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Not quite a Spitfire Summer...

Today's Heros
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Naval Air Power
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Spitfires - On the Ground
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Belgian and Goodwood Returnees
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There is possibly no more appropriate place to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the iconic Spitfire than Duxford. It was here that 19 squadron received the RAF's first examples and that the type helped defend London during the Battle of Britain over seen by the legendary Douglas Bader. However, the weather was anything but a Spitfire Summer! Paul Johnson/Flightline UK Reports. All Photography copyright Paul Johnson/Flightline UK.

Yak Attack
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The Heavies
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The Sound of Freedom
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Training the Few
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The Hurricane
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Spitfires - Latest Restorations
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Spitfire Salute
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Spitfire Finale
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The weather gods really haven't been kind to Duxford this year. The last few years have seen their airshows generally get away quite lightly. 2006 has been a different story. The AirSpace show barely got airbourne for a couple of hours before the flying was abandoned and Flying Legends certainly didn't see the best of the July weather. The Spitfire 70th Anniversary airshow look set to go the way of the AirSpace show with forecasts being pretty pessamistic. As a result, participation at Duxford was hit with some operators socked in at their various bases, notably the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire  trio at RAF Coningsby. Saturday definatly saw the worst weather for an airshow with a strong crosswind and low cloud dominating the day. As a result, flying was abandoned before the Spitfires got airbourne much to the dissappointment of many. Sunday, which had a better forecast, saw brighter conditions. However, the wind during the morning was very strong with some damaging gusts. Though the winds slowly died away after lunch condition remained difficult for the remainder of the day though everything available flew. One slightly negative effect of the forecasts however was the small crowds on the Saturday and the huge crowd on Sunday. Certainly those parked up at the Land Warfare Hall end of the airfield took a fair while to get moving thanks largely to some inconsiderate driving.

One thing we should mention before getting into the flying was the "documentary" put together by Airsound - commentator Sean Maffett and producer Jonathan Ruffle. Using recordings from the Imperial War Museum archive and from their own commentary of proceedings at the Battle of Britain memorial at Capel le Ferne. The different interviews served as an excellent and interesting prologue to the flying display and we hope such compilations become a regular theme at Duxford's flying displays.

Both days opened with a couple of flypasts from two Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles from nearby RAF Lakenheath. With a formation fly through and then a battle formation and zoom climb finale they certainly sound the start of any flying display.

Staying with jets, the first display proper came from Air Atlantique's BAC Canberra B2/6. This aircraft has just returned to the circuit this year after some fairly lengthy work on the aircraft. It's timing could not be more appropriate with the retirement of the RAF's last Canberra's in July. The aircraft has a busy weekend filling slots at both Duxford and Southport airshows. Another classic jet making a welcome appearance was Golden Apple's F-86A Sabre. The Sabre is certainly one of the most attractive classic jets on the circuit and is always well flown by the pilots of Golden Apple Operations. As many of you maybe aware it's stable mate the T-33 was lost in a incident just days after the show, thankfully without too much harm coming to it's crew.

No celebration of the Spitfire would be complete with some RAF involvement. Sadly, weather prevented some of the RAF's last Spitfires from joining the show, but there was an impressive line-up of current hardware on show. Flt Lt Daz Mackenzie gave an excellent display despite the bumpy conditions in the Tucano T1.  Flt Lt Dunc Wylie also gave a polish routine in the Hawk T1 from 100sqn, making good use of the clearer skies on the Sunday. The only helicopter in the afternoon's flying display was the Chinook HC2 from RAF Odiham. As ever it was one of the stars of the flying proving that even the most cumbersome looking machines can be thrown around with some verve and grace. Though the RAF's current frontline fighter, the Tornado F3 isn't flying displays this year, Flt Lt sRyan Mannering and Tony Griffiths showed what the bomber version, the Tornado GR4 can do in the show arena. With the current rotation of the RAF fleet it was interesting to see the jet used for Duxford was 12sqn's anniversary marked jet.

Providing a civilian break to proceeding were the excellent Aerostars. Their routine of close formation aerobatics, opposition passes, solo aerobatics as well as graceful breaks is always welcome at any show. The weekend proved to be interesting for the team with one aircraft having a problem half way through the routine on Saturday calling for a little reorganisation in the middle of their display. Sunday's windy conditions forced the team to display a little higher than usual to avoid the more turbulent air near to the ground.

Air Atlantque provided two displays over the weekend of some heavier types. Saturday's grey skies were somewhat brightened by "Primrose," the Twin Pioneer. The windy conditions allowed the "Twin Pin" to show over it's Short firld performance to great effect almost getting airbourne within it's own length and hovering during it's display. Making a dramatic departure on both days was the Douglas DC-3 in it's Air Atlantqiue house colours. Both aircraft had brought in a number of enthusiasts from coverntry airport prior to the air display.

