Flying high at Merlin Air Pageant in Hucknall despite heavy rain

Hucknall Merlin Flying Club pageant
Hucknall Merlin Flying Club pageant

Air enthusiasts and fans of classic vehicles travelled from far and wide to Hucknall’s Rolls-Royce site on Saturday despite torrential rain for the annual Merlin Pageant.

Organisers feared the event would be a total flop when the heavens opened mid-morning but heavy rain failed to dampen the spirits as many still enjoyed what was on offer.

Unfortunately the weather did prevent some of the planned aircraft from taking part forcing organisers to make contingency plans to save the day.

“We had an excellent range of classic cars and bikes again,” said Merlin Flying Club member, NigelPerkins. “I was surprised how many of these enthusiasts came along in the morning when the weather was terrible and looked at one stage as though it would ruin the day.

“The Hucknall Model Aircraft club were able to provide a varied static display in the morning which drew interest from the visitors, but even they had to retreat into their marquee as the Met Office forecast of rain proved accurate.”

The club, which is based at the Rolls-Royce site off Watnall Road is made up of former and current employees. It is feared this could be the final pageant in Hucknall as the site has been earmarked for housing and business development and the club is currently unsure of its own future.

Also based at the site are the Hucknall Air Cadets who also played a big role during the event.

“The ATC were on hand to take visitors through their activities,” added Nigel. “They did a great job as always of helping out with the running of the day.”

The heavy rain meant alterations to the day’s timetable as some planned activities and aircraft were grounded.

“At around 2pm when the display was due to start, the weather started to clear and it then turned into a very pleasant afternoon, ideal for display flying, watching and photography,” added Nigel. “The display did run late and needed a degree of last minute re-planning as the aircraft, which came from as far away as Somerset and Kent on the day to display, were held up by the weather and arrived when they could.

“Some alterations were made to the display content also; the Hurricane we had hoped to have was unable to leave its home as it is based on a grass field which was waterlogged. The Sea Fury also was unable to come due to operational problems.

“These were replaced with a de Havilland Dragon bi-plane (one of the world’s first successful commercial aircraft) and a P51D Mustang - always a crowd pleaser.

“Our display aircraft provided an excellent and varied show lasting almost three hours, starting with a Cessna Aerobat flown expertly by our own Chief Flying Instructor, Colin Hutson, and then featuring the de Havilland Dragon bi-plane, a magnificent Spitfire Mk XI, a Pitts Special, the Yakovlevs display team flying 4 Yaks in breathtaking close formation aerobatics, and a P51 Mustang which together with the Spitfire provided a stunning soundtrack to the display.”

The rain unfortunately affected the numbers expected for the day.

“The morning weather understandably put people off so numbers of attendees were well down on last year at around 1,000, and we had only one visiting aircraft (apart from the display ones of course), compared with around 70 last year,” added Nigel.

“However those who came and stayed the course were treated to a really excellent day.”