Leaden skies, wrapped up warm in October, walking along the Duxford crowd line as a trio of Spitfire XIV, Bearcat and Corsair catch each other and join formation to the North of the A505.
Happy memories of the October airshows you are surely thinking! You’d be forgiven for thinking that the above was a recollection of a happy Autumn show memory, especially with that combination of aeroplane evoking memories of late 90s/early 00s Fighter Collection. You might be surprised to hear that this was only a couple of weeks to go! A flying display at Duxford in October? Surely that won’t catch on…
The decision to increase the May show to a two day event at the expense of the October show back in 2014 wasn’t exactly met with a positive reception and many enthusiasts, myself included have been left missing that “last day of term” feel that the old October shows always used to bring about. You never really knew what you were going to get, would the weather play ball? Would XYZ be flying, who would be flying what? It was always a mixed bag but brought about some great memories and formations, giving a chance for some lower key types to take centre stage.
The introduction of the Showcase days for 2019, which gives visitors to IWM Duxford on select Sundays throughout the year a chance to enjoy a couple of hours of based aircraft performing, has been one of the museum’s best moves in recent years. As the schedule of events was announced back in April, you couldn’t help but notice the inclusion of an October date. I don’t think anyone quite expected the day we got!
The weather was typical with what the October show often gave us, low, dark clouds and a chilly breeze. Not that it really mattered, its one last chance to enjoy some warbirds at one of the greatest venues for the type in the world! Familiar faces had descended on Duxford and there really was a sense of anticipation.
Flying got underway after lunch with aforementioned mixed formation of big pistons. Billed as “Furious formation” it was a lacking the key ingredient as Anglia Aircraft Restoration’s Fury was unable to fly. The Spitfire XIV of the same operator was a great replacement and, as mentioned above, added to the back in time feel of the day as it was operated by the Fighter Collection until 2016. The Spitfire led the three ship in for a couple of passes in a “vic” formation, before carrying out an impressive, tight tail chase under the low cloud base. The combination of Griffon and two 2800s and the remarkable contrast between Spitfire, Bearcat and Corsair in scale made for a great opener and a combination i’m not convinced we’ve seen before. The three fighters were flown by Steve Jones, Nick Grey and Pete Kynsey respectively.
A smoothly flown Harvard solo followed with Sam Worthington-Leese at the controls, making use of the increasing cloudbase to fit in some limited aerobatics. The Harvard was followed by Plane Sailing’s Catalina delivering a typically imposing display.
Mark Miller put on a great display in his Rapide as part of the first flying slot, before flying the Fox Moth alongside a Duxford based Chipmunk in the second slot. The Fox Moth wasn’t on any list published before the show so was a great surprise!
The initial flying slot was brought to a close with a rare performance from the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Spitfire and Hurricane pair. It is strange how things change as it wouldn’t have been that long ago that these two were preforming together at multiple events. Dave Harvey and Clive Denney flew a number of formation passes above Duxford.
The weather started to lift a bit more over the hour break in flying and this meant that Pete Kynsey was really able to enjoy himself in his Cosmic Wind “Ballerina”. This display was always an October show staple and really was great to see. More Fighter Collection action followed with a typically impressive Wildcat demonstration from Dave Southwood.
Dave Ratcliffe and Neil Oakman flew a graceful pairs and tail chase routine with Hurricane G-HRLI and the recently re-flown Lysander from ARCO. Andy Durston flew a dynamic performance in the Fighter Collection’s P-40F, adding to his impressive run of displays in 2019, not least in slot as part of the Ultimate Fighters team.
Perhaps the shining moment of the afternoon’s flying came in the penultimate slot. For the first time since June 2018 we were able to enjoy a public performance from the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Fury I. This was the first display in the hands of Dave Harvey and it really was a pleasure to watch. After an initial loop (does any aeroplane look better looping than the Fury?) a number of closer passes followed offering a rare and welcome look at this interwar classic. Having missed a few booked appearances over the summer, hopefully this is a sign we can enjoy this machine more in 2020.
What better way to end a Duxford flying day than a good old fashioned tail chase? Paul Bonhomme flew P-51D Mustang “The Shark” and led Rolf Meum and Steve Jones in the Fighter Collection’s Spitfire Mk V EP120 and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Hispano Buchon. A trio of Duxford Legends, both in the cockpit and in terms of the aircraft. Watching these three fighters follow each other through aileron rolls over the airfield before breaking off to land made for a wonderful conclusion to the airshow season.
The whole day felt like a wonderful step back in time and in many ways a real treat for the enthusiasts on site. I really hope that the showcase days continue to run in 2020 as they have been a revelation in 2019.