Duxford May Air Show 2009 - "The Best of British"


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The Duxford May Air Show of the year heralds the first of the major airshows of the 2009 season. As with all recent Duxford shows the show was themed, which for the may event was around the "Best of British. " This encompassed the best British aircraft and those used by British forces and companies,  as well as some of the most outstanding british pilots. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of the Author.

The weather has been pretty kind to us in some of the early events of 2009, but that all changed for the first Duxford airshow of 2009 with blustery wet conditions covering much of the UK - so a typically british spring day then! The weather put paid to the plans for displays by some of the more fragile types such as Alex Henshaw's Mew Gull, the unique Miles Hawk Speed IV and a collection of De Havilland Moths.

As is tradition at Duxford shows, the morning sees some of the acts arriving and the chance for photographers to get up close to some of the display aircraft on the flightline walk. However, much of the more inclement weather hit Duxford during the morning leading to a very empty flightline at times in terms of both aircraft and people! Duxford is home to "Airspace," the large hanger at the M11 end of the airfield that houses a superb collection of British and Commonwealth built aircraft as well as a conservation area. In the days preceeding the Duxford, the museum took deleivery of it's latest acquisition, Eurofighter Typhoon DA4 from BAE Systems. This Eurofighter is the second example to be put on show in a UK museum and was the first UK built version to be powered by the Eurojet EJ200 engines that power the fighter in front line service.

The air displays kicked off at 2pm with a particularly rare airshow participant. Representing the classic british airliners of the 1950's and 60's was a RAF VC-10 tanker from No 101 Squadron based at RAF Brize Norton. The RAF's transport and tanker fleets are incredibly rare participants at any airshow (indeed, they often miss the Royal International Air Tattoo, perhaps their most local airshow, due to operations) so the flypast and missed approach was a particularly pleasing addition to the show. The VC-10 also has a major presence in the sky with the roar of it's Rolls Royce Conway engines not being too dissimilar to the roar of the Olympus engines from a Vulcan!

RAF support for the show was particularly good. Flt Matt Baker flew the patriotically painted BAE Systems Hawk T1 to great effect under the overcast from Duxford runway in his second public display of the year. Touring in for his first public display was Flt Lt Scott Loughran from No 29(R) Squadron in the Eurofighter Typhoon T1A. As ever the Typhoon display is an amazing mix of agility and raw power. The Typhoon is sadly flying fewer shows in 2009 as the availibility is reduced during the week which is a great shame. Unfortunatly, Scott's first display was a low show thanks to the heavy overcast over Duxford for the Typhoon slot.

Surprisingly, the only other fast jets in the display were the pair of Folland Gnat T1s from the Gnat Display Team based at North Weald. The pair of Gnats, one in Red Arrows colours and the other in RAF training colours, both have smoke systems so are reminiscent of the Yeollowjacks and Red Arrows display teams. Despite their small size, Gnat's are always good airshow performers as proved by the team.

More basic trainers from the RAF's recent past were represented by the De Havilland Chipmunk pair flown by Howard Cook and Charlie Brown. Despite the bumpy conditions the pair flew a stunning close formation aerobatics routine.

A display that never fails to get noticed is the Chinook HC2 flown by Flt Lt Russ Norman. The Chinook may well be an american aircraft, but it has won fame in the service with the Royal Air Force on operations in the Falkland Islands and in Afganistan. The display is always surprising and dramatic thanks to the agility of the large helicopter which stays in front of the crowd for the whole of it's display making plenty of noise for itself.

In complete constrast to the Chinook was the only historic helicopter in the show, Kennet Aviation's Westland Wasp. Like the Chinook, the Wasp won fame in the Falklands alongside it's army version, the Scout. Kennet's Wasp has a very distictive camoflage scheme that works very well at airshows.