As with any Duxford airshow, there was a strong warbird element to the afternoons flying apart from the gathered Spitfires. There was certainly a strong naval flovour to the afternoon's activities. First naval aircraft to perform were the Fighter Collection's duo of F6F Hellcat and FG-1D Corsair flown by Dave Southwood and Pete Kynsey. With both aircraft being rugged naval types, they perhaps faired slight better in the strong winds than the other types, and on Sunday did provide much needed information on the flying conditions. Plane Sailing's Catalina provided the other american maritime link, though in the colours of a OA-10 search and rescue aircraft from the USAAF 8th Air Force. The story of British naval aviation was well represented too with three different types. The Shuttleworth Collection sent it's Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib to display with Kennet Aviation's Supermarine Seafire XVII on the Saturday. Sadly winds were just too strong on Sunday for the Sea Hurricane when the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Sea Fury FB11 was also able to make it to Duxford. In fact, the Seafire was the only "Spitfire" to get airbourne during the display.

The training of Spitfire pilots during the second world war and tody often relied on the North American T-6 Texan or Harvard to British pilots. It was therefore fitting to see three examples (just the pair on Saturday) get airbourne. Anna Walker flew Kennet Aviation's Olve Drab USAAF marked airvraft, Alan Walker (no relation!!!) flew ARCo's familiar Portuguese Air Force example while Dave Southwood flew TFC's RAF marked Harvard is a display of formations and solo aerobatics.

And so to the raison d'etre for this airshow. The Supermarine Spitfire. As a prelude to the Spitfire, Shuney Simmons flew a solo display in HAC's Hurricane XII, the aircraft with which the Spitfire fought so successfully during the second world war and powered by the same famous engine, the Rolls Royce Merlin. Sadly, this airshow was never quite going to be match for previous Spitfire anniversary airshows numerically speaking. The main reason for this were some clashes with other major airshows around the country, notably Southport and Goodwood, the latter actually accounting for a fair number of Duxford based examples. With few home based Spitfires, the show relied quite heavily on other Spitfire's based at different airfields. Adding a bit of interest to the line up were three example currently awaiting test flight or restoration to airworthiness with Historic Flying Limited. Perhaps the most striking of these was Spitfire Vc Trop JG891. This is the first restored airworthy Spitfire to be fitted with a Volkes sand filter for desert operations. It will however cause some disruption to the performance of the type. It was joined on the flightline by Spitfire XVIw RW386 and Spitfire IXc MJ271 (albeit wearing MH424.) While both the former are awaiting test flights, the latter is just about to enter the process of restoration to airworthiness. Also on the ground, but not taking part in the flying display was Anthony Hodgsons Spitfire T9 PT462 bring together four two seat Spitfires for the first time.

For Sunday's show finale, seven Spitfires and one Seafire got airbourne for some formation flying and tailchasing. Led by Pete Kynsey in Spitfire XVI TD248, the formation consisted of Paul Day in Spitfire T9 MJ627, Carolyn Grace in Spitfire T9 ML407, Rats Ratcliffe flying ARCo's Irish Air Corps Spitfire T9 161, Charlie Brown in Spitfire Vb BM657, Peter Tiechman in Spitfire PR11 PL965, Alan Walker in Spitfire XIV RN201 and finally John Beattie in Seafire XVII SX336. After a couple of formation passes in two box formations, the aircraft split off for a typical Duxford tailchase filling the blue sky over Duxford with the sound of Merlins and Griffons. The show was finally concluded by Pete Kynsey's solo display in TD248.

As an extra treat for those who chose not to spend time queuing in traffic on Sunday, some of the Goodwood participants arrived back at Duxford adding even more Spitfires to the mix. These are OFMC's Spitfire IX MH434, TFC's Spitfire V EP120, Peter Monk's Spitfire IX TA805 and P-51D Mustang Ferocious Frankie. Rod Dean had also arrived back in Spitfire XVIII SM845 during Sundays display following a commitment at a show in Belguim

The pilots who flew displays over the weekend all deserve thanks for making the airshow happen in somewhat unfriendly conditions. Without them, there was a serious possibility of no show at all - some other shows no too far away from Duxford. There may not have been the shear number of Spitfires present at previous anniversary shows, but the presentation of the flying displays was certainly enjoyed by all with excellent pre-show and show commentary from Sean Maffett and Airsound. Well done Duxford.

 copyright Flightline UK