Air Pageant and Merlin Flight

Fourteen cadets and six members of staff from 966 (Wallingford) Squadron attended the annual North Moreton Air Pageant organised by Polly Vacher who is also the Squadron’s Honorary President.

This year, courtesy of Wg Cdr Jason Appleton, who commands 28 (AC) Squadron at 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 was uneventful until the arrival when the down draught of the helicopter blew away two gazebos which were pitched a little too close to the landing site! Following this dramatic entrance the cadets were soon briefed by Polly about their duties of the day which mainly involved helping with event activities such as handing out programmes and crowd control.

One of the many aircrafts on display was the Piper PA-28 Dakota in which Polly became the first woman to fly solo over the North Pole, Antartica and the seven continents.

Following the pig roast at midday the event started by a superb flying display of model aircraft by the Newbury and District Model Aircraft Club.

Next there was an exhilarating aerobatic display by a Pitts Special followed by a more sedately pre-war De Havilland Rapide.  After the Red Arrows had flown past, the Tigermoth display team put on a spectacular display of formation flying with their vintage aircraft.   Then an unusual event – a glider display set to the classical music of JS Bach!

Of all these aircraft the highlight of the day was the flight of the only surviving Hurricane which had seen action in the Battle of Britain.  This aircraft had been found in India and eventually after 6 years of lengthy negotiations by Peter Vacher brought back to England and restored to its former flying self (without armaments!).

The event was brought to a close with a celebration skydive by a recently married couple and finally the departure of the Merlin.  The cadets were used to ensure the large crowd of people who had gathered to watch this departure were kept at a safe distance as the aircraft started up before, they themselves, boarded for the return trip to Benson.

A very successful and enjoyable day and thanks should go to Polly for the invitation and to Wg Cdr Appleton and his crew for the excellent transport arrangements!

Photographs of the event have been posted in the ‘News-Photos’ section of this website.