SOARING through the skies over Bicester is a special experience but doing it from an Oxford-made 1940s deHavilland Tiger Moth takes it to another level.

The iconic Tiger Moth will be among scores of planes taking to the sky for this year's Classic and Sports Car Show in association with Flywheel, along with hundreds of classic cars and military vehicles back on solid ground at Bicester Heritage.

There are a few stand-out features billed for this year's event that have already got organisers fired up and reporter Naomi Herring was invited along for a taster of things to come.

The sights, sounds and setting of Bicester Heritage's former World War Two bomber station is enough to send the mind of any car and aviation enthusiast into overdrive.

But experiencing it all from the cockpit of a 1940s Tiger Moth adds a touch of nostalgia which fits in perfectly against the background of the former RAF Bicester site.

The Oxford Times:

Bicester Heritage welcomes back the annual festival, formerly known as Flywheel Festival, on June 23 and 24 and along with it hundreds of cars, motorbikes, military vehicles and planes.

Finest Hour Experiences, part-based at Bicester Heritage, will be showing two historic Tiger Moths and offering up the chance for people to take flight in one.

This includes one of the first deHavilland Tiger Moth planes to be built in July 1940 at Morris Motors factory in Cowley, Oxford.

The Oxford Times:

Finest Hour Experience owner Chris Thompson said the planes were first recognisable as Tiger Moths after being flown privately, before the RAF caught wind and started using them for primary training particularly for pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain.

The aircraft were originally built by deHavilland before moving to Oxford in the 1940s.

Mr Thompson said: "They first rolled of the production line in Cowley in June 1940 which was obviously Battle of Britain time and saw some really dark days for this country.

"One of the aircraft we will be operating at the festival was one of the very first Tiger Moths built in Oxfordshire before a further 3,200 more went on to be made at Morris Motors.

"We will also be operating another Tiger Moth built in 1943 for people to have the chance to have a flying lesson, get a go at taking control and have a unique tour of the countryside."

The Oxford Times:

The weekend will also see the return of the Bremont Great War Display Team BE-2c, plus the BBMF Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster and Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) Dakota.

Back on solid ground will be a hive of historic vehicles from the iconic classic displays including pre and post-1970s vehicles, as well as tyre-squealing action on the track.

Vehicles among those taking to the demonstration area include a 1926 Bentley 3 Litre Sports works car that competed in the 1926 Le Mans 24 Hours, a 1922 Sunbeam Grand Prix prepared for the French GP at Strasbourg and a 1936 Aston Martin 2-Litre Speed Model which raced at Brooklands in the 1930s.

The Oxford Times:

On the other side of the airfield will be the chance for people to get on board for a passenger ride in a CVRT Alvis Spartan tank with SWB Motorsport.

This particular tank was used in the Gulf War or a 1942 Grant M3 T24193 tank complete with bullet holes after being used as an ammunition target to secretly test captured German ammunition.

Flywheel event director Richard Grafton said: "We have always sought to become an international event and to be able to hold that in Bicester, Oxfordshire, is a real treat.

"It is important to us to offer something for all the family and create that real immersive mix of noise and movement here at Bicester Heritage.

"This site holds a huge part of history for the local area and to bring it back to life has been wonderful and it is nice to often have people come to the event who say they used to work here or similar."

The Oxford Times:

Mr Grafton said this year's event will have event more classic cars on show and more car clubs on hand, plus familiar appearance from local groups such as the Bicester Home Guard re-enactors.

The show will be staged from 10am on both days and day tickets are £23 for adults or £10 for children.

For details or for tickets see

Wind-in-your-hair ecstasy

THERE is something incredibly thrilling, if slightly nervewracking, about taking to the skies in an open cockpit, writes Naomi Herring.

Add to that the fact it is on board a 1940s de Havilland TigerMoth and it provides wind-in-your-hair ecstasylike no other.

The initial fear of being out in the open was fast replaced with the sheer awe that struck me once in the air.

The thrill, the nostalgia and the incredible views above Bicester made for an unforgettable experience.

The Oxford Times:

Pilot Chris Thompson, owner of Finest Hour Experiences, talked me through the flight as well as the terrifying minute I took control of the flying.

He then took back thec ontrols to show just exactly what the Tiger Moth can do and why it remains one of the most iconic war time aircraft in our history.

This included various acrobatics and a loop-the-loop in which I successfully held my tongue, and kept my eyes open long enough to take it in.

Back on the ground and in slightly more familiar surroundings, next up was a drive in an Alvis Spartan – an eight-tonne tank capable of up to 50mph.

A surprisingly smooth ride for what I thought could end up with me accidentally storming into a neighbouring garden.

But instead the incredible experience of driving an armoured vehicle which was once used in the Gulf War left me feeling very much at home whizzing round the site buzzing on the history at Bicester Heritage.

  • For details on driving experiences and passenger rides search SWB Experience Days on Facebook
  • For details on Tiger Moth experiences see