Now a clear set theme in the UK airshow calendar, the September show at Duxford features one of the most comprehensive tributes to the Battle of Britain that can be enjoyed in the world. This year saw the event take on the added them of RAF100 and featured a remarkable selection of aeroplanes from throughout the forces 100 year history.
Typically, with one of the best line-ups of the year, the show itself was heavily weather effected. With the entire Saturday display being plagued by rain and the Sunday show suffering from strong cross-winds. Despite this relatively full programmes were able to take place each day, with a few exceptions.
The show was opened by a surprise arrival of the Tiger 9 team, performing a memorable 100 flypast, with 15 Tiger Moths and Moth Major delivering a unique tribute to the Royal Air Force.
The first of the Battle of Britain displays of the day saw the Bristol Blenheim joined by four Hurricanes. This included the public debut of the latest Hawker Restorations project, G-HRLI/V7497.
The next notable highlights came from a trio of classic British jets. A Jet Provost T5 led a pair of de Havilland Vampires through an impressive close formation routine before the Jet Provost performed a graceful solo aerobatic display. This was followed by the Norwegian Vampires putting on a superb close formation aerobatic routine. It was such a welcome sight to watch aerobatic jets over a UK airshow again, following the change in regulations over the 17/18 winter.
Jet trainers gave way to earlier types with a combination of Harvard, Chipmunk, Bulldog and Prentice. A Piston Provost was due to join this sequence as well, though technical problems led to this being unable to perform. A wartime sequence was also put together featuring the Blackburn B2, Avro Tutor, Miles Magister and Tiger Moth.
For the second consecutive Duxford show, it was time for a four ship of Spanish built fighters to take centre stage. Once again Duxford resembled the Battle of Britain film as four Buchons leapt into the air for a stunning Eastern Front set piece. This saw the four Buchons playing the role of the Messerschmitt 109 being pitted against a pair of Yak 3s. This sequence was vintage Duxford with a high energy tail chase from the six fighters. While this sequence did not have a direct link to the RAF it certainly left a great impression.
Another sequence with no clear tie to the main event theme was the Korean War trio. This saw two P-51Ds (admittedly one wears RAF colours) together with the Norwegian MIG-15. Following a series of close formation passes and a graceful solo from the MIG the Mustangs dived in for a thrilling aerobatic tail chase that was amongst Duxford’s best.
Modern day RAF supported the show well with performances from the Typhoon Display team, Tutor and Red Arrows. There were also special flypasts from an A400M, Tornado GR4 and, as part of the 617 squadron tribute, the F-35B.
Continuing the theme of presenting unique aspects of RAF history, the transport segment offered some memorable flying. This saw Aero Legends’ Devon join a Percival Pembroke, Avro Anson and Dragon Rapide. Due to weather the Sunday saw the Devon and Pembroke perform on their own in a great low level tail chase.
Another welcome classic jet display saw the only public appearance from the Gnat display team of 2018. It was great to see the team active again and together with their JetFest event late in September, hopes have certainly been raised for a more regular return in 2019.
This show was brought to a close in spectacular fashion, as is expected now at these September shows, by a mass Spitfire formation. Unlike previous years this took on more of a “balbo” structure with two mass formation passes separated by lyrical aerobatics from John Romain in MK I Spitfire N3200. This formation totalled 18 on the Saturday which made the highest number of Spitfires in the sky together for some time.
This Duxford show managed to shine despite the challenging weather conditions. It will be some time before such a comprehensive spread of RAF aircraft are gathered together for one show. While it is a shame that it didn’t all quite come together, it was most certainly an impressive two days of flying and a wonderful tribute to the Force.