Report by Tony Blake
If you want to start a new club for an iconic 1960’s marque from BMC who do you turn to? Well of course it’s the MG Car Club; they can be relied on for help, support and advice. So when Roger Hayes of Skysport-UK wanted to launch the BullPup Flyers to support the pilots and owners of Beagle Pup and Bulldog light aircraft, the MG Car Club South West were first on the list to help organise the launch. But an iconic BMC marque, yes really; Beagle Aircraft Company was the brainchild of Pressed Steel at the same time as they were working on the body shell of the MGB, it was only after BMC took over and the cost of building aeroplanes started to hit the budget that Beagle was taken over by the government of the day. The iconic little sports plane and military trainer has a lot in common with the MG models and not just its origins as anyone familiar with the MGB hydraulics will see.
The BullPup Flyers was launched on Sunday 24th July at Cotswold Airport, Kemble with the aims of promoting social runs, maintaining the marque, racing, pride of ownership, increased skill levels and formation flying. Well the MG Car Club could not help with the last item but all the rest are familiar territory. The event was by invitation and wasn’t a public display which meant that we could all enjoy the day without the rules and regulations that would otherwise apply to an air display. This again was copied from the social outings that the MG Car Club organises all through the year. So the MGCC South West Centre lent a hand to organise the show and run the road side of the paddock. Jim Lott and Tony Blake helped set up the show and organise the stewards for the cars. There was an equivalent team by the paddock gate signing in the pilots and their passengers.
To start with, the racing scene is the same for cars and aircraft; contestants are amateurs who prepare their own vehicles for a series of races around the country. These are hotly contested and the horsepower is pretty much the same with aeroplanes competing with 150hp to 200hp and having a great time all the same. The Luffield MG Speed Championship and the King’s Cup air races make an easy comparison, so to underline this Rob Orford and Mike Cole were centre stage in the car park with racing Beagle Pup and Bulldogs on the grass right behind.
The MG line up was an impressive collection of MGF/TF’s as well as some great MGBs, MGCs and Midgets on show as well as the racers “Bumble B” and Mike Cole’s MGB. To widen the scope of the cars on show the Bristol Owner’s Club were invited and we had the good company of Bristol 401’s, 403’s, an AC-Bristol and the fabulous Bristol Fighter from 2004. Only a few days after the event the Bristol Car Company announced the new Bristol Bullet two seat sports car; maybe that’s something that we could flag up to the MG Car Company as a good idea? Two 1920’s Austin 7’s turned up unexpectedly because they could not get across the Severn Bridge, they got a very kindly welcome that they had not expected and added neatly to the display.
If the MG Car Club can manage some impressive silverware, then the air races have a wonderful collection. This was also a chance to show off the silverware with the really impressive Kings Cup originally presented by King George V to promote amateur air racing just back in 1922. It’s been raced every year except the war and to celebrate it, we brought together aircraft that were winners since 1936. The winning pilots from more recent decades were there and it was a great pleasure to re-unite Sonja Fillingham who was the navigator for her husband Pat, who was de Havilland’s test pilot with the DHC Chipmunk G-AKDN that they flew to victory in 1953 in front of 10,000 people at Southend. The aeroplane is now owned by Pete and Karen Gillespie from Canada who brought it over especially for this little aeroplane’s seventieth birthday.
For those who have a high regard for those pilots who raced across continents in the 1930’s, Tim Barron brought his grandfather’s (CWA Scott) Eastleigh trophy, 80 years since it was won racing to Johannesburg in a Percival Vega Gull and the even more impressive cup for the MacRobertson race to Australia that he won in 1934.
While MG owners grumble a bit and fish out the side-screens and hoist the roof in bad weather, flying needs more attention and we were worried by the radar map with showers coming towards us. Could we get the formation team airborne, they had been practising in small groups all morning could we get our 12 ship formation in the sky? Formation flying is one of the top skills and needs blue skies to show it off to its best, well we didn’t get it but the team did their best with the grey windy skies in the only gap in the weather all afternoon.