The final airshow of the year is traditionally held at Duxford. With all of the major shows in 2008 affected by inclement weather, hopes were high for some late summer sun for the final show of year. Sadly it was not to be with the weather continuing it's 2008 tradition which ruined plans for what would have been Duxford's best airshow of the year. In the end the majority of items flew with very restricted displays for a small but extremely grateful crowd. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from the final flying display of the year. All photography copyright of Author.
The weather forecast for the 5th October was pretty dire. At the eleventh hour, there was hope that the worst of the weather would clear in time for the flying at Duxford. Just a few miles away at Old Warden, the show had already been cancelled - a final victim of a pretty poor summer. The persistent rain and high winds are no conditions to be flying delicate and fragile aeroplanes. The line up for Duxford was ever so slightly robust for the conditions featuring mainly modern military aircraft and some of the heavier warbirds.
It was very clear that the poor forecasts had lead to a very small crowd. In complete contrast to Flying Legends where space is at a premium in the most popular areas, the airfield was sparsely populated - the "tank bank" being virtually empty. Much of the morning for the public and participants alike was spent undercover peering out to see if there was any improvement in the weather. Weather radar pictures did show an improvement in weather conditions and some clear skies, but the question was when that would reach Duxford. The flightlines remained empty throughout the morning except for a lone Hurricane XII and some of the more robust aircraft which meant the flightline walk was free of charge for those that were
brave enough to venture out on to the airfield.
It became very clear that the
weather improvement would not reach Duxford in time for the scheduled start for flying which lead to a half hour delay to the start. The cloud base was very low and the visibility was too poor even for solo flying. Conditions improved very slowly and eventually Plane Sailing's PBY-5A Catalina taxied out to check on conditions. Once airborne the crew was just able to display under the murky clouds. As the afternoon progressed the cloud lifted very slowly allowing most of the other schedule items to display flat routines or perform flypasts.
Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of the afternoon was that the weather prevented the Patrouille de France from performing a full display. This was the team's second visit to Duxford's Autumn Airshow after a first successful visit two years ago. With the team being weathered out of it's "reserved airspace" timeframe it meant the team could only perform a couple of flypasts.
The other military participant from overseas was the F-16AM Fighting Falcon from the Belgian Air Component. The F-16 has been a regular at the Autumn airshows since it first appeared two years ago. In previous years it has performed it's solo display and a formed up with some of Duxford's residents but the weather again prevented a repeat with the pilot Mickey Artiges forced to a very flat display by the low cloud.
Not to be outdone this year were the Royal Air Force with most of the solo display line up present for the last show of the year. Flt Lt Dave Davies gave his final performance in the 208(R) Squadron Hawk T1 before joining the Red Arrows for the next three years. Flt Lt Stew Campbell also gave his last 2008 performance in the Tucano T1. Stew will go on to 19(F) squadron for tactical weapons training next year. Flt Lt Charlie Matthews gave his last public performance in the Typhoon F2 at Duxford and gave a brilliant display despite the low cloud with some impressive displays of flash condensation over the wings of the fighter.
Two further displays for the
Typhoon in November were also
cancelled by the weather.
Not to be out done were the pair of Westland Lynx HAS3 helicopters from the Black Cats display team of the Royal Navy. The team have been regular favourites at the Autumn airshow over the last few year and were one of the few displays to be able to perform their full routine during the afternoon.
Surprise star of the flying display for many through was Mark Jefferies in his Extra 300S unlimited competition aerobatics aircraft. Mark is based just a few miles north of Duxford at his farm strip at Little Gransden. As well as importing both Extra and Yak aircraft, Mark is one of the British aerobatics team that compete around the world at the European and World Aerobatics Championships. His display at Duxford was completely stunning given the conditions from his very dramatic takeoff to some serious stomach churning aerobatics under the laden skies.
However Duxford would
not be Duxford without a selection of historic types. One of the first to brave the conditions was one of the based De Havilland Chipmunk T10s flown by Howard Cook. Howard managed to show the wonderful agility of the little trainer in the gray skies. Another De Havilland type in the flying display was Air Atlantique's latest Dragon Rapide in the colours of post war RAF Transport Command. The Rapide was a late arrival only making the trip down from Coventry when the weather had cleared but it was a very welcome act.
Bigger, heavier american trainer aircraft were represented by the pair of North American T-28 Fennec aircraft from Radial Revelations and the Aircraft Restoration Company. Martin Willing and Dave Southwood put on a fine display of low formation and singleton passes.
Duxford's other major operators also managed to get some aircraft into the air to round off the flying in great style. Both the Fighter Collection and Old Flying Machine Company brought out their aircraft from
the hanger only after the weather had cleared. First to display were the Fighter Collection with a varied collection of some of their rarer types. The Curtis Hawk 75A opened their section of the flying. This very rare aircraft is a popular addition to their fleet, particularly over the channel in France where this aircraft type formed a vital part of the L'armee de l'air during the Second World War. TFC also operate the later development of the Hawk - the P-40B Warhawk. This particular aircraft is just as rare having survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Rounding off TFC's participation was the Bell P-39Q Airacobra. This aircraft is a veteran of the pacific campaign and wear's it's original markings "Brooklyn Bum 2nd."
The show was closed by the pair of Spitfire IX MH434 and P-51D Mustang Ferocious Frankie from the Old Flying Machine Company and flown by Lee Proudfoot and Alistair Kay. The close formation and tailchase sequence by the two merlin powered fighters was a fitting way to close the 2008 display season and the Autumn Airshow which despite the foul conditions earlier in the day.
A further irony was just as the OFMC pair landed blue skies appeared over to the north of the airfield - that just about summed up the 2008 flying display season. Special thanks must go to all the display pilots and ground staff for putting on a magnificent show despite some very poor conditions - Here's to a drier, warmer 2009! Airshows at Duxford return on the 17th May 2009. See UK airshow dates for a full run down on Duxford airshows in 2009.