Airshow Review: Duxford September Air Show – 13th September 2014

Arriving at Duxford on the Saturday morning, we were greeted by less than promising weather, with thick fog only just letting us see the far side of the field.

However, as forecast, this soon burnt off and before long the usual sounds of the classic wings fleet of Rapides, Tiger Moths and Harvards were echoing around the Cambridgeshire skies.

For this years show Duxford seemed to have created a line-up not dissimilar to a music festival, with different “headliners” on each day.

The Saturday saw the Vulcan and the Gnat display team, while the Sunday had the Red Arrows and the Lancaster pair.

This could be seen as a case of Duxford trying to fill the void left by the October show, trying to get more people attending both days of the September weekend. But it was certainly a bold, if somewhat strange move.

On the Saturday, the Vulcan was the main event. The Vulcan seemed to follow on from its past performances at Duxford, providing a tamer display than has been seen most of the season, save for the final climbing wingover bathed in gorgeous sunlight. Which was perhaps one of the finest Vulcan “moments” I have witnessed.

The Gnat team joined up with the Vulcan before its display for a few impressive passes in formation. The Gnats having displayed earlier on in the day; combining close formation passes with the usual trademark breaks and opposition maneuvers of the syncro pair.

With the main acts changing each day the bulk of the “support acts” remained the same, of course this being Duxford, there was plenty of warbird action.

The corsair and Hellcat tail chase was the pick of the bunch for me. A perfect routine, showing off both aircraft close in and fast to the crowd with some aerobatics thrown in for good measure.

Such was the quality of this tail-chase I managed to basically miss Pete Kynsey’s impressive solo routine in the Bearcat on the southern display line. Perhaps this could have been put on separately or the two elements could have swapped display lines half way through?

The spitfire routine seemed different at this show, starting with a single formation pass by the four spitfires, followed by the two beautiful mark 1a’s tail-chasing with the Hurricane, while the Mk Vs put on a close formation aerobatic display.

Seeing the two “baby” spitfires flying low across the grass was worth the entrance fee for this show alone, which made it even more of a shame that this segment of the display seemed oddly short in comparison to the usual Duxford sequences, and indeed the other displays on the day.

The Hawk 75, an aircraft often overlooked in favour of its more famous relatives, was put through its paces in one of the finest displays I’ve seen from the aircraft, courtesy of Brian Smith. There was also a nice routine from the P-40F, though it was cut short due to technical issues with the Hawk.

The Great War display team put on their usual well-staged routine filling the entire airfield with ease, the step up to 9 aircraft this year has really brought this team to life!

I know I wasn’t alone in being saddened to hear that this year there would be no autumn air display at Duxford, having been the traditional final show of the season for many years.

So it was nice to see the l Duxford “at home” acts that usually only get the chance to fly in October, displaying at the show.

The Fennec pair, in my opinion are one of the most underused Duxford acts, they always put on an impressive fast paced display, often so much time passes between seeing this pair that I forget how aerobatic and manoeuvrable the T-28 can be!

The Beaver, cub, Stearman and Cosmic Wind were enjoyable once again, this time the dual display line set up worked well, with the tiny Cosmic Wind being thrown around on the far axis while the other aircraft flew figure of eights closer to the crowd.

Other highlights included; an impressive close formation aerobatic display from two Jet Provost T5s, Plane Sailings beautiful Catalina in a very dynamic display and perhaps the best display I have ever seen B-17 Sally B perform, with lots of graceful low level passes.

The final display of the day came in the shape of the Hunter T.7, which put in an excellent show, lots of fast noisy flying combined with graceful aerobatics. A great way to finish up the days flying.

While there was nothing especially wrong with the show, indeed looking through my thoughts here I don’t seem to have had much aversion to anything, it did feel somehow lacking.

There wasn’t the usual Duxford magic that I’ve become used to. Perhaps it was the lack of a strong theme. The D-Day show in May, for example, saw Duxford sticking to a theme and creating an impressive show. Having the unique glider assault and the C-47 tribute as the main event, the rest of the line up was still well stocked with D-day related acts. This attention to detail resulted in a strong show.

The September show, by comparison seemed to be something of a loose cannon. While there were nice moments it did, at times, seem a bit random.

I don’t think the vastly different line ups on each day helped proceedings; if anything it gave the impression that the organizers were hedging their bets.

I’ll be back next year no doubt, with the promise of VE day and Battle of Britain celebrations bringing strong line ups, and of course Legends is always a fantastic show. I’m sure that missing “Duxford magic” will be back in full force soon enough.

If you’ve made it this far through the review it will be obvious that I didn’t take any pictures of the event, certainly not any worth posting here. So once again I’d like to point you to http://www.airshows.co.uk and their excellent forums for hundreds of great pictures of the event. 

For more information on the future Duxford shows, head over to www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-duxford

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