Reaching for the sky
Magnificent men and women in their flying machines thrilled dozens of spectators in glorious sunshine at Fenland Airfield in Holbeach St Johns last Sunday.
Open to the public and free of charge, Fenland Aero Club played host to the latest round of the McAully, Fenland, Cavendish and Nathanial Alony Trophies aerobatic competition, organised by the British Aerobatics Association.
This three-day event was curtailed by poor flying conditions on Friday and Saturday but the low clouds rolled away on Sunday to give perfect conditions for the shortened programme on the final day.
In total, 30 pilots from all over the UK participated in the five sections of the competition, flying sleek, highly manoeuvrable aeroplanes to the delight of the watching crowd. Thirteen of these fought for the prestigious McAully Trophy, which has been hotly contested every year since 1962, while seven more went head to head for the local Fenland Trophy.
One disappointed competitor was Sharon Zhaohuachen Wang, a young pilot now living in London; the only Chinese female aerobatic pilot in the UK. An aerobatics instructor and highly experienced in competitive flying, sadly Sharon Wang’s own Hungarian-made YAK 52 aeroplane developed an oil leak during practise.
However, Sharon was able to borrow an Extra 200, G-EEEK, and complete her aerobatics programme to come fifth in the McAully Trophy. This Trophy was won by Trevor Dugan flying a Pitts S2A, G-ISZA. The Fenland Trophy was won by Jez Burgoin flying another Pitts S2A, N-80035.
Sharon Wang’s flying reputation had turned her into a film star, as she was being shadowed by a Chinese state TV crew who recorded her every move while enjoying being entertained by the the Aero Club. When not flying, Sharon was being filmed doing interviews and commentary for a Chinese TV documentary about how Chinese people living in England interacted with Western culture. So, is Fenland Aero Club about to feature on China Central TV in the near future?
Given that there was so much flying to cram into the final day, Ray Nicholson, in charge of the control tower team had a very busy time. In his usual calm way, he dealt with competition aeroplanes taking off and landing every few minutes; ‘away-day’ visitors flying in for lunch or indeed to refuel their aircraft or guiding private aircraft flying through the airfield zone so that they did not stray into the aerobatic event. The equally important task of keeping this influx of visitors fed and watered, was in the capable hands of Katie Booth of OK Catering and her team.