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Latest News >Lashin' Lasham

Lashin' Lasham (By Huey Pilot Rob Tierney and Tracy Fitchett-Bowen)

When I offered to fly Huey to Lasham for the ATC Open Day in the middle of July I envisaged a warm balmy day sitting in the open watching a fine display of aircraft and talking to the visitors.  I would fly Huey down to Thruxton on the Friday and take a ‘gentle stroll’ across to Lasham, barely 15 mins away, on the Saturday morning to be there for 9am.  However, during the preceding week it became clear from the forecasts that Saturday 10 July was unlikely to be an easy day for flying.  So having produced a detailed timetable to cover this event and another Private Event some 10 days later, the first part of the plan had to be binned and rewritten.  We concluded that if Huey was taken directly to Lasham and a hire car was arranged to

enable us to return to our homes in Andover we could achieve the objective.  At this stage there was to be just Maurice Hillier and I; if there were many visitors we would be hard pressed to cope so the remainder of the ‘Southern Support Team’ were contacted and Tracy and Douglas Fitchett-Bowen confirmed their availability and that they would be delighted to come and help.

And so it came to pass that Maurice and I departed Andover by hire car at 0600 on Friday and arrived at Wesham at 1030 after a delightfully easy trip.  We saw no idiots on the road and there were no delays by traffic – it fact it was exactly as driving should be and we arrived just as Phil was finishing moving Huey.  He had already very kindly loaded her up with all the paraphernalia to support our appearance at the show, leaving just the wheels and towbar to be loaded and lashed down.  I had to dive into my fuel plan as there were just some 800 lbs of fuel remaining on board.  Fortunately the forecast had it that we would have a tail wind and this indicated we should arrive at the mid-way refuel point with a safe margin over the minimum landing fuel. 

We lifted off from Wesham just after midday bound for Halfpenny Green aka Wolverhampton Airport.  The visibility on the flight was excellent – we could see the Wrekin which is near Shrewsbury as we passed the Thelwell Viaduct on the M6.  With such good visibility it seemed bizarre that the following day was expected to be so grotty.

At the same time Tracy and Douglas, the Southern Support Crew who have previously teamed up with Rob, set off from Reading by train to Birmingham and then onto Wolverhampton to meet Huey 509.

Huey was, as always, a welcome sight for onlookers at Wolverhampton and whilst waiting for the next leg of the journey, the team met up for a well deserved coffee, just in time for the Tower to be buzzed by two Tornado jets flying overhead at 500 feet…… what a welcome!

Whilst ahead of schedule at Wolverhampton, Rob took the opportunity to sneak in a practice demonstration flight in Huey.  This was a delight for onlookers, the Control Tower staff and of course for Maurice, Tracy and Douglas.  The conditions could not have been better, not only to see her fly but to hear that infamous Huey thud, thud, thud as she took to the Wolverhampton skyline.


Shortly after 2.30pm Maurice, Tracy and Douglas climbed aboard and 509 headed for Lasham, flying at 2000ft on route over Shipston, Wantage, Newbury Racecourse and then hanging a left into Lasham.

  

We landed at 3.25pm to be greeted by a camera/film crew!  The camera/film crew had been given kind permission from Phil Connolly and also the Event Organisers to film our arrival as they were making a 20 minute extract of the famous Robert Mason book ‘Chickenhawk’ (Chickenhawk Book available from the Huey Website Shop).  Huey was made accessible for the photo shoot as was Rob for a quick interview on how to fly a Huey.

Whilst the ‘stars’ of the show were busy, the remaining crew put up the tent and set everything up in advance for ATC Lasham Open Day in the morning.  We finally secured the aircraft and set off for home leaving Huey to settle in for the night at Lasham.

When Rob woke up the next morning and looked out, it seemed the weather was not too bad but once on the road heading for Lasham it became quite clear we were in for a rather wet day.  The Gates opened at 10am and despite the poor weather the crowds were pouring in. There were static displays to warm to the motor enthusiast, bike enthusiast and aviator as well as hanger tours of the big jets in for maintenance.

Due to the low cloud base and the poor weather in general the Air Ambulance arrived 3 hrs late. The Cloudbase possibly got as high as 200 ft and 'sucker's gaps' regularly appeared but then it clamped again just as people thought they might be able to do something.  However, model aircraft carried out an almost uninterrupted flying show - it was certainly not interrupted by full sized aircraft.  The programmed flying display was cancelled and the star of the show, the Vulcan Bomber, did not attend but this didn’t dampen the atmosphere of the event at all.  The public were treated to a ground display from the fire fighters and from the only aircraft to get airborne which was the Bell 47 which had flown in from the other side of Lasham airfield!!  Meanwhile 509 had a steady stream of Huey lover’s, helicopter enthusiasts and of course small budding future pilots keen to board the aircraft and check out the machine guns!

(It later transpired that even if the weather had been kind, the Vulcan would not have appeared for after start up at Yeovilton it only taxied a few feet before it was realised the brakes had failed).

As the day went on, everyone got wetter and wetter and the cloud base got lower and lower.  It was decided not to fly Huey to Thruxton that evening but to tether the blades and leave her there for the night. Rob intended to return the following day when weather conditions were forecast to be a lot better to fly her to Thruxton.   So 509 spent the night with the Bolkow 109 of the Hampshire Air Ambulance whose crew had also decided that the weather was too bad for their return to base.

Never was a decision to go a day early better justified in practice.  During the day Huey was refuelled.  She seemed to be parked on level ground but it must have been slightly sloped for after refuel the gauge read 1,300 lbs, a good 100 lbs more than is usually seen.   Even after the trip to Thruxton, the gauge still read close to a normal refuel at Blackpool – Huey 509 really is a thirsty bird!

At the end of a fantastic day, Tracy and Douglas hopped onto a train back home after a great weekend, Huey 509 with Rob and Maurice jumped into another hire car (this was nearly not the case as one of the organisers, thinking they had arranged this car, tried to prise it off Rob for what the organiser saw as a greater need - to get a Blade’s Pilot back to Lincoln.  Certain views were expressed and Rob retained the car.

Finally, we would like to thank the ATC Lasham Event Organisers for their kind hospitality and support to Huey and her Crew.  All credit to them for a wonderful Open Day.



 
 
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