Hellcat’s Return

Amidst the countless other unique highlights that the 2014 airshow season brought, there has been one important aircraft that I have not yet mentioned. After 6 years on the ground The Fighter Collection’s Grumman Hellcat took to the skies over Duxford once again.

The Hellcat waiting for its first flight on the 23rd May 2014.

The Hellcat waiting for its first flight on the 23rd May 2014.

With the 2013 season over all of the Fighter Collections fleet, save for the Hellcat had been brought back up to flying condition. Having carried out a number of engine runs towards the end of last year and beginning of this one it became apparent that it wouldn’t be too long before TFC were back at full strength.

The big day turned out to be the Friday before Duxford’s D-Day airshow in May. I was there as I often am to take in the arrivals and practice displays ahead of the weekend’s main event. Things quietened down around mid afternoon so I went for a wander around the airfield, to my surprise I found the Hellcat sitting out on the jet pan when I returned.

This was the first time I could remember seeing the aircraft out of the hangar since 2008, so that in itself was quite a moment. The rest of the afternoon became a bit of a waiting game hoping that today might be the day. About 15 minutes before the museum closed, Pete Kynsey, the Collection’s chief pilot walked up to the Hellcat and started preparing it for flight. Before long it was sitting at the hold in front of me performing power checks.

It was wonderful to see this aeroplane moving under its own power again, I always loved the cats so to have the full fleet alive again was excellent news. The Hellcat got airborne and circled high above the airfield for about 10 minutes before Pete Kynsey brought it round for a gentle run and break to land. It taxied back to the ramp and shut down, a wonderful and unexpected bonus.

This return obviously led to a number of airshow moments, seeing the Hellcat and Wildcat performing pairs aerobatics again at Flying Legends felt like a blast from the past. It was also nice to see the aircraft used by Nick Grey as the Joker on the Sunday of Legends when the Gladiator was unable to perform. It was interesting to see Nick perform the same routine with tight, low loops and rolls as he performed in the 30s biplane in the American fighter.

The Hellcat also got a rare outing away from Duxfrod, spending a weekend down at Shoreham, thought admittedly on the day I was there the aircraft took off, developed a small problem and departed for Duxford, nonetheless it was impressive to see the it away from home.

The last performance for 2014 from the Hellcat was just as impressive, preforming an aerobatic tail chase routine with the collection’s Corsair at Duxford’s September show, showing the Hellcats speed and power off to good effect.

It has been enjoyable seeing the Hellcat return to flying condition and perform in that unmistakable Fighter Collection Style.

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