Red tape leaves show grounded

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION - by Michael DeFroand

It at­tracted thou­sands of peo­ple and raised cash for char­ity - but now Wings & Things is grounded

AVI­A­TION fans have been left stunned by news that Wood­church Wings & Things has been can­celled.

The an­nual air dis­play, reg­u­larly at­tended by up to 8,000 peo­ple from across the coun­try, will not be staged this year due to spi­ralling costs and bu­reau­cracy.

The show, which fea­tured such clas­sic air­craft as Spit­fires and the Sally B bomber, also ben­e­fited many char­i­ties, not least Wood­church Mu­seum. Its fu­ture, af­ter 18 years, is in se­ri­ous doubt. Mu­seum trustee and air show or­gan­iser Charles Boxer, pic­tured right, said: “The avi­a­tion Press reck­ons that Wood­church Wings & Things is prob­a­bly the finest air dis­play in the coun­try. It will be sadly missed.”

The or­gan­is­ers’ tough de­ci­sion was based on the ever-in­creas­ing costs of health and safety, fuel, in­sur­ance and the fly­ing of the vin­tage ma­chines.

Mr Boxer said: “It costs £20,000 to put on the show and own­ing and run­ning a plane like a Spit­fire can cost about £30,000 a year.

“Fly­ing costs have gone through the roof and avi­a­tion fuel, in a only a few weeks, has gone from 90p a litre to £1.20.”

He added: “We have to have paramedics. Kent Am­bu­lance Trust is now the South Coast Am­bu­lance Ser­vice, but when it was Kent it never charged us, it was part of their pub­lic duty.

“Then it started to charge in a mod­er­ate way and then charged at the full rate which was a four-fig­ure sum for one day.”

The or­gan­is­ers re­lied in­creas­ingly on St John Am­bu­lance, in keep­ing with their de­pen­dence on vol­un­teers, such as the lo­cal air train­ing corps who manned the car parks.

The ATC were among those who ben­e­fited, re­ly­ing on pro­ceeds from the char­ity show to fund their minibus.

Other char­i­ties helped by the show in­cluded the Pil­grims Hospice and Kent Air Am­bu­lance.

While big-time air shows may keep pi­lots and their air­craft busy and of­fer a glim­mer of hope for char­ity shows like Wood­church, the im­me­di­ate fu­ture is grim.

Mr Boxer said: “You ques­tion your san­ity each year, but the real buzz comes at the end of the show when you see the look on the faces of peo­ple leav­ing which says what a great day.”

Air­field owner Rob Davies with his Mus­tang

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