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Newark and the cockpiteers

Howard Heeley/Down To Earth Promotions reviews Cockpit-Fest 2007, held over 16-17 June at Newark Air Museum

A dreadful weather forecast and torrential rain coupled with severe flooding in both the West Midlands and South Yorkshire areas the day before did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of participants at Newark Air Museum's Cockpit-Fest 2007 event, which ran alongside the traditional Aeroboot aviation and avionics sale.

In the end both days were attended by a near record number of visitors and they were able to see the largest number of participating cockpits, instrumentation/avionic panels and associated visiting displays ever assembled in the eight years that the event has been held.

This year the range of types amongst the twenty-six visiting cockpits was even more striking than usual, from the massive Short 360 and Tornado F2 cockpits through the usual array of vintage jets to the Beagle 121 Pup and the diminutive Monnett Monerai P Glider, a powered glider used by the Irvin company for parachute sales demonstrations. From the organisers perspective what was really exciting was that more than half of these cockpits were participating at the event for the first time; thereby proving that the cockpit collecting movement is alive, thriving and perhaps even expanding.

For the eighth year running the event was extensively supported by FlyPast Magazine and the International Cockpit Club, with Great British Aircraft Spares generously providing some additional prizes for the second year running.

Classy cockpits
More than...

The international nature of the cockpit collecting movement was reflected in several ways:

  • The attendance of the Curator of the Frontiers of Flight Museum, Dallas Love Field, Texas, USA, who was entertaining everyone with details of their latest acquisition, the world's only SR-71 procedures trainer;
  • A group of New Zealand-based enthusiasts who had come to the event in search of a Meteor airframe;
  • The Aeroboot's first European stall holder from Belgium, who had a stall on both days;
  • Gnat procedure trainer raising funds for disadvantaged people in Kenya.

As ever the Saturday seemed to be the more frantic day with cockpits arriving and people setting up their displays. Fortunately this was not disrupted too much despite a couple of heavy showers. A nice feature of the event was the range of additional displays, which included:

  • Instrument displays for the Mosquito, Stirling and a Mustang;
  • Spitfire cockpit rig complete with Merlin sound system;
  • Survival equipment from RAF Coningsby;
  • Vintage Navigation equipment from 55(R) Squadron, RAF Cranwell;
  • Artefact display by Lincair;
  • Dave Stapleton's extensive 626 Squadron Research Project from Wickenby, Lincs;
  • 1237 (North Hykeham) Squadron of the Air Training Corp who gave survival equipment demonstrations;
  • The Raptor Foundation were also in attendance on both days with the official Cockpit-Fest mascot, Delta an Eagle Owl travelling around the site providing photo opportunities in several cockpits;
  • A Second World War display from the Newark Museum on Sunday.

Another first for Cockpit-Fest came in the shape of the first complete aircraft to be specifically transported by road for display at the event; this was Karl Edmundson's Auster V TJ398, which was displayed alongside his Vampire T11 cockpit.

Having attended each Cockpit-Fest event one particular aspect that I always find interesting is being able to follow the progress of the different projects and this year there were three particularly fine examples on display for all to see.

Throughout the 2006 event Tony Dyer of the Air Defence Collection could be seen working away on a small section of Seafire airframe, which at the time seemed so insignificant I did not even photograph it. By this year's event Tony had transformed this exhibit into the cockpit of a Seafire F46, believed to be the only Spitfire/Seafire cockpit in the UK that allows disabled access.

For several years David Collins and his de Havilland Hornet Project has displayed an array of well restored de Havilland Hornet F1 instrument panels and artefacts at Cockpit-Fest. At this year's event these panels were displayed for the first time having been installed in the forward wooden cockpit shell that has been fabricated from original drawings by David Collins.

In recent years Stuart Gowan's Spitfire cockpit has been a regular attendee at Cockpit-Fest and on each occasion the trailer used to transport the cockpit seems to have grown to accommodate the growing exhibit. At this year's event whilst the cockpit, perhaps better described as the fuselage nose section might have been missing but an impressive array of instrumentation and airframe fittings from his project drew many admiring glances from visitors and fellow cockpiters alike.

Perhaps due to the range of commemorative events taking place elsewhere around the country Newark's success in attracting flypasts for the event continued unchecked. They were fortunate to be granted a total of three flypasts: by Spitfires from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) on both days and a flypast on Sunday by the Dakota from the BBMF.

During late Sunday morning there were a few bemused looks as the museum's Sea Harrier ZA176 seemed to be receiving a 'pre-flight inspection'. For a short while a rumour briefly circulated that this former Falkland veteran could be a part of a last minute attempt to join the Falklands Anniversary Flypast in London later in the day. However any fears of a QRA-style departure from Display Hangar 2 were soon dismissed when the 'pilot' was identified as the Museum's Acquisitions Officer and Trustee, Dave Hibbert. He was actually evaluating the possibility of the museum providing costumed figures for the museum's planned Enthusiast Photo Days, which will be formally launched later in the summer.

Members of the museum's cockpit opening team seemed to be working overtime during both days with several of the larger aircraft being open to the visitors, this included: Shackleton, Vulcan, Hastings, Varsity, Phantom cockpit, Canberra T19 and Wessex.

However the undoubted star of the show was the recently arrived Saab Viggen, which had its cockpit open for public viewing for the first time. Whilst visitors were not allowed to sit in the cockpit they were able to take photographs of the cockpit. The access steps also afforded near panoramic view of Display Hangar 2 and many visitors took the opportunity to grab those different views of the exhibits on display.

The impressive Viggen also provided the backdrop to the prize giving ceremony that took place at 14:00 on Sunday afternoon. As ever the standard of work on all cockpits and displays was praised by the judges and the following awards were made.

Ross McNeill - winner of two trophies with his immaculate Canberra PR9

Joint winners of the 2007 Spirit of Cockpit-Fest Award
Simon Pulford - Tornado F2 ZD938
Frank Millar - Canberra PR9 XH177

Readers Cockpit Award 2007 (voted for by the visitors)
Ross McNeill - Canberra PR9 XH175

Cockpiters Cockpit Award 2007 (voted for by all cockpiters)
David Collins - de Havilland Hornet

Best Cockpit 2007
Ross McNeill - Canberra PR9 XH175

Best Cockpit Runner-up 2007
Ron Fulton - Boscombe Down Aviation Collection - Harrier GR3 XV784

After the presentation all the cockpiters and their families gathered in front of the Viggen for a group photograph. Many then set about the task of preparing their cockpits and exhibits for the return journey, which in some cases is a major task and can involve a journey of several hundred miles. So if like me you spoke to some one the following week who mentioned about following several cockpits down the A1, you now know where they were coming from.

Special thanks to all those who provided the information for this article and for all the participants at this special event, see you all at Cockpit-Fest 2008!

 

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