Waiting in the Wings – 2020’s missing favourites – The Bombers

While it was a great treat to enjoy the handful of airshows and flying events that were able to take place in 2020, it also marked the first time for many years that certain aircraft remained on the ground for an entire summer.

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Understandably with the loss of potential income from a busy summer of airshows, many operators simply opted to keep their fleet on the ground for 2020, or fly them very sparingly. This meant that many familiar airshow favourites and some more recent additions to the circuit were absent across the events.

Sally B

I thought it would make a good series to break things down and take a look at some of the bombers, fighters and classic jets that we didn’t get to see in 2020. Like so many familiar faces and venues, 2021 will be all the better when we hopefully do get to see them in the air again.

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As always with these types of posts, I’ve picked a handful that come to mind at the time, so it’s quite possible I’ve forgotten a few other favourites!

Boeing B-17 Sally-B

2020 was set to be Sally B’s 40th year on the UK Airshow circuit. Aside from a year or two on the ground with engine difficulties this machine has been a constant presence at shows up and down the country and a fixture on the Duxford flightline throughout the summer months. This year the pandemic hit before the team had even taken the aircraft out of winter hibernation in Hangar 2, meaning that Sally-B has not seen the light of day now for over 12 months.

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Being such a constant presence on the display circuit its easy to take for granted just how rare a flying B-17 is these days. Sally-B remains the only example in flying condition outside of the United States and one of an decreasing population as many operators are opting to rest their airframes.

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Hopefully it will not be long before Sally-B can roll out of Hangar 2 again into the sunlight at Duxford.

Avro Lancaster

Certainly not for the lack of trying, the Coningsby based Lancaster was also unable to make any airshow appearances this year, though did fly extensively. After an extended winter the Lancaster flew again mid-summer and the wonderful Dowding tribute formation was worked up, with a Hurricane leading the Lancaster and three Spitfires.

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The aircraft did manage some public appearances as part of VJ day celebrations in August and was due to make it’s 2020 airshow debut at the Shuttleworth Collection Musical Airshow. Sadly despite getting airborne out of Coningsby, the poor weather stopped the Lancaster making its way for what would have been a memorable performance. Later in the year technical issues stopped the bomber joining it’s Spitfire and Hurricane stablemates performing at the Guernsey airshow in September. Planned performances at Duxford and Headcorn later in the month were also curtailed by cancellation and weather respectively.

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Despite the lack of public appearances it has been great to see the Lancaster pop up so actively on the flight tracking apps and enjoy the social media posts accompanying those flights. As I write this the aircraft is back in the Stephenson hangar at Duxford, where it will remain until next summer undergoing maintainence. Perhaps if Kent comes out of Tier three before the New Year, I might get a chance to see this other four engined airshow legend in 2020.

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Bristol Blenheim

I know, I know, it’s in night fighter configuration, but as a multi-engine design that started off as a bomber, it seemed like a good fit!

Despite well over a decade separating it’s two most significant stints on the airshow circuit, the Blenheim too feels like an old friend whenever it appears. Since its most recent return to flight in 2014 in the MkI night fighter configuration, it’s performances have been spectacular at venues all over the country. This year was set to see the Blenheim make it’s first appearance at a French airshow in it’s new configuration. Sadly the Air Legend show at Melun in September was also cancelled, meaning that there was no need for the aircraft to fly this year (it was briefly on the list for the (also cancelled) Duxford show).

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Rather than entertaining crowds at airshows across the country, the Blenheim has spent most of the summer in an alternative Battle of Britain exhibition in airspace at Duxford alongside the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Westland Lysander and Spitfire N3200.

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With plans in place for fly alongside and passenger flights in the Blenheim, hopefully 2021 will see a very active year for this wonderful machine, to make up for a year in the hangar.

It’s been so good to enjoy the flying that we have in 2020, but I think we will all be glad to enjoy the aircraft featured in this post again next year, with any luck!

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