Where do we start on this one?
Aside from those fighters that are able to “earn their keep” with flight experiences or other commitments, 2020 was a fairly quiet year. Plenty of two seat Sptifires/Mustangs and the Hurricane were kept very busy. There was also a handful of privately owned fighter that got plenty of flight time across the year, such as Hurricane R4118 and Mustang G-SHWN. Many of the very familiar fighters that normally fill the flightline at Duxford and other show around the country were sadly absent much of this year at shows. I’ll try and break it down to a few collections for the sake of this post!
Air Leasing – Sywell Based Warbirds
Since 2015, there has been a wonderful stream of incredible restorations or imports passing through the hangars of Air Leasing at Sywell. Many split their time between Sywell and Duxford but have become an integral part of the UK airshow scene.
Perhaps the most impressive spectacle to come from this operation so far was the incredible Ultimate Fighters team that debuted at Flying Legends 2019. The sight of the mighty P-47 Thunderbolt leading a Spitfire V, Buchon and TF-51D Mustang through formation aerobatics just can’t be beaten. It’s a familiar story at this point but unsurprisingly this team did not fly in 2020 and only the Mustang flew at a public event (Duxford’s October showcase). The Thunderbolt and Spitfire V have flown this year, but only rarely since lockdown to my knowledge, while the Buchon has sat 2020 out entirely.
It’ll be great to see the team hopefully active again in 2020 and make the sight of the Thunderbolt all the sweeter, having got used to having the machine back, a year off will make us appreciate it all the more.
It’s also a shame that 2020 has seen the UK based Buchon population reduce again. From the impressive five ship of Flying Legends last year, there are now only three airworthy Buchons, with two of the Sywell based examples departing to Europe in the summer.
There are of course many other aircraft in the Sywell collection (not least of which, the Grace Spitfire) that have been missed during this season. 2021 could be set to be a very exciting year for Sywell, as the new venue for Flying Legends and with potential for projects such as the Hawker Tempest II completing.
The Fighter Collection
I certainly never thought I’d see a season where not a single Fighter Collection machine took to the skies, never mind perform at an airshow. With the inevitable cancellation of Flying Legends and very little other display opportunities it is hardly surprising that the decision was taken not to fly the fighters this year.
The collection includes a vast number of wonderful machines of course but I think its the fact that machines such as the Bearcat, or Hawk 75 have sat out what must only be the 2nd or 3rd missed season’s in their time at Duxford, is quite unusual.
A number of the collection were put out on static display at the final showcase day and also took part in the Nightshoot at the end of October.
As with the Air Leasing collection above, 2021 looks to be a great year for the Fighter Collection, with Flying Legends moving to Sywell it will hopefully be a great chance to enjoy the collection’s machines away from Duxford and it will be wonderful to see them flying again after a year away.
Whilst the Historic Aircraft Collection were able to fly their Hurricane in it’s new colour scheme at Stow Maries, Blackpool and Duxford across the summer, the rest of their collection stayed on the ground. This combined with no appearance from the Old Warden based Hawker Demon meant that 2020 saw no displays from the Hawker Biplanes.
A quiet year for these V12 machines would not be that unusual, but with the published list for Duxford’s planned April showcase listing both Nimrod’s and the Fury, it certainly feels like we might have missed out on a busy year for these machines.
Perhaps, with the return of the Shuttleworth Collection’s Hind slightly closer on the horizon, we can look forward to a wonderful summers afternoon with that familiar growl of Rolls-Royce ringing out.
Still in mine and many others eyes “the” Spitfire, Mk IX MH434 made no public appearances in 2020. While public displays from this machine have been increasingly limited in recent years, it’s absence was still strongly felt. The stories and memories that this Spitfire brings with it in each and every display is unique.
Thankfully MH434 was able to fly a few times this year so will hopefully be up and about for airshows in the new year.