Carrying on the Flying Legends theme now with a look at another unique moment from that show. For the first time in close to 100 years the remarkable sound and sight of an Airco DH9 Bomber took to the air over Duxford.
This restoration has been almost a legend over the past five or six years or so, appearing and disappearing from participation lists at both Duxford and Old Warden. Excitement built further when the airframe arrived for final assembly at Duxford in the summer of 2017 but it would be a further two years before it would fly again for the first time.
That momentous occasion came in May 2019 and the first public display was scheduled for Flying Legends (after a planned evening event was sadly cancelled). Not having yet had the pleasure of reading test pilot Dodge Bailey’s account of flying this unique machine, I assumed that it would have very marginal weather limits and so was slightly dismayed when, in low wind conditions, the DH9 could not start ahead of its slot, adding to the ongoing drama of just missing out on this wonderful machine. We were treated to in depth commentary from Guy Black on restoring this airframe though, which softened the blow.
Luckily, conditions on the Sunday, though breezier, were within the limits of the airframe and the engine started and I watched in awe as this aircraft took to the sky. It would be easy for an aeroplane such as this to simply parade around at low speed and still capture the imagination, if possibly not live up to the build up. However, what actually happened was a typically graceful Dodge Bailey display with flowing wingovers combined with low passes down the runway.
The sound of the DH9 is another great surprise. Many of the challenges faced in this rebuild cantered on getting the engine running again and it certainly sounds wonderful. It has much more of the deep growl associated with German types of the conflict.
It was fitting that Flying Legends got to further add to its “firsts” with the public debut of this unique machine and I hope to see the DH9 fly many, many more times in the future.