Duxford Battle of Britain Anniversary Airshow 2015 Review

Nearing the end of the 2015 season, I visited the Imperial War Museum at Duxford for the third and final time for the Duxford Battle of Britain Anniversary Airshow which featured a large number of aircraft representing types that flew during the Battle. The show also featured a massive gathering of Spitfires and Hurricanes including some that actually fought during the Battle of Britain and were displayed in a variety of set pieces throughout the day. The flightline walk was highly impressive and included some types that were due to display but were reduced to static on the Sunday when I attended including the Boeing-Stearman PT-27 Kaydet from Golden Apple Operations Ltd, the Fighter Collection’s Noorduyn AT-16 Harvard IIB and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s rare North American NA-64 Yale. The highlight of the static display was a visiting BAe 146 CC.2 from the Royal Air Force’s No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron tasked with VIP and general transport duties. The Squadron itself operated Hurricanes during the Second World War and defended RAF Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain.

The flying programme was opened with a small set piece depicting some of the aircraft used during the Battle of Britain. The sequence began with enemy forces which were represented by the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Nord 1002 Pingouin II, a French built version of the Messerschmitt Bf-108 Taifun along with the pair of Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchons from the Aircraft Restoration Company and Spitfire Ltd which are Spanish built versions of the Messerschmitt Bf-109G-2. The Pingouin performed some great sweeping flypasts whilst the Buchons put on some great formation manoeuvres before the next part of the sequence began. They were soon joined by the veteran Hawker Hurricane Mk. I which chased down the Pingouin and shortly afterwards the Imperial War Museum’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IA took off to intercept the Buchons and thus conclude this entertain re-enactment of the famous aerial Battle.

Next up was a series of displays from other aircraft used during the Battle which began with a special formation led by the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I and joined the by the veteran Hawker Hurricane Mk. I along with the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Mk. XIIA and the Shuttleworth Collection’s Sea Hurricane Mk. IB. After two passes the formation broke up and the Hurricane put on a short put impressive tail chase sequence which was then followed by an immaculate display by the Blenheim. Concluding this segment was a graceful formation display by pair of Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IAs from Commanche Fighters, flown by two American pilots and paid tribute to all the American aircrew who took part in the Battle of Britain.

Changing the pace next was a trio of biplane trainers including Anna Walker’s CASA 1-131E Jungmann, Classic Wings’ De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth II and a Stampe SV.4C. The trainers flew some formation flypasts before the Jungmann put on an aerobatic sequence whilst the other two biplanes flew together in some sedate passes. The Tiger Moth then performed some graceful passes before the Stampe put on a series of basic aerobatic manoeuvres.

The Fighter Collection then took centre stage with a loose formation pass by their Gloster Gladiator Mk. II and Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk Mk. II before they separated to perform their own entertaining routines. The Gladiator was flown by only two home-based squadrons during the Battle of Britain as the rest were hastily re-equipped with the more capable Spitfires and Hurricanes and was heavily outclassed over the UK. The biplane fighters did however put up great resistance in the first two years of the war over Greece, Africa and the Mediterranean. The Kittyhawk replaced the Collection’s Hawk 75A-1 in the display due to a technical fault and the type flew well in the Battle of France despite being nearly obsolete by the time it entered production.

Duxford’s most famous resident, the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” put on its usual stunning performance and in this case paid tribute to the Battle of Britain where around one in six Royal Air Force Flight Command pilots lost their lives.

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B”

Representing the current Royal Air Force was the Boeing Chinook HC.4 which put on an amazing performance, showcasing this transport helicopter’s extraordinary manoeuvrability as well as the tactics employed on the battlefield. This also marked the welcome return of the type displaying at Duxford after several years absence.

Boeing Chinook HC.4

One of the most unusual displays of the show was the radar calibration demonstration featuring a unique combination of aircraft types including Gliders and Autogyros which were used calibrate radar systems during the war. The formation consisted of the Shuttleworth Collection’s Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub tugging a Slingsby T.6 Kirby Kite and Slingsby T.13 Petrel which were followed by Mark Miller’s De Havilland DH.87B Hornet Moth and Peter Davies’ RotorSport UK Calidus. The strange formation flew some loose passes after which, the Hornet Moth performed some smooth flypasts which was followed by a tight and energetic routine by the Calidus before the gliders concluded the demonstration with their slow and graceful decent.

More training aircraft took of next in the form of a trio of CCF T-6 Harvard Mk. 4s which were built by the Canadian Car and Foundry. Classic wings’ T-6J led the Aircraft Restoration Company’s T-6 and Classic Wings’ T-6G Harvard Mk. 4M in a sublime tail chase along with some classic aerobatic manoeuvres.

It was now time for the highlight of the show, the formation of seventeen Supermarine Spitfires as part of the commemoration of the Battle of Britain. The mass take-off of these British icons was truly phenomenal and while we waited for them to form up, the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. XIIA put on a highly spirited solo display. The formation then arrived and was a truly wonderful sight and sound with the Merlin and Griffon engines rumbling as fighters passed before they separated into five groups as they came back round for another flypast. The first group was led by the Old Flying Machine Company’s LF. IXB and was flanked by Spitfire Ltd.’s LF. XVIE and the three Mk. IAs we saw performing earlier during the show. The second group featured Air Leasing’s Seafire LF. III and Mk. IXT alongside Martin Phillips’ recently restored HF. IXE. The third group included a pair of LF. VBs from the Historic Aircraft Collection and the Fighter Collection and a Mk. IXT from the Boultbee Flight Academy. The fourth group consisted of the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Mk. IXT, Aero Legends’ HF. IXE and the Historic Flight Foundation’s LF. IXE. The fifth and final group was formed of the Fighter Collection’s FR. XIVE, Spitfire Ltd.’s FR. XVIIIE and Kennet Aviation’s Seafire F. XVII. Fourteen of the Spitfires then began a stunning tail chase sequence whilst the Mk. IAs and LF. IXB flew information overhead before the latter fighter performed a short solo display to bring this emotional and awe inspiring set piece to a close.

More Spitfires and Hurricanes took off for the next display courtesy of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The six Merlin powered fighters consisted of a pair of their Hawker Hurricane Mk. IICs and a quartet of Supermarine Spitfires including the Battle of Britain veteran Mk. IIA, the LF. VB, the D-Day veteran LF. IXE and the LF. XVIE which went on to perform a graceful formation display before they departed the airfield.

The penultimate display was the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Nimrod II, an inter-war type that served under the Fleet Air Arm which put on a great performance with the evening sunlight shining brilliantly on the biplane’s silver paint scheme.

Hawker Nimrod II

Closing the show was the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows who first led the six fighters of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in a fantastic formation flypast to pay tribute to all those who fought during the Battle of Britain. The team then returned with their nine BAe Hawk T.1As and went on to perform their display of formation flying and aerobatic manoeuvres in their usual spectacular style.

The final show at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford was a massive success with some spectacular performances throughout the day with the formation of Supermarine Spitfires and the displays featuring The Red Arrows and the fighters of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight being the biggest highlights. I also think that the Royal Air Force’s Boeing Chinook HC.4 and the Battle of Britain set piece that opened proceedings were also highly entertaining and worthy of special mention. This commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain was probably the finest in the whole season and look forward to attending the shows at Duxford again in 2016.      

For more photos from this show check out the entire Duxford Battle of Britain Anniversary Airshow 2015 – Sunday album on Flickr

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