Dux­ford’s cen­te­nary cel­e­brated in style

Pilot - - OLD TIMERS -

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)

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