I wasn’t intending going to Duxford on the Friday but when I arrive at my desk at work, there were notices around saying that the Dii computer system that I use would be down for the day due to essential maintenance. I phoned my Line Manager and as I wasn’t able to do any work, he said I should go home for the day. With wall to wall sunshine being forecast and the possibility of it being the hottest day of the year, I disobeyed him and headed for Duxford instead.
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I never made it to Helitech this year but I arrived just in time to catch the Army Air Corps Bell 212HP and AAC Squirrel and the RAF Griffin helicopters about to start engines having spent the week on static display at Helitech. The down side of standing behind helicopters as they are winding up their rotor blades and taking off is that you get blasted by the downdraft and covered in loose grass and dirt and anything else that is not permanently fixed to the ground. All three helicopters hovered out over the airfield and with the Squirrel in the lead, departed to the west. I then spent about 5 minutes carefully cleaning the muck off my 16-80mm CZ lens.
Time for a Bimble around the hangars. The Skyraider was still resident with The Fighter Collection in Hangar 2/South although the French team were due in to fly it back to La Ferte Alais that afternoon. The P-40F was covered up a bit with brown paper and plastic as it was having the correct shade of red added to the national markings and the Vampire T.11/WZ590/19 in Hangar 5 now has its wing attached to the fuselage pod and day-glo covered undersides. The restoration of B-17 ‘Mary Alice’ is coming along but nothing really visible on the outside to show for it. Rumour has it that when the Vampire is finished, the B-17 fuselage will take its place.
I was sitting in the glorious sunshine at the picnic tables outside Hangar 2 debating whether to have a slow wander (a Bimble) up to the ‘Tank Bank’ at the other end of the airfield to have my lunch. I usually go sit up there for about and hour or so when the sun is shining and eat my sandwiches and watch Classic Wings and anything else that might be flying. The French Skyraider crew called in on the radio so I stayed put and kept a look out for the Beech 35 they were to arrive in. Not long after they parked up, I watched from behind as the Classic Wings Tiger Moth/G-ANPE have its slight mishap on landing and settle in a nose down tail up attitude by the Land Warfare Museum. I had a brisk walk up to the far end of the airfield to record the event. The pilot and passenger were out of the aircraft and sitting by the fence. The Duxford fire crew had covered the area around the tipped upped aircraft with foam because of a petrol leak and then the police cars and fire engines and ambulances arrived. I didn’t know we had that many emergency vehicles in Cambridgeshire. The airfield had been declared closed because of the emergency and visiting aircraft were being diverted to Cambridge or returning home.
By the time I had returned to Hangar 2, Terence the Tug was playing musical aeroplanes as he rearranged the ARCo contents of Hanger 2/North to extract the Buchon which was then towed to the ARCo compound.
By early afternoon, the Tiger Moth was sitting on two wheels and a tail skid, the Cambridgeshire emergency services had left and the Duxford fire crew available once again, the airfield was declared open to flying. The Skyraider was towed out of its temporary home since Flying Legends and out onto the airfield grass to prepare it for its test flight. Meanwhile John Romain called in on the radio to take the Mk1. Spitfire flying. He flew off to the north for a little while and then returned for a couple of display manoeuvres before landing. He parked on the grass and shut down short of the ARCo compound because the engine temperature was rising and the aircraft was towed back to its parking spot.
A very enjoyable, if unplanned, hot day out. Weather was excellent with just enough breeze to make the heat bearable. When the black and yellow Pacific Aerospace 750XL and the Lama helicopter took off late in the afternoon, Duxford information was reporting the outside temperature as ‘three-zero degrees’(Celsius) with wind at 11 knots.
The Skyraider eventually sparked into life with a lot of oily smoke belching from the engine exhaust stubs. The wings were lowered and the pilot taxied to the east end of the runway. After the engine checks, the throttle was open and the Skyraider took off from the grass and headed north for a test flight. He returned for a couple of long circuits of the airfield and then came in to land. He taxied straight back up to the take off point and then headed for home.