Light Aviation Association Rally, Sywell, Northampton, UK 3rd-5th September
Report by Peter and Kim Davison plus Colin Coulthard
This long awaited event coincided with one of the best weather weekends of the British Summer. Nearly a thousand historic, light and homebuilt aircraft flew in, to the delight of over a thousand enthusiastic enthusiasts starved of travel opportunities and relaxed access to their favourite sector of general aviation.
The beauty of this event is the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Homebuilders are keen to showcase their projects either in mid-build or by actively flying in. The generous but safety conscious airside access reduces overcrowding in the display and workshops zone and allows a dialogue between pilots and visitors as the ground marshals carefully try to group arriving aircraft by type or generation. Once visitors have toured, noted and photographed the parked aircraft they can line the perimeter beside the active runway to safely add to their collections.
Tribute should be paid to those good natured volunteers that run this event from airside to car parking. In a world of increased paranoia it is encouraging to see casual interaction between professionals and, potentially, the next generation of GA builders and operators.
This year’s arrivals were predominantly domestic as Covid testing rules discouraged European flyers from crossing the channel but a few from Austria, France, Holland and Germany complemented the UK based foreign registered aircraft seen more often in UK skies.
There were numerous permutations of the Vans RV types, often in dramatic liveries as fibreglass replaces fabric as the material of choice. The presence of the likes of Twister, Sling and Flitzer adding variety.
The historic sector was well represented with a few de Havillands, both Moths and Chipmunks and, notably, the recently restored Beagle Pup prototype parked with aircraft No4 in the static display. Being the 75th anniversary fly-in pays tribute to the long history of GA activity in the UK.
Avro was well represented with a 504J under cover showcasing the quality of restoration and the patience of restorers to fulfil a dream. This appeared almost ready for final assembly. Another 504 took centre stage near the airside entrance point.
Other one-off attendees included a Norvigie, Broussard, Nanchang CJ6, Yak C11 and Stieglitz plus a pair of scale Spitfires. Unlike the recent Popham event only a few gyroplanes attended and rotary had a minimal presence partly as the many helicopters based at Sywell were off limits or locked away.
After all this positivity I must conclude with what, for most visitors, will be the enduring memory of the event: the chaos of entry, particularly on Friday morning. First, anyone pre-booking with the LAA website clearly stating ‘no booking fee’ an automatic mark up of more than 10% from Eventbrite, mildly annoying when the lower price was charged on the gate. The very limited entry desk with technical issues delaying entry by nearly an hour for pre-paid and pay on site visitors.
This reduced a little on Saturday with an extra check in via a desk by the hotel but, for those arriving before 0930 a queue of over 100 yards because the entry had to wait till then. Even if the airside had a ‘start’ time, letting returning visitors in at 0900 would have increased the catering income considerably and reduced the frustration for all. LAA needs to take control of this for next year, wherever the rally is held.