"Stately" Fly-in and Display at Castle Howard 2006

When we were tentatively asked if we would like to put on an event at Castle Howard we were a little dubious. Stately homes are well known for trees and gardens, and in the past we have been to suggested sites only to be disappointed in the size. However Phillip Kent, Andy Symons and I ventured over there to meet a very charming young lady called Rachel, who is the Events Co-Ordinator. Scott Plank interview

Castle Howard of course is famous as the backdrop for ‘Brideshead Re-Visited’. We were taken through the lush ornamental gardens with statues and fountains, and suddenly a vista opened to us. The field was massive, fairly flat grass, mostly surrounded by farm land with access over a small footbridge from the Park! Rachel offered us a spare date and we could have two days.

Discussions were soon under way and we eventually decided to have a general fly-in on Saturday and Sunday morning for ‘A’s and LMA certificate holders, so that the average clubman could get the opportunity to fly in such prestige surroundings. The Airshow for spectators on Sunday afternoon was by invitation only, with the final line up to be decided on the day. Andy, our new live wire Northern Area Secretary, was soon busy rounding up his many mates from RC Modellers Forum, and I prepared some posters and leaflets. Then we realised it was ‘Battle of Britain Day’ on the Sunday, so this would hopefully be the theme for the ‘Show’.

Dave Kerswell, Fellow, and Phil Clark of the ‘USAF Team’ kindly came over one day to give their expert opinion of the site, giving it the OK’. Dave offered to organize the Flightline, and Phil to bring his team over for the weekend. Meanwhile Rachel had also been busy with the local Press and arranged a photo call. All we needed now was a WW2 model for the press and eventually Brian Rawcliffe brought his super Mk1 Spitfire to be photographed with the Castle as backdrop. The Hon. Simon Howard came over and showed great interest; apparently one of his relatives was in the Dam Busters raid.

Andy and I had several meetings to discuss with Rachel how to organize things, and she could not have been more helpful, even promising to get the grass cut. It turns out her father is head gardener. One day Andy mentioned that a fly-over by a full size aircraft would be nice, and so I contacted Tony Smith at Breighton Airfield but they had nothing planned and a Warbird would cost £3000.00 per hour. He did half promise the Miles Magister which was built in 1940 and fully restored by them in trainer yellow with highly polished cowl. Later I had a call from Geof Cline, one of the pilots, who confirmed that the Maggie would do a fly-by, and I was to call him on the Sunday morning to confirm weather and times.

Preparation proceeded, toilets were ordered, Gordon Warburton brought the BMFA PA system over from the Nationals, and the hundred and one things necessary to put on a show were accomplished. Pre-entry had been arranged and Andy soon had over fifty pilots coming, including Ian Turney White with his massive Bristol ‘Bulldog’. Only registered Pilots and Helpers would be allowed on the flightline, with a partitioned area for spectators on Sunday afternoon. There is a very good camping/caravan park at Castle Howard, but it is on the other side of the Park so all equipment would have to be removed overnight for security, making it impractical to allow traders, although some did ask.

Friday 15th saw a hive of activity and a host of pilots came early to help out. The Park Staff had given the grass one cut and a roll earlier in the week but with the rain it had sprouted again, and been too wet for the second cut. We had warned people that this was not a suitable site for small wheels and most coped well with the conditions.

Saturday dawned slightly overcast and a little windy, but it was along the take off area. The flying went well with an extremely wide range of models from Twinstars to turbines. The inner man was fortified by the bacon butties from Rachel, Andy’s other half, while his daughter helped me with TX Control ,and his Mother and Step Father (who only came to watch) sold raffle tickets. Certainly a family gathering.

The local press had been over the top as usual with the editorial, it sounded like the air was going to be full of dog fights all weekend, when we had had trouble finding suitable models. Phil Clark and the ‘USAF Team’ brought a C47, two Thunderbolts, and a Banshee, putting on a superb polished practice display. Phil also flew his own design turbine Valkerie with verve look out for the kit of this swish model soon. That evening the campsite was alive with the smell of bacon and sausages, and we even had an aviation (honest) DVD show. Clive Farrar from Penrith had kindly offered me a bunk in his van, and is a superb cook. Thanks mate.

Sunday dawned a little overcast again, but dry, and the wind had completely changed to the opposite direction, but still down the line. Flying soon got underway with minimum input from the organizers. Modellers reveled in the lush surroundings, and the spirit of camaraderie was unbelievable. A modelers raffle was held with prizes donated from various people include the Model Shop in Leeds. Many thanks! Ian Turney White did a superb job of posing the Bulldog for flying shots for the Press. As the morning wore on I was worried about the Magister so eventually plucked up courage to call Geof Cline to see if everything was on. His reply was the Magister is not available but would the Fokker Triplane do!! After a missed heartbeat, the answer was yes,yes,yes, and we agreed to open the show with it.

My stint on the PA system was to start the ball rolling so I was able to announce that the Maggie could not be coming, but there was something similar arriving now over the trees. A gasp from the crowd heralded the approach of the menacing black shape and there was a rush for cameras. My involvement with the Northern Aeroplane Workshops Camel building project allowed some background on WW1 rotary engines. Later Geof came over with his wife to see the show and asked if we would be interested in performing at one of the full size shows at Breighton next year. Apparently this DR1 replica, which was in the ‘Blue Max’, has recently been in a new film called ‘Fly Boys’ so watch out for it at your local cinema soon.

The Model Show opened with Ian Turney White and his half size Bristol Bulldog followed by Dog Rigby giving a scintillating performance with his BD5. As luck would have it I had seen the full size, all 17feet of it, at a Byron show in the USA as well as building an electric prop version, so was able to talk with authority. The USAF Team twice put on a superb polished display, with minimum fuss, Phil later displayed his OD Valkyrie Jet to great effect, and even joined me in the electric slot with some tiny slippery gliders. Harry Harland with the Old F---ts cavorted around the sky with Cubs, Monocoupe, Aeronica, and Willga several times. Stuart Knowles’s team got some free advertising for the Don Valley Club by towing a banner.

A good Public attendance was admitted via the Castle grounds, and showed appreciation for the efforts of the pilots. The day was over too soon and it was time to clear up after a hard day. Many of the flyers stayed behind to help both then and next morning. Thanks to Dave Kerswell, Fellow, for running the Flightline like clockwork, and all the ones who helped out.

The icing on the cake was the raising of almost £700.00 by the selling of raffle tickets and refreshments (all the prizes for the raffle and refreshments were donated) which was donated to the RAF Benevolent fund. A chequewas later presentedto Flt Lt Jamie Bevan of 207 Squadron, RAF Lynton on Ouse, who incidently had recently bought an RC model of a Mustang!

John Thompson Chairman BMFA Northern Area