This particular airshow moment took place across the entire 2018 season. I’ve already featured the excitement of G-THUN’s first display back in the UK since its sale over a decade ago, so this post takes a look at some of the other highlight moments. Formerly a Duxford icon, when painted as “No Guts, No Glory”, the airframe now wears the striking colours of “Nellie”, which has the similar design features to the previous scheme, with a flash of red thrown in.
In another example of “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, this aeroplane now finds itself based at Duxford again, at least in part. While the Thunderbolt spends some time at Sywell for maintenance, it can still often be found amongst its old stablemates in the public hangars at Duxford. After years without a Thunderbolt it has been a real joy to see this machine back.
Following in from Stu Goldspink’s return to display flying the aeroplane at Duxford in May, its next public outing I caught was a static appearance at Cosford, which saw the Thunderbolt arrive and depart ahead and after the main show. Then Pete Kynsey put in a typically smooth aerobatic performance to open the Military Pageant at Shuttleworth in early July.
Flying Legends week saw plenty of flying for the P-47, being reunited with Sally B for a few formation passes, with a solo display in between the bomber’s passes. This performance again saw Stu Goldspink at the controls with some typically precise hesitation rolls and flowing topsides. The pre-show days also saw Richard Grace applying his unique style of impressive aerobatics to the big airframe. It was wonderful to see such a big aeroplane eating up the sky and being thrown around the Duxford sky again.
It was a real shame that Little Gransden saw such awful weather at end of August in amongst some of the best airshow weather we have had for years. This meant that would could have been a very special display from “Nellie” wasn’t able to happen. I made the trip up to Duxford the following day, which was typically glorious, to watch the P-47 depart for a display up at East Kirkby. This gave the chance to watch the pre-flight preparations, start up and departure.
My final chance to see the Thunderbolt in its return season was arguably the most impressive. The Cosby Victory show has not been without its troubles over the years but this show was remarkable. A clear highlight of which was watching the P-47 operate off the small grass trip and literally feeling the aeroplane as it took off and landed.
The display featured some of the only aerobatics of the day with a particularly towering half cuban, before some simply stunning topside passes. This was also, to my knowledge the first time a Buchon/P-47 dogfight set piece has happened at a UK show which was a welcome treat.
Without a doubt the return of this special design to UK airshows has been a real highlight of 2018. I am already looking forward to seeing the airframe display again next year. As it stands the first display for the Thunderbolt is set to be Abingdon, with a special Fly Alongside day being hosted by Ultimate Warbird Flights early in March, for anyone wanting to experience the Thunderbolt up close in the air.