On Sunday 18th May the Imperial War Museum Duxford started its 2008 display season with the Spring Air Show in this the 90th Anniversary year of the RAF and the airfield at Duxford. The weather forecast was reasonable so the turnout of enthusiasts was certain to be good as the British take advantage of the weather whenever they can and with good cause. Last years bug RAF display at Waddington was washed out by heavy rain over several days before the show making access to the fields used as car parks impossible. A couple of disappointments with the grounding of the Boeing B-17 Sally B due to an engine failure that developed into a saga of engine replacements and further failures that left one of the stars of the UK warbird scene on the ground for months. Another cancellation was the Royal Navy Historic Flights (RNHF) Fairey SWORDFISH that has been restored as reported previously by Checksix and has now been ground tested but did not receive the certification to fly in time for this show.
Even with these cancellations Duxford was to deliver an excellent days entertainment with flight line walks available for a small fee and free access to the whole collection of aircraft at Duxford including the now fully open Airspace exhibition, a full day could easily be spent just in the museum hangars. When attending at Duxford we all hope to see the regular warbird selection and no one was disappointed, to add little extra spice to todays show the boys in 29 Squadron RAF Coningsby flew in to display the Eurofighter EF-2000 TYPHOON!. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) flew in with the AVRO LANCASTER escorted by a Hawker HURRICANE and Supermarine SPITFIRE, always a welcome sight at UK airshows. The BBMF LANCASTER offers several passes in differing configurations clean pass, bomb doors open and a wheels down pass giving great views of the only flying LANCASTER on his side of the Atlantic, the other being in Hamilton/Canada. The escorts perform two individual displays before forming up with the LANCASTER for a departing pass.
The Fighter Collection provided a familiar growl with a display of the Grumman big cats F-4F WILDCAT, F-8F BEARCAT, F-6F HELLCAT and their Change Vought F-4U CORSAIR. A regular attraction at Duxford the big cats performed a great display. Another interesting display was the Percival PEMBROKE, as commented from the Abingdon display this aircraft is not graceful but gives a great and graceful account of itself, a surprisingly good display. The L4 CUB and Auster display offered something a little different with a slow but impressively manoeuvrable display of these truly classic aircraft. Contrasting against the non graceful Pembroke and the slow Auster was the Hawker NIMROD II owned by the Historic Aircraft Company, a truly graceful aircraft performing an outstanding display. Although the RNHF did not get the Fairey SWORDFISH to Duxford they did get the Hawker SEAHAWK FG.Mk6 there and it displayed with the Supermarine SEAFIRE of Kennet Aviation who have very close links to the RNHF. The wingwalkers of TEAM GUINOT (Aerosuperbatics) provided the glamour of attractive girls on top of classic aircraft; they also provided a smoke screen that stopped most photography as they flew through clouds of their own making. But even if you could not see them you could not miss the sound of the Boeing STEARMAN, music to our ears. Radial engine fans would have been satisfied with the North American T-28 Fennec and North American AT-6 HARVARD display with the unmistakeable roar of the big radial engines in formation followed by the great solo FENNEC display by Radial Revelations in the big trainer come attack aircraft.
Tacking a step back in time the DeHavilland DRAGON RAPIDE owned by D&M Miller flew in formation with two DeHavilland CHIPMUNKS from Aircraft Restoration Company (ARC). Making a subtle tribute to a legendary name in aviation DeHavilland, the DRAGON RAPIDE is certainly a graceful aircraft that stands in comparison to the more workman like CHIPMUNK, a historic aircraft in its own right. The RAF were in force at this show with the BBMF and then the BAE Systems HAWK T.Mk1a from 208 Squadron RAF Valley, painted in a special anniversary scheme with the RAF roundel on the underside, very distinctive and also visible on the EMBRAER TUCANO from RAF Linton-on-Ouse. The RAF also sent along the truly staggering Boeing Vertol CHINOOK display courtesy of RAF Odiham and flown this year by Flt Lt Rich Simpson who is keeping up the standard and raising it from previous years. All this was a prelude to the reason for having ear defenders at a warbird show, the RAF TYPHOON display screamed in to perform its powerful and earsplitting display. The tight turns are impressive and the raw power awesome a distinct contrast to the usual fare at Duxford.
As the evening began to draw in another jet took to the sky, this time a regular performer and much loved aircraft, the North American F-86A SABRE owned and operated by Golden Apple Operations Ltd. This plane always provides a very entertaining display and today would not be different, the last jet of the day and perhaps the best display of the day too. The next display was in clear contrast to the F-86 SABRE, the Buecker JUNGMANN from Skytricks showed the aerobatic ability of this classic German aircraft, while the audience was watching this, the next display was forming up. The days flying display was ended in the traditional way for the Duxford Spring show with a tail chase of Supermarine SPITFIRES provided by the Historic Aircraft Company, Old Flying Machine Co and Air Leasing. These tail chases are frenetic and offer a taste of what the war time life of a British airfield must have been like, a tremendous finale to a great show! Well done Duxford.
We would like to thank the whole team at Duxford and in particular the media team led by Tracy Woods for their hospitality.
Will Moore / CHK 6 UK
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