Duxford’s centenary celebrated in style
Throughout 2017, the Imperial War Museum is celebrating the centenary of its establishment during WWI, and that of Duxford Airfield where work first began in October 1917 to establish a Royal Flying Corps air station. Two airshows — the Duxford Air Festival held on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend 27-28 May and the Battle of Britain Air Show later in September — will highlight Duxford’s key role in Britain’s air defence. There will also be an innovative contemporary art exhibition DX17, a dramatic large-scale sound sculpture by Nick Ryan that is being unveiled on 16 June.
For the Duxford Air Festival the IWM assembled an imaginative selection of aircraft and teams, rôle demonstrations, aerobatics and formations ranging from the Great War Display Team (GWDT) to today’s RAF Typhoon and French Air Force Rafale. There were a number of first appearances that attracted attention, although visitors needed to be there both days to see the full line-up in the air. The public debut of the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Pup N6161 in the capable hands of ‘Dodge’ Bailey only took place on the Sunday because of a strong crosswind the previous day. However this did not prevent the GWDT putting up its eclectic mix of WWI replicas, which performed to a background of pyrotechnics. The Shuttleworth Collection displayed the beautiful 30s DH Comet racer Grosvenor House escorted by original Mew Gull G-AEXF and replica G-HEKL. Also representing the inter-war period was the rare DH Dragonfly G-AEDU flown by Dan Griffith and the amazing Breitling Stearman pair from Aerosuperbatics.
Duxford residents provided most of the WWII focus with John Romain and Pete Kynsey giving a lovely pairs display in the IWM’S and Comanche Fighters’ Spitfire IAS. Plane Sailing’s Catalina was put through its paces by Derek Head and Jeff Boyling, while Andrew Dixon and Peter Kuypers in B-17 Sally B had TF-51 Mustang Little Friend flown by Richard Grace keeping company. The first appearance by the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation’s UC-64 Norseman at an airshow in the UK was a highlight of the flying programme. The Norseman was used as a USAAF communications aircraft at numerous airfields in East Anglia during the war. This example (LN-TSN) was built in 1944 and flown by the Norwegian Air Force until 1959.
The Trig Team, Richard Grace and Dave Puleston, gave a fantastic display of close formation aerobatics in their Pitts S-1D Specials, particularly in Saturday’s gusty wind conditions. Mark Petrie’s Strikemaster and Jet Provost T5 was a less usual pairing and Tony de Bruyn made a welcome return to Duxford in his ‘poppy marked’ OV-10B Bronco. Another welcome overseas participant, the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s MIG-15UTI, was flown
by Kenneth Aarkvisia. Sea Vixen FAW2 XP924 made its civilian debut at Duxford in May 2001 and its first display since having a flap problem at Eastbourne in August 2016 was eagerly awaited. The crowd was not disappointed by Cdr Simon Hargreaves’ excellent show with slow and ‘dirty’ flypasts and high speed manoeuvring on Saturday. Unfortunately this was the one and only flying display that the Sea Vixen will give for some time as on return to RNAS Yeovilton it had no hydraulics so the flaps and undercarriage could not be lowered. All attempts to remedy the situation failed and Simon Hargreaves opted to make a flapless belly landing, which he carried out in an exemplary fashion. Having jettisoned the cockpit canopy just before touchdown, he settled the big jet onto the runway with the underwing fuel tanks taking the abrasion which protected the fuselage to some extent. Simon was able to leave the lightly damaged aircraft uninjured after a very skilled piece of airmanship.
Both the Army Air Corps and the RAF contributed to the Air Festival. Capt Jim Trayhurn gave an impressive rôle demonstration in the Apache AH1 backed up by some noisy pyrotechnics. Flt Lt Ryan Lawton in the No 29(R) Squadron Typhoon FGR4 opened the flying display with a really tight (almost within the airfield) routine. Not to be outdone, the specially painted French AF Rafale produced an even more fast and furious performance as the penultimate item on Saturday. A serious motorcycle accident on the A505 road a short distance west of the airfield on Sunday resulted in the MIG-15 and Rafale displays being cancelled at the request of the emergency services. So the weekend Air Festival concluded with the very essence of Duxford’s 100 years, the magnificent Spitfire IA pair. The next big (all ticket) events are Flying Legends on 8-9 July ( www.flyinglegends.com) and the Battle of Britain Air Show on 23-24 September ( www.iwm.org.uk/airshows).
Another vintage public debut on Sunday – HAC’S Sopwith Pup N6161 flown by ‘Dodge’ Bailey
BE2C heading the line-up of GWDT WWI replicas
Tony de Bruyn in the poppy bedecked OV-10B Bronco
Ever impressive Pitts S-1 Trig Team duo in action
New sight at a UK airshow was the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation’s big UC-64 Norseman
Cold War jet, the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s MIG-15UTI Today’s French AF Rafale C giving was ‘fast and furious’
Eagerly awaited display by Cdr Simon Hargreaves in the Sea Vixen with slow, ‘dirty’ and high speed flypasts on Saturday
Experiencing hydraulic failure on his return to Yeovilton, Simon Hargreaves was forced to land the Sea Vixen without undercarriage or flaps. Jettisoning cockpit canopy on final, he made a brilliant landing initially touching down and skidding along on the underwing droptanks (PHOTO: SCOTT DABINETT)