The show was not just about military hardware however. Two aerobatic champions showed their prowess in the skies. Guy Westgate led the Swift Aerobatic Display Team in the S-1 Swift glider in the choppy conditions. Guy is eight times UK National Glider Aerobatics Champion and has also represented the UK at three world championships. Flying alongside Guy in the display was Pete Wells in the diminutive Silence SA180 Twister G-TWST while the tow was supplied by Paul Moslin in the RAFGSA's Piper PA25 Pawnee.

Champion flyer

Mark Jefferies  gave one of his first public displays in the new Extra 330SC. Later in 2009, Mark will be competing in this aircraft at the World Aerobatic Championships at Silverstone. The Chamionships will see the best aerobatic pilots from around the world converging on Silverstone to compete for the ultimate accolade in aerobatics. On the final day there will be the "Freestyle" competition was well as a closing ceremony and airshow.. For more information, visit http://www.wac2009.com.

Representing the power aerobatics sport was Mark Jefferies in the Extra 330SC, another multi award winning aerobatics pilot. The 330SC is the latest competition aerobatics aircraft out of the famous german Extra Aircraft company. Smaller, lighter and more powerful than it's older brother, the Extra 300S, Mark put on a truly astonishing routine highlighting the ability to hover and very fast roil rate.

One of the phenonenon of recent years has been the growth of the Red Bull Air Race World Series. The UK has had three very successful pilots in the series, though only two are competing in the shorter 2009 championships. Unfortunatly, Paul Bonhomme was unable to take part in the flying displays at Duxford following a back injury sustained at the last Red Bull Air Race. That left Nigel Lamb and Steve Jones to present a highly unusual formation of P-51D Mustang and Sukhoi Su-26M2 representing the UK's contribution to the sport. With the conditions deterioting Steve gave a master class of Sukhoi aerobatics.

Away from the aerobatics, there was some more gentle flying. The Shuttleworth Collection managed to launch BAE Systems' De Havilland DH60 Moth and Blackburn B2 vintage biplanes despite the blustery winds. While the Cirrus Moth performed some low passes, the Blackburn was performing some gentle aerobatics above before the pair returned directly to the safety of Old Warden. Also braving the winds were a Auster Autocrat and a Piper Cub from Duxford which showed their ability to fly extremely tightly despite the winds.

Duxford's flying programme also included two displays by commercial types that don't often grace aishows. Britten Norman displayed a unique pair of Islanders in a synchronised display that was very pleasing to the eye. Unfortunatly the high winds meant the pair could not join with their forebearer, the Dragon Rapide.

Titan Airways, an ad-hoc charter airline, displayed their BAe 146-200QC. Titan are celebrating 21 years of charter operations this year and the 136 has played an important role. Duxford's short runway was no problem for the airliner which operated from the airfield which made a superb sight in it's unique Titan colour scheme.

Duxford wouldn't be Duxford without some warbird action and the first airshow didn't dissappoint. An aircraft making a welcome return to the skies was B-17G Flying Fortress Sally-B. The bomber has spent the last year since being grounded in October 2007 by engine problems, but hopefully these are now long gone and the crew can look forward to a busy season of air displays and flypasts. Another Bomber making a return to UK air displays after a long time in storage was the former TFC B-25 Mitchell. The aircraft is currently in the care of the Aircraft Restoration Company who are preparing the aircraft for a ferry flight to the US and in the hands of John Romain and Lee Proudfoot, the B-25 flew a spirited routine.

Amongst the Duxford regulars were displays by Plane Sailing's Catalina and Stephen Grey flew a display in the powerful FG-1D Corsair from TFC. One of the final displays of the day were a pair of Spitfire IX aircraft from Spitfire Ltd and OFMC which just managed to complete a display before one of the unpleasant squalls interupted the display towards the end of the day.

The first Duxford display of the year promised to be true classic and despite cancellations due to the weather it was still a highly enjoyable afternoon flying display with rare appearances by some of thr larger commercial types. Full credit must go to the display crews for their approach to some tricky flying conditions as well as to the flying display director, Jeanne Frazer, who still managed to produce a floqing display programme despite the last minute cancellations.

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