Well, in the words of Dave Cockburn, "We had an event!"
For the first time in seven years the weather did for us. But not completely.
Out of 115 aircraft and 450 attendees, 35 aircraft managed to arrive and 150 attendees, either by air or by road. We went ahead (what else could we do?), albeit with a revised timetable. Everything slipped by a few hours, but we were well entertained by the jazz band while our guests slowly began to fill the marquee.
All morning the cloud base stayed at about 500 feet, but by 1300hrs we were beginning to see some improvement. A few intrepid (and instrument rated!) pilots arrived earlier in the day, but most made it during the afternoon - some determined souls arriving as late as 15:00.
A number of pilots had made the 'no go' decision early, bundled their charges into cars, and drove them to Kemble - Simon Gadd from as far away as Elstree.One other hero deserves special mention - Steven Day, based at kemble, was to fly to Dunkeswell to collect his passengers, but as the weather at Dunkeswell was worse than at Kemble, he drove to collect and then again to deliver his passengers. Fantastic!
Every pilot that made it to Kemble is worthy of special thanks and praise. All did marvellously to bring their passengers in, and get them back home safely in very difficult flying conditions.
We pressed on with the schedule, our speaker W/Cdr Bill Stapleton CBE entertaining us with a short, but witty and interesting talk. Many of the attendees enjoyed an hour or so at the adjacent Military Vehicle Show, aided by the minibus shuttle service operated between our marquee and their entrance point.
The Antonov AN-2 proved to be a popular feature of the day. As all attendees were paid-up members of the 'Antonov Club', courtesy of Project Propeller, they were eligible for a flight as a passenger. The Anotnov eventually became airborne at 14:30 (the crew waiting for a suitably safe cloud base), completing 5 sorties and giving 50 passengers an enjoyable and unusual local flight. Many thanks to the crew for persevering and adding a special touch to the day's events.
Every member of the PP team worked hard to ensure that our guests were well looked after. Plenty of food and drink was on offer (with 150 people to consume food and drink for 500!), and the homemade cakes provided by Marie Perkins were especially popular.
All had departed by about 17:00, many leaving earlier due to concerns about the weather at the home airfield. A quick clean and tidy and we were all away by 18:00.
Special thanks are due to Glen Moreman and his colleagues at Kemble, and we are very grateful to them for allowing us to just 'get on with it'.
Next year will be better!
One nice afterthought... Bill Mould, flying in from Blackpool, found on departure that his aircraft had develeoped magneto trouble and was forced to stay overnight at Kemble. Bill called me on Sunday morining, thinking I was local, to ask about hire vehicles. As I live in Northamptonshire I could not offer any advice. However, I was able to arrange a flight back to Blackpool for Bill and his two passengers. You may be able to gues who was that knight in shining armour - yes, Steven Day once again!
Please accept my aplogies if you left a message for me that did not get answered. I cannot count the number of calls, texts and messages that I received on Saturday, and just did not have time to retrieve the messages, let alone return them. Any suggestions for doing this better in future?
Dennis Ray, 27th June