It has been over seven months since the last airshow of 2011 which coincidentally was also at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. This was the first time I have attended one of Duxford’s Spring Airshows and this particular show was very special indeed. The show was celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and did so with examples of classic and modern aircraft of the Royal Air Force such as the Supermarine Spitfire from the Second World War as well as the modern Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4.
Several of the airshow participants arrived just before the flight line walk opened, in particular the Gloster Meteor T.7 and the Avro Anson T.21 which both flew all the way from Coventry. I found the flight line walk to be particularly good at this show with several examples of classic Royal Air Force trainers in the form of two BAC Jet Provosts in their T.5 and T.5A variants as well as a Nord 1002 Pingouin II. Whilst waiting for the show to start, we were treated to the casual take offs and flypasts of the aircraft of the Classic Wings pleasure flights.
The airshow kicked off in spectacularly loud fashion in the form of the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 of 6 Squadron based all the way at RAF Leuchars. This display was a welcome return of this multi-role combat aircraft which was absent from the 2011 display circuit due to commitments abroad. The fighter performed a highly enjoyable display with fast and slow passes as well as spiralling climbs and dives with plenty of afterburner. This was a fantastically thrilling opening to a great airshow.
Next up to display is a Duxford favourite. I am of course talking about the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” which epitomizes the bravery of the United States aircrews who fought their way through all the flak and fighters during the daylight raids against various targets which were lying deeper into occupied Europe. The Flying Fortress displayed a flawless routine which is always a great sight no matter how many times you see it. The display was refreshing and the World War Two bomber looked fantastic in the clear blue sky and bright sunlight.
The next pair of aircraft was also used extensively in World War Two but instead of bombing, they were used for training. The aircraft are of course the ever popular Harvard, with the Noorduyn AT-16 Harvard IIB belonging to The Fighter Collection based at Duxford and the CCF T-6 Harvard Mk. 4 being operated by the Aircraft Restoration Company also based at Duxford. The pair of American training aircraft flew in formation and split up and both performed synchronized displays and demonstrated the skills that pilots had to master whilst training in these classic trainers.
The Royal Navy supplied the next display item with the fist helicopter display of the day. The Westland Lynx HMA.8 is nimble, fast and capable of virtually any task which is the reason it has been in naval service since the 1970s. This particular Lynx is of 815 Naval Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton. The display was very interesting and unusual with the Lynx demonstrating how agile and aerobatic this helicopter is. The performance was highly enjoyable despite being little bit far away from the main sections of the crowd.
Three Royal Air Force veterans from World War Two were the next up to display in the bright sunny skies. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight from RAF Coningsby arrived over the centre line of the crowd in spectacular fashion with the Avro Lancaster B.I, Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC and Supermarine Spitfire PR. XIX flying in formation. After several formation passes the aircraft separated and performed their solo routines. Following the two fighters was the Lancaster which performed a long and brilliant display with several flypasts including passes with the wheels down and bomb doors open. After the Lancaster had displayed, the Spitfire and Hurricane made a formation flypast before joining back with the Lancaster for final flypast and thus concluding the display. This display was really great to watch and is a true salute to the past.
The Royal Air Force was yet again responsible for the next act, the Grob G-115E Tutor T.1 of 16 Squadron from RAF Cranwell. This composite elementary trainer showed of all the skills and manoeuvres that pilots will have to master to move on to the next stage of flight training. The display was very good and it was nice to get a closer look at the Tutor whilst in the air as I have found it to be hard to photograph at previous airshows.
A collection of aircraft built by the Hawker Siddeley displayed for the crowds next. First up were a Hawker Nimrod I from The Fighter Collection and a Hawker Nimrod II from the Historic Aircraft Collection. The pair of carrier-borne fighters was also joined by the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. XIIA. The Hurricane and Nimrods made one formation flypast before separating to perform their synchronized displays. Whilst the Nimrods were flying in perfect linear formation, the Hurricane made fast passes and rolls in between the climbing phases of the Nimrod’s display. This was probably my favourite display of the whole day and the unique formation of the Nimrods and Hurricane was a fantastic sight to see.
