I wasn’t intending paying Duxford a visit on the Saturday, but as the highlight of flying on the Friday was an Army helicopter that paid a visit, I decided to go as there were a few air shows on that day and some of the Duxford based aircraft were down to take part so the chance of a bit of action was looking good. The weather wasn’t very encouraging at first as there was drizzle when I caught the bus from St Ives which turned to rain by the time we got into Cambridge which only stopped when we left the outskirts of the city. It was still cloudy and dark when the bus arrived at Duxford but the plus point was that it wasn’t raining and the wind that was blowing was quite warm.
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I was going to have a wander through the hangars, although nothing would have changed much from the day before. As I was leaving The Fighter Collection Hangar, I saw a Piper L-4 Grasshopper (Cub) being pushed by its pilot out towards the airfield. Knowing they usually parked it on the grass next to the crowd barrier by crash gate C and with Sally-B parked out on the airfield grass, a photo opportunity came to mind. The pilot had the same idea and was taking a few snaps with his camera phone. I rattled off a few compositions of the two American aircraft before the fuel bowser turned up to top up the Grasshopper before it left a short while later for Rougham.
Late morning and the dark grey fluffy clouds were turning into light grey fluffy clouds and there was the occasional glimpse of blue sky and sunshine. Tracey Le Tracteur, the Historic Aircraft Collection aircraft tug, was being a busy little bee. First it extracted the HAC Spitfire from hangar three and parked it out on the airfield followed by the HAC Hurricane. They were parked line astern from the B-17; noses’ pointing into the brisk breeze that was blowing along the airfield. The Hurricane was first off departing for an overnight stay at Headcorn at Ashford in Kent, to take part in the ‘Combined Ops Military Show and Vintage Aircraft Weekend’.
The pilot of the T.28 Fennec had flown in earlier during the morning and having checked his aircraft over, fired up the big Wright radial engine with a big cloud of smoke wafting from the exhausts. He taxied to the runway hold point and started his power checks before heading off for the short hop to the Air Display and Classic Car Show being held at Rougham airfield in Suffolk. With the brakes on the engine was throttled up several times but started to backfire with a few loud pops. Because of the noise I couldn’t quite hear what the pilot said over the radio but he throttled down and taxied back to his previous parking slot and shut down. The pilot had a look around the engine and a short time later, strapped himself back in the cockpit. The prop turned but the engine didn’t catch. Even using the mobile starter pack that had been plugged into the Sabre, the Fennec prop turned over but the engine still didn’t catch. Time to call it a day and for the canopy cover to go back on.
While all this was going on, the Classic Wings fleet were doing their usual thing of flying passengers around in their Tiger Moths and Dragon Rapides. There was a small gaggle of visiting aircraft but not as many as usual for a Saturday. A brightly coloured Pilatus PC.12 was flying circuits and bumps from both the hard and grass runways and eventually parked up on the Jet pan for about ninety minutes before leaving off the grass strip.
Mid afternoon and B-17 ‘Sally-B’ was next up and started her four engines one by one with the usual oil filled smoke screen that drifted across the entire site. Fortunately the wind quickly dispersed the smoke cloud and Sally-B departed Duxford for the short journey to Rougham for her display slot. Thirty-five minutes after leaving Duxford, B-17 Sally-B returned for a straight in approach from the east and parked back up on the grass again ready to repeat the process on Sunday.
And what a difference a day makes. Having nearly turned to the ‘Dark Side’ in resorting to photographing a modern Army helicopter at Duxford on the Friday, because nothing else was flying, there was more flying on Saturday afternoon than you could shake a stick at. Or should that be a monopod.
Mark Linney was next up in the Golden Apple Operations F-86A Sabre and following a wave from him as he taxied by, headed straight out to eastern end of the hard runway for a flight south to display at the Eastbourne International Air Show along with an overnight stay.
Finally the HAC Spitfire took to the air and headed off to the north. It returned about ten minutes later with a display over the airfield before landing and being refuelled. As I was leaving Duxford on the bus, the HAC Spitfire was lining up on the grass runway for a long flight to North Yorkshire where it was to perform in the sky above Castle Howard at the Great British Summer Prom that was being held there.