It’s certainly been a long winter this time around! A near constant state of lockdown in Kent since November 2020 has made for a very long winter for an aviation enthusiast. I’ve been lucky to have a few Spitfires overhead on air tests out of Biggin Hill but otherwise it’s been a long off season.
Fortunately as lockdown starts to ease signs of normally are starting to re-emerge. The latest changes coming in on Monday 12th April allowed Duxford to reopen as an outdoor experience. This made for the first warbird outing for 2021. Though the hangars are of course closed efforts have been made to at least open up hangar doors so visitors can see the based aircraft from a distance at least and flying is being encouraged wherever possible.
During the couple of hours spent at Duxford yesterday there was plenty to see with visiting GA types (and an aerosuperbatics Stearman). In addition Harvard “Wacky Wabbit” went up on a local flight and the Aerial Collective pair of Spitfire PT462 and PV202 went up on passenger duties. A welcome first dose of upclose Merlins for the year.
A stop off at North Weald on the way home beckoned to take a look at some of the changes made over the winter, including the new Squadron cafe. It was a well timed visit as Hangar 11’s newest arrival, Spitfire PT879, better known as the “Russian Spitfire” was outside the hangar, alongside Kennet Aviation’s T-6 – with all the makings of a photo shoot.
Soon enough the Harvard was up and running and airborne and the Spitfire burst into life. The Squadron car park offers great views of the Hangar 11 Collection fighters departing and this was a great chance to enjoy the new Spitfire at close quarters. As if the Russian markings were not unique enough the Spitfire also currently flies with dummy bombs fitted, a first for a civilian operated Spitfire to my knowledge.
After an hour or so the Spitfire returned into the overhead and joined the circuit to land. Another great close up view of it taxiing back to the hangar was offered before it shut down and was swiftly put back to bed in the hangar.
Hopefully 2021 offers sufficient shows that there may be further opportunities to see this wonderful restoration in the air. It was great to get a chance to enjoy it so closely early in the year.