2005 Edition

 

 

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Hail and Hurricanes!

Lest We Forget
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The Hurricanes were promised at Duxford. But, not the high winds that dominated Saturday at Duxford! But they didn't deter the British public or pilots from the first Duxford show of the season. As a fighter station, Duxford was very much at the forefront of the aerial battle which raged over Europe playing a pivotal part in the defence of Britain and the projection of the war to Germany. Where better to be to celebrate the end of the war in Europe - Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photograhy is copyright of Author.

Duxford's VE Day celebrations followed much of the rest of the UK's celebrations in being rather low key despite quite a bit of build up in the local and national press - most notably about the EU regulations which have temporarily (we hope!) B-17G Sally-B. Away from the flying Duxford provided re-enactments of VE Day radio broadcasts, dancing and RAF mission breifings in the hanger while there were also a number of veterans present. A major plus of this show was a policy of those aged 60 or over so anyone who lived and remembers the war got in for free. Much of the showground was adorned with Union Jack bunting and there was a light hearted feel to the day alonged with the rememberance of those who didn't come back.

Victory Salute
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Sadly, the weather didn't play ball with the party atmosphere and chucked a complete mixed bag at the event with hail, rain and bright sunshine all making appearances at various points during the weekend. High winds dominated the Saturday show creating even more headache for the flying display participants. In the end many items failed to make it to Duxford all together on Saturday while others stayed on the ground at Duxford.

Friends Reunited! - R4118 and Wing Commander Bob Foster

The star of the show for many was Hawker Hurricane I R4118 owned by Peter Vacher. The aircraft itself has been fully restored by Hawker Restorations after being found by Peter at an Indian University. It is perhaps the most historic warbird still flying having served on operations during the Battle of Britain. It was delivered new to 607 sqn at Drem on 17th August 1940. From there it fought in the Battle until being damaged on the 22nd October 1940. It was rebuilt and moved to 111 sqn at Dyce in 1941 before being transferred to training units before finally being crated off to India from Cardiff for use as a training aircraft, a role it never fufillid. It was then donated to the University as an instructional air frame.

At Duxford the Hurricane was reunited with one of it's pilots during the Battle of Britain, Wing Commander Bob Foster. Bob damaged tow Junkers Ju88s and claimed a share of a kill of another Ju88 in this very aircraft.

R4118 took part in the flying display in company with another rare Hurricane restored by Hawker Restorations, TFC's Hurricane IV.

Massive praise therefore had to got to those who did perform on Saturday, particular those in the slower aircraft. The Utterly Butterly Barnstormers put on an excellent display of airmanship (and Bravery from the girls) in very trying conditions.

There was of course, a strong warbird presence at the show. The Fighter Collection provided many of the displays in what proved to be a busy weekend for the operator. No less than six of their aircraft took part in a salute over Southampton on the Sunday as well as participating in the Duxford flying programme. Leading the way for TFC was their P-47D Thunderbolt No Guts No Glory which teamed up with OFMC's P-51D Mustang. On Sunday Rob Davies joined in with Big Beatitful Doll for a mixture of solo and formation flying. More big radials came in the form of TFC's FG-1D Corsair, F6F Hellcat and FM-2 Wildcat all providing solo and formation displays. TFC's P-40E Kittyhawk provided a powerful demonstration of it's abilities over duxford as part of a combine with the two Hurricanes in clear blue skies.

As well as the Stearman of the Utterly Butterly Barnstomers, further aircrew training from the 1940's was represented by TFC's and ARCo's pair of T-6 Texan/Harvards. The TFC example put on an impressive solo display of aerobatics in the Harvard, something which has been greatly missed from airshows of late perhaps because to the great influx of Yaks from Eastern Europe. Of course, Russia and Eastern Europe was heavily involved in the fall of the Third Reich and their input into the final victory was represented by two Yak-11/C-11 lead in fighter trainers. Rob Davies provided his own familiar example on the Saturday while Angie Soper flew a less familiar example in grey/green camoflage on Sunday.

Something of a breather from the bigger more powerful warbirds was provided by the Fiesler Stroch and L4 Cub proving not all the aircraft essential to victory was as famous as the fighters and bombers, but nevertheless had important roles. The strong winds provided ample opportunity for the Storch to show off it's slow speed flying and STOL (nearly VSTOL!) attributes.

With the unfortunate grounding of Sally-B, there were no real heavies from world war two in the flying programme apart from the BBMF's Lancaster in formation with a Spitfire PR19 and Hurricane IIc. Sadly even this was cancelled on Saturday due to the crosswinds at Coningsby and reduced to a fly through on Sunday due to the rain. This meant the only real heavies left in the programme were a couple of lighter transport types and Plane Sailing's PBY Catalina perhaps making one it's last appearances in the colours it has worn since being a Canadian fire bomber.. Displaying on both days was the newly restored Dragon Rapide G-AGJG while winds restricted the C-45 Expeditor to just Sunday.

The final act of each days flying by the warbirds was a formation on Spitfires. On Sunday, another highlight was the airshow debut of the latest restoration from the Propshop hangers - Spitfire T9 161 in full Irish Air Corps markings and it's original blister rear canopy. It was joined by Charlie Brown in HAC's Spitfire Vb, Carolyn Grace's Spitfire T9 and OFMC's Spitfire IX MH434.

Historic types weren't restricted to those which took park in the second world war. Performing on both days despite being caught by the rain prior to each performance was Mark Linney in Golden Apple's CT-133A Silver Star, the dayglo tip tanks showing up to great effect in the dark skies over Duxford. The Royal Navy Historic Flight also sent it's Sea Fury on the Sunday for a welcome appearance, perhaps it's first public appearance for 2005.

Being the only airshow held over the VE day weekend, it was pleasing to see such a strong line up from the current armed services. The Army Air Corps provided a temporary two ship demonstration from the Blue Eagles with a solo Lynx AH7 and Gazelle AH1. The Royal Navy also provided a solo Sea Harrier FA2 in full weapons fit although it went unserviceable for Sundays display. The Royal Air Force too provided the 100sqn Hawk T1 solo, the ever impressive Merlin HC3. But there was no doubt that the new Tornado GR4 demonstration was another major highlight of the show with some impressive new manoeuvres during it display. Sunday even saw some foreign military participation in the form of RAF Lakenheath based F-15E Eagles opening the show with a single flypast .

Duxford's VE Show was a very successful one despite the mixed weather and all the difficulties it presented. All the display pilots should be congratulated on some fine flying in conditions which were marginal at times. The flying participants may have all been familiar Duxford favourites although the inclusion of the "new" Hurricane and Spitfire T9 were obvious highlights. However, there is little doubt it was still a fine display to mark such an occasion.

Thanks to Tracey Woods, her team and all the media escorts for their hospitality over the weekend.

A Selection of A4 and A3 Prints, as well as Calendars, Placemat and Mousemat featuring photographs from this show can be purchased from the Flightline UK Shop.

 copyright Flightline UK 2005