2005 Edition

 

 

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Autumn Haze

Modern Air Power
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All at Sea
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All American Heros
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Percy Airlines
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The traditional finale to the airshow season takes place at Duxford. Very often it is the last chance to see some of duxford's own warbirds before a long winter of maintenance or the very last show for some of the RAF's display crew. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photograhy is copyright of Author.

Air Sports
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Gooney Bird
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Moths
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Desert Foxes
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Into The Jet Age
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Sunday 16th October dawned and it looked very unpromising. Much of the South East of England was under a thick layer of fog. In fact it lifted very slowly and by mid morning had just about broken to allow some pleasure flying from Duxford. What was left behind were some very hazy skies compunded by the relatively low sun which made any sort of photography tricky.

Spitfire Finale

The Show finale started with a massed formation of seven Spitfires from a number of operators which included the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. At the September 2006 show it is hoped that Duxford will see a collection of 20 or more of the type though a number of clashes with other major shows may drastically reduced that number. After a formation pass they split into a duo aerobatics display from Ray Hanna and Cliff Spink and a five ship tailchase which was spectacuar as ever.

The flying display kicked off at half past one with a trio of aircraft from the United States Air Force based at RAF Lakenheath and Mildenhall. Now USAF has an unfortunate reputation at UK airshows of missing their intended airfields. Sadly, their Duxford appearance didn't do anything but confirm the problems. Yes it was murky but in the days of moving map displays and GPS it does seem incredible that the world's most potent air force can't get the right piece of sky. First to appear (just...) was a KC-135R Stratotanker from the 100th ARW at RAF Mildenhall which looked as though it flew directly over the crowd, albiet at a relatively safe height of 1,200ft with it's boom. Next up was a pair of F-15E Strike Eagles from 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath who on their first pass were way to the south of the airfield. Perhaps they couldn't decide between Stanstead and Duxford so they aimed at the middle until they could visually identify the airfield as Duxford? Anyway, both the KC-135R and F-15Es made better second passes; the F-15Es even managing a full reheat unrestricted climb with vortices trailing which did provide a spectacular start. The USAFE involvement was in part thanks due to the recent appointment of the IWM's director, Richard Ashton, as honorary squadron commander of the 494th FS "Mad Hatters."

Further American jet action was provided by the only classic jets of the afternoon, Golden Apple Trust's F-86A Sabre and T-33AN Silver Star which flew an immaculate display in the hazy conditions. The Fighter Collection and the Old Flying Machine Company provided all the Duxford based P-51C and P-51D Mustangs from a three ship display of formation aerobatics, complete with lots of the famous Mustang scream. TFC's Curtiss Hawk 75A-1 demonstrated what early war American hardware was like and it's clear that it's become something of a favourite in the hands of Stephen Grey. Later on in the display was a display of US WW2 naval air power with TFC's providing a formation of F7F Tigercat, F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat and Goodyear FG-1D Corsair.

Also display were a pair of T-28N Fennecs which are based at Duxford. Radial Revelation's familiar camouflaged example was joined by the Aircraft Restoration Company operated silver example.

The heavies weren't left out either. Plane Sailing displayed it's newly repainted PBY Catalina while Air Atlantique provided a spectacular display by it's Douglas DC-3 Dakota showing off the remarkable performance of the type. Another historic transport type in the show was Andrew Dixon's Percival Pembroke C1 making a rare flying display appearance at the show. The modern day counterpart of these types, the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules C5 made it's last display of 2005 complete with the support of the RAF regiment Land Rovers that have not been seen so regularly at it's displays this summer.

Merlins Over Malta Return!

The Show concluded with the first flypast at a UK show of the Merlins Over Malta pair of Spitfire Vb and Hurricane XIIc in their Malta point schemes. It's also likely to be the last as the Spitfire's paint is temporary. Throughout the day at Duxford there were a series of film showings and talks by the pilots and Merlins Over Malta team about the epic trip which were very interesting and popular with the public.

It wasn't just American air power or transport aircraft at the show. A pair of De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth and DH87 Hornet Moth put on a rare duo display highlighting a beauty of these Moths in the hazy sunlight. There were also a selection of racers in the display that are often not seen at air displays. Pete Kynsey's Cosmic Wind was joined by a pair of Cassutt Racers in a innovative display of these tiny aircraft. More familiar sporting credentials were display by the Red Bull Matadors pair of Sukhoi Su-26 competition aerobatics aircraft which have won many awards during the summer. The Aerostars provided the big team element of the display with another polished display.

It was a little disappointing that the only RAF fast jet participation for the Autumn Air Display was the BAE Systems Hawk T1 solo from No 208 squadron and flown by Flt Lt Phil Diacon. That said his hawk display is very good and actually that little bit of flame over the noise does wonders to highlight the jet in the loops and rolls. The Royal Navy sent their display team, 702NAS's Black Cats for another precise display of helicopter flying with a pair of Lynx HMA8.

The finale to the days flying was a rousing display by seven Spitfires from the Duxford based operators and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flights Spitfire PR19 making a rare display in company with civilian owned aircraft. Once the massed formation had broken up the crowds were treated to a tailchase from five of the aircraft while MKIX MH434 and MkXVI TD249 put on a brilliant formation routine in the hands of Ray Hanna and Cliff Spink. The final act of the day was a flypast by the aircraft that made an epic trip to Malta in the hands of the Merlins over Malta Team interspersed with some air to air photography runs over the Cambridgeshire countryside.

This was a fine way to draw UK Airshows 2005 to an end with some of the best displays of the year which included favourites, rarely seen aircraft and some of the new restorations in good weather despite the haze. Duxford kicks off it's season next year at the slightly later date of 21st May.

Thanks to Tracey Woods and Ellie Gittos for their hospitality and help at Duxford throughout the season.

 copyright Flightline UK 2005