Moths and Cessnas gather at historic Henlow
RAF Henlow, one of the MOD airfields currently earmarked for closure in 2019, held two rather special events in mid-august. The de Havilland Moth Club arranged for its 2018 Gathering of Moths to take place at the Bedfordshire airfield on Sunday 12 August. After many hot and sunny weekends across southern England, the weather broke and severely restricted the number of DH types flying in to just fifteen. What they lacked in numbers, they made up in quality. Morane Saulnier-built DH60G Moth F-AYNY (previously G-AANV) flew in from Compiègne, France the previous day, while other intrepid overseas visitors were Us-registered Tiger Moth N8233 from Hilversum, Holland and Quax-flieger’s Lycoming-powered Chipmunk D-EFOM from Germany. It was good to see Fox Moth ZK-AGM/G-CIPJ, Leopard Moth G-ACUS, Hornet Moth G-ADMT and DHC-2 Beaver G-EVMK amongst the handful of Tiger Moths.
Two days later, in much improved weather, some fifty aircraft flew in for resident Cessna 120 G-BUHZ’S seventieth birthday event, organised by its owners and sponsored by Textron/cessna. Twenty Cessnas, of eleven different versions, included the UK’S oldest Cessna 120, 1946-built G-BRXH and the world’s highest-hours Cessna 140, G-BOCI. Built in 1940, Airmaster G-BTDE was the oldest and farthesttravelled Cessna, flying down from Liverpool. Among the other ‘partygoers’ were Porterfield CP50 flown in from White Waltham by Steve Sharpe, Ely-based Auster J-2 Arrow G-BEAH, and Nord NC854S G-BIUP, based at Temple Bruer.
G-BUHZ had its maiden flight on 14 August 1948 as N3676V at Wichita, Kansas, and was first registered in the UK on 1 May 1992. Originally built with an 85hp Continental C85 engine and no electrics, hence no radio or starter motor, 'HZ now has a 100hp Continental O-200 with a lightweight electric starter and a generator allowing an 8.33MHZ radio and a Mode S transponder to be fitted. Total hours are approaching 3,000−not many for a seventy-year-old machine, especially when the current group flies around 100 hours a year. When new, the Cessna 120’s advertised purchase price was $2,995 (around £750 at the then exchange rate of $4:£1). 2018-built Cessna 182T N538TA, the newest type present, in contrast costs around $500,000 (with $1.28:£1 the current rate).
Vying with Middle Wallop for the title of the UK’S biggest military grass airfield, RAF Henlow celebrated its centenary earlier this year. In 2018 it is, alongside Halton, Leuchars, Northolt, Waddington and Wittering, one of only six original RAF airfields still active. Pilots are being encouraged to support the airfield’s continued GA use by flying in over the coming months. 48 hours PPR is required to the Airfield Manager (Flt Lt Gavin Nicholson) 01462 851515 Ext 6150. The airfield is open every day except Monday and generally operates from 0800-1700 local to coincide with the flying club’s open hours.
ABOVE RIGHT: Oldest of the Cessnas, Airmaster G-BTDE headed an impressive line-up of postwar taildraggers
ABOVE LEFT: Morane Saulnier-built DH60G flew in to Henlow prior to Sunday’s Gathering of Moths
A celebratory cake for the Cessna 120