The second Royal Air Force training aircraft to display for the crowds was the twin-engine Beechcraft B200 King Air of 45 Squadron at RAF Cranwell. The display demonstrated the skills that pilots learning how to fly multi-engine aircraft have to master. It was also great to see the King Air perform a reverse taxi on the ground and the Kasan Approach which was made famous by the Hercules. This was a great display and clearly showed the crowds what this aircraft can do.
Arriving from the Southend Airshow was the turboprop trainer of the Royal Air Force, the Shorts Tucano T.1. It demonstrated the complex aerobatics pilots have to master to advance to the next aircraft. The new Jubilee paint scheme really made the display more enjoyable as well as being easier to photograph.
Some more afterburning jet power came next, thanks to the Belgian Air Force and 360 Squadron based in Florennes. It was a very welcome return of the Lockheed-Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon which arrived in glorious fashion with full afterburner streaking behind it. The display was intense and extremely noisy with multiple loops, rolls and of course, flares. The display has improved greatly from last year and with the Fighting Falcon sporting a new paint scheme made this performance very photogenic.
The first display team of the day was The Matadors also making a welcome return to this year’s display circuit with a new sponsorship and a new paint scheme. This display team was made famous with the duo of Sukhoi Su-26s but now flies two Sbach 300s which are also known as XtremeAir XA41s. They performed very close formation aerobatics which was incredible and the large amount of smoke being used further enhanced their performance. Both pilots also performed a brief interlude of solo aerobatics before landing and concluding this spectacular aerobatic performance.
A search and rescue demonstration by the Westland Sea King HAR Mk. 3A was next up on the flying display programme. Despite the lack of water, the display was very interesting despite the lack of flypasts by this rescue helicopter which limited the amount of photos I could take.
The Classic Air Force supplied us with a wonderful display item in the form of their recently restored Gloster Meteor T.7 which debuted at Duxford at the end of last year. This classic jet looked fantastic against the clear and sunny skies and really showed the crowds the unique shape of this stunning aircraft.
Next up was a formation of three different aircraft from the 30’s and 40’s. The display consisted of the last remaining airworthy military Avro Anson T.21 which is currently operated by the Classic Air Force and the lovingly restored De Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide which is being operated by D & M Miller. The formation was joined by two De Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk Mk. 22s operated by the Aircraft Restoration Company and A. Grounsell. After a single flypast the formation divided with the Anson and Dragon Rapide performing a formation display which was very tantalising to the eyes with the two very different aircraft. Once they departed to land, the Chipmunks returned with a demonstration of classic aerobatic techniques which would be taught to pilots flying this classic but still popular training aircraft.
The only German representation at the airshow was in the form of the fantastically aerobatic CASA 1-133C Jungmeister which performed a hugely spirited display in the late afternoon sky with brilliant aerobatic manoeuvres for an aircraft as old as this.
The final display team of the day was indeed very special as we had the pleasure to witness the UK debut of the French Air Force’s Patrouille Cartouche Dore with a trio of the rarely seen Socata TB-30 Epsilons. They performed several flypasts in a variety of formations as well as some solo and duo aerobatics. This display was as elegant as it was precise despite being a tad too long for my personal liking.
Nearing the end of the flying display was the arrival of the last jet of the day in the form of the BAe Hawk T.1A. This fast jet trainer demonstrated the variety of manoeuvres and skills that trainee pilots have to master before moving onto much faster jets such as the Typhoon. The jet black colour of the jet stood out fantastically and showed the surprising ferocity of this subsonic jet trainer.
The final performance of the day was defiantly highly appropriate for a Duxford airshow. I am of course talking about the Supermarine Spitfire. For this display we were treated to a trio of the classic World War Two fighter in its LF. VB, LF. IXB and Mk. IXT variants operated by The Fighter Collection, Old Flying Machine Company and Air Leasing respectively. The display was a perfect closer to the show with the distinct sight and sound of the three Spitfires, flying in formation in the evening sky.
Just as the last Spitfire touched down to land, a Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub towing a banner as a tribute to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Overall this was one of the best airshows that I have ever attended. The major highlights of the show were the return of the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 as well as the formation display of the Hawker Nimrod I and Hawker Nimrod II. The jubilee show was a fantastic start to Duxford’s airshow year.
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