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2012 Airshows : REVIEW

Duxford Airshow 2012

The Duxford September Air Show is the Imperial War Museum’s main airshow of the year. 2012 saw the show not take on any particular theme for its displays, but rather present a very wide cross section of flying displays covering everything from the fragile First World War biplanes to the latest fast jets from Europe and the United States. With summer arriving late in the UK, Duxford was once again bathed in blue skies and some very, very warm sunshine.

Paul Johnson/Flightline reports. All photography copyright of the Author. Video Highlights courtesy of Planes TV.

The last couple of September shows at Duxford have seen some very strong themes, namely the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the 75th Anniversary of the Supermarine Spitfire. These themes have brought with them some superb flying displays and aircraft from the UK and beyond. The 2012 show had no headline theme but it did not stop Duxford bringing together a very exciting array of aircraft from the UK, USA and Scandinavia and even as far as New Zealand!

The next few years will see some big changes to the Imperial War Museums with some radical changes to their collections. Duxford is very much at the forefront of these changes with not only some major work going on at the airfield, but Duxford’s expertise is also being put to use maintaining some of the artefacts from Lambeth too. These changes have meant a number of airframes at Duxford have come up for Disposal including the Junkers Ju-52 (actually a French licence built example) which formed part of an impressive flightline for the airshow.

Many Duxford favourites were including in the flying displays. Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Sally-B headed an impressive field of warbirds which also included the PBY-5A Catalina. The Fighter Collection had a big presence in the flying displays with the stunning Curtis P-40B Warhawk, TF-51D Mustang Miss Velma and the F8F Bearcat. Though it sadly went unserviceable on the Sunday, the star of the TFC aircraft in the flying display was the Curtiss built P-47G Thunderbolt SNAFU. The P-47 was making only its second public airshow appearance since its debut at Flying Legends and Pete Kynsey put the mighty ‘Jug’ though an impressive aerobatic routine with Nick Grey flying the TF-51.

Dakota Heritage continued the american element to the flying with a dramatic display by John Dodd in the C-47 Skytrain 'Drag 'Em Oot' which included some very steep turns and interesting profiles for the crowd! Another Duxford regular is Martin Willing's T-28S Fennec which also gave a typically noisy and smokey account of itself in the perfect blue skies over Duxford. The

Further impressive warbird aerobatics came from Cliff Spink and Paul Bonhomme flying the pair of Hispano HA-1112M1L Buchons from Richard Lake and Spitfire Ltd. It was great to see these great fighters simply displayed as Buchons rather than being chased around by assorted Spitfire and Hurricanes. Of course Spitfire and Hurricanes are always well represented in Duxford flying displays. John Romain and Dave Harvey displayed the early war fighters with the Spitfire Ia and Hurricane XII while the sequence was concluded by a wing of three later Spitfires in formation.

For once however it was aircraft from the First World War which had star status at Duxford. The Nieuport 17 and Fokker Triplane may be regular attendees at UK airshows, but the show also boasted two ‘replicas’ from much further afield that will be making just very few flying appearances.

The Royal Air Force Museum commissioned New Zealand based The Vintage Aviator Ltd to produce replicas of a R.A.F RE8 ‘Harry Tate’ and Albatros DVa aircraft using genuine engines from its collection. The RE8’s engine is a new build that was reverse engineered from a genuine example that had been held in storage while the Mercedes engine in the Albatros is genuine, though has been restored with some new parts. While the aircraft have been built to fly, they are making just a few appearances at Old Warden and Duxford before taking their place in the RAF Museum at Hendon before the end of the year. With the replicas came two very distinguished display pilots. The RE8 was flown by Gene DeMarco, chief pilot at the The Vintage Aviator while Kermit Weeks flew over from the US to fly the Albatros. Kermit is well versed with the Albatros and the Mercedes aero-engine having a similar example produced by the TVAL in his collection at Fantasy of Flight. It was a privilege to see the aircraft fly on the Saturday, but sadly the windier conditions on the Sunday stopped them taking to the air.

Another highlight of the flying programme also involved an impressive collection of biplanes. The Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Fairey Swordish, the An2 Club Antonov An-2 Colt and David and Mark Miller’s de Havilland Dragon Rapide joined up for an impressive formation of big biplanes. There were also solos from the Swordfish and the An-2. Special note should be made of the An-2’s display which included a very near hover on the Sunday as well as some impressive tight turns. Anna Walker also added to the bonanza of biplanes with her beautiful aerobatic routine in the Bucker Jungmann as a salute to aviation’s part in the Olympics during the 1936 Berlin Games.

The Aerostars continued the aerobatics theme with two stunning performances over the weekend of close formation and solo aerobatics in their Yakovlev Yak-50s. On the Sunday the team appeared back-to-back with their Royal Air Force counterparts, the Red Arrows to provide a very impressive finale to the show.

The Royal Air Force was well represented over the weekend. As well as the Red Arrows, the RAF had the Tornado GR4 Role Demonstration team on both days and the Hawk and Tucano solo appearing once each over the weekend. On the ground there was also a Sea King HAR3A from nearby RAF Wattisham on static display during Saturday.

Appearing on the Saturday only was Avro Vulcan XH558. The Vulcan was making its first Duxford appearance in over four years and on this occasion did not have to deal with any of the difficult weather conditions it did in 2008.

As was the case last year, the show also boasted some impressive international participation. Opening the flying displays on both days was a formation of four F-15C Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath. While the single flypast may have seemed rather limited, it was good to see the USAFE participating in the show with an impressive formation.

However, it was Norway that provided the real highlights of the show with a number of classic and modern jets. The Norwegian Air Force was celebrating its links to the Royal Air Force at an event at nearby North Weald Airfield bringing over a number of veterans as well as current members of the Royal Norwegian Air Force and some of their equipment.

Scandinavia is home to an ever growing collection of classic jets and Saturday’s display was due to include the latest addition to the population in the form of a T-33 Silver Star (actually a Canadair CT-133). Sadly a radio failure meant the aircraft missed its display slot but nevertheless it was great to see such an iconic shape over the Duxford skies once again.

Sunday saw even more Norwegian classic jets with the welcome return to Duxford of the wonderful pair of De Havilland Vampires. They were joined for their initial flypasts by two Lockheed Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcons, one wearing the distinctive display jet colours which celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Norwegian Air Force. The formation made a number of passes before a dramatic break from which the Vampires went on to perform their lyrical formation routine.

The Duxford Air Show presented one of the most varied flying displays seen in the UK this year with many, many highlights over the two days. This show was certainly one of the most memorable displays of the season taking place in some very welcome fine weather. We hope for more of the same in October!

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