The penultimate air show of the Duxford Season was held over the weekend of the 3rd & 4th September 2011. Although advertised as the ‘75th Anniversary of the Spitfire’ show, there was an interesting collection of aircraft from foreign countries making their first appearance at Duxford. These ranged from the Polish Air Force M-28 Breza to the Norwegian Vampire pair to the undoubted star of the show, a Lakenheath F-15E as displayed by the USAF Strike Eagle Demonstration Team from the 4th Fighter Wing based at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, USA. The weather was going to play a major part over the weekend with sunshine forecast for the Saturday and heavy rain for the Sunday. Although I can’t vouch for crowd numbers on Sunday, as I didn’t go, there were lots more people around on the Saturday than I expected. Although cloudy and overcast when I arrived by the start of the flying display the clouds had parted, although they did roll back in for time to time, for blue sky and sunshine for most of the afternoon. I set up camp next to the gate post at Crash Gate D. With the sun was more or less directly in front of the crowd line, I had a decent view of aircraft taking off from the hard runway or coming in to land after displaying and an excellent view of aircraft turning to the left over the M11 & the roundabout.
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The show was started by another foreign visitor in the shape of an Alpha Jet from the French Armée de L’Air in their specially painted aircraft celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Tours Fighter Training School. Unfortunately the Hurricane had developed a leak and couldn’t display with the Buchon and the two Hawker Nimrods, after a formation flypast, flew opposition displays and performing for crowds at both ends of the airfield. Another highlight for me was The Fighter Collections trio of Hawks. Carl Schofield was in the P-40B Warhawk with Nick Grey in the Hawk 75 and Stephen Grey in his recently acquired desert camouflaged P-40F Warhawk. After a group flypast they then gave individual displays before B-17 Sally-B flew sedately around the Cambridgeshire sky with plenty of topside as she turned across the M11. A flying act not seen at Duxford for a long time was up next in the shape of the Westland Sea King HAR.3A of No 22 Sqn based at Wattisham which gave a demonstration of winching aircrew to and from the ground.
The noise level dramatically increased with the arrival of the F-15E, flown by Major Mike ’Cash’ Maeder, pulling tight turns with afterburners on and drawing vapour across its wings as it sucked the moisture out of the air. The Old Flying Machine Company pair of Mustang and Spitfire took off with the Mustang heading for Cosby in Leicestershire and The Victory Show and the Mk.V Spitfire performing a display over Duxford before joining its stable mate at Cosby.
Next up was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and along with the Lancaster/PA474 were Hurricane/LF363 and the silver Spitfire/MK 356. The Lancaster has a new pilot and the surprise after the routine was the landing of the Lancaster at Duxford after many years of the previous pilot always preferring Cambridge airport to land at.
Following the Second World War hardware into the air was a bit of modern military hardware in the form of an Apache AH.1 helicopter from the Army Air Corps based at Wattisham. For their first, and hopefully not their last, visit to Duxford the all silver FB.6 and T.55 Vampires of the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron, did a pairs take off from the runway. They performed a series of manoeuvres through the clear blue sunlit sky as if they were tied together. The noise level dropped again as the SWIP team of the Silence Twister Duo performed pair’s aerobatics with a lot of smoke. The noise level to increase again the as the two T.28 Fennec’s cavorted around the Duxford airspace before the decibels dropped again when the Sportavia Fournier RF4 Duo of The Red Hawks spiralled and dived and spun over the airfield with more smoke emitting from special pods on their wingtips. The show was drawing to a close but not before the excellent Aerostars, in their Yak-50 Russian built aircraft, as all six of them threw them selves all over the sky for a thoroughly enjoyable routine, with yet even more smoke that at times did obscure the action. The pace slowed again with the ever-graceful Fairey Swordfish of the Royal Navy Historic Flight making several passes along the crowd line with the three-man crew waving and saluting to the crowd.
All in all the Imperial War Museum should be congratulated for a very enjoyable air show with some new display acts to Duxford producing a varied flying display mixing the old with the new.
The grand finale was a mixed gaggle of seven Spitfires taking to the air. There were two Merlin powered Mk.V’s, four Merlin powered Mk.IXT two seat-trainers and a solitary Griffon powered Mk. XIV. They flew a couple of circuits in formation before breaking away for the two-seaters and the Griffon Spitfire to take part in a tail chase over the hard runway and the fields to the south and the two Mk V’s flying up and down the line of the grass runway with top side turns at either end of the airfield.