The 2017 Flywheel Festival Was An Aerial And Automotive Spectacle
Photography by Jayson Fong
Now in it’s third year, the annual Flywheel Festival has got the recipe right for attracting visitors who enjoy the sights of all things mechanical. With the promise of a mix of classic cars, motorcycles, military vehicles, and airplanes on display together in one great big stew, last weekend saw petrolheads of all types descend on the former RAF station, eager to see both wings, wheels, and tracks in action.
Since I can remember (in addition to cars of course), I’ve always been fascinated by aircraft, and especially of the vintage type. New super-tech jets are interesting, but something about classic propellors and the massive motors behind them is special. Readers of this site should have no difficulty understanding the allure of things like this I think. So when I stepped out of my car last weekend and onto the grounds of Bicester Heritage to the immediately recognizable hum of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, followed by the silhouette of a Spitfire climbing above the tree line nearby, well, let’s say that I knew my day was going to be a good one.
But with scheduled air displays set to start in the afternoon, I had to stymy my aerial excitement a bit longer, though a tour of the open paddock and military displays proved to the the perfect way to spend the morning all the same. From jumping onboard a C47 Dakota, riding on a Sherman tank, to finding a mix of the classic staples and some weird and wonderful machines alike among the 150-strong paddock (including an extra rare Bentley “T”-Type single seater and a radial-engine-powered Peugeot P50, the morning’s slower pace and smaller crowds meant that getting up close and spending time looking at the details was never an issue like it often is at events like these.
With the live airfield and demonstration circuit flanking either side of the static display corridor, there was no shortage of things to see and do when the afternoon came around. And no matter where you were the sounds were surrounding you in a wild mixed orchestra of automobile and airplane. As the cars and motorcycles took turns burning rubber and leaning hard on their sides around the technical track, the sky above was filled throughout the afternoon with everything from helicopter displays, aerobatics, and even some entertaining mock dogfights between Sopwith Triplanes and Fokker DR.1s, fully equipped with explosive pyrotechnics of course!
However, for most, the highlight of the weekend was watching a Spitfire Mk.IX and Hispano HA1112 Buchon (A Messerschmitt BF-109 built under license with a Merlin engine) take to the sky in one such faux fight. With high speed dives, tight banking, and the sound of two Merlins interacting in the sky, the sight of two iconic warbirds up in the air again was truly memorable.
In my opinion, the Flywheel Festival is as good as shows come. A chance to see favorites up close without getting caught in a crowd and an opportunity to see them with engines running alongside some of the best machines from the motorized world? I’m already looking forward to next year’s weekend of wings and wheels.