand old machine Percival Provost (XF877 / G-AWVF).

Manufacturers from beyond our shores include the French manufactures Nord with the Nord N.1002 Pingouin (German designed and license built Messerschmitt Bf 108B Taifun) marked 'KG+EM', (G-ETME c/n 274) and the dainty Nord NC854S.

Clearly the owners were quite rightly very proud of their own particular pride and joy. It was easy to chat to them about their restoration projects. Many were just cleaning and polishing. Gordon Spooner, the owner of the immaculate Miles Messenger 2A (G-AJWB), opened the engine cowling the reveal a Cirrus engine that did not look as though it had ever been used. After lying on his back cleaning the under surfaces, he explained that his particular Messenger was restored with heavier Gemini wings which increased the stall speed from a mere 18 knots to just 22 knots. It was nice to see two old favourites parked side by side, the unique Chrislea CH.3 Super Ace 2s G-AKUW, G-AKVF, complete with the owners tent between.
I enjoyed the event, despite the limited photographic opportunities, which I hope the hard working and much appreciated Cirrus team, will look into for next time, wherever it may be.