A notable revival (or so it seemed) in 2021 was the impressive number of T-6 solo displays that featured throughout the year. Once common place as part of the Harvard display teams going back over the years, there has been limited variety in this regard beyond the occasional anniversary show or occasional slot at Duxford/Old Warden.
This in part is thanks to aircraft moving to new owners who are more active on the display circuit, or use the T-6 as their stepping stone on to the airshow circuit. Smaller shows returning to the scene has also allowed more displays from this wonderful old trainer to be booked.
The season kicked off with a special T-6 debut, with Hurricane Heritage’s Harvard making it’s first public display in a number of years, but more importantly the first public display for owner James Brown as he worked his way up to displaying the Hurricane (a feat he managed in fine style later in the season). This routine was a great account of the Harvard, combining mid level graceful aerobatics with lower level sweeping passes, all with that wonderful Harvard growl ringing around the airfield. Hurricane Heritage’s example is a wonderful machine having had a wonderful overhaul some years ago, resulting in this stunning RAF scheme.
The next notable Harvard appearances came at the Aero Legends Battle of Britain show at Headcorn at the end of June. Here there was a chance to see both of their machines active, both in their own pairs display, which combined tailchase, formation and aerobatic figures and as part of the larger balbo sequences with the rest of the Aero Legends fleet. Once again, this combination of Harvards roaring around the airfield was a wonderful sight and sound that harked back to previous shows. It was especially poignant as both aircraft have a long history with the airfield both under Aero Legends and previous ownership.
It is worth including the one and only appearance of the Duxford based Yale (a direct predecessor to the Harvard) in this post, which took place at the Duxford Flying Day on the 19th June. It was far from ideal conditions but it was great to enjoy this sole airworthy example of the type in Europe putting on a graceful display.
The Old Warden Military show in early July saw Kennet Aviation’s Harvard fly a solo routine. Though one of the more common sights on the airshow circuit (certainly at Old Warden in recent years) it’s always a pleasure to see this machine in the air.
A surprising highlight of the Duxford Summer show was Rod Dean’s superb account of low level aerobatics in the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Harvard. It had been a long time since I can recall watching a Harvard perform aerobatics at a height more in line with the larger warbirds and this display was a real thrill.
A week later I was able to enjoy Nigel Wilson’s Harvard display, in the wonderful Anglia Warbirds machine at Old Buckenham. Following the Duxford display the previous week this was another great chance to see some more low level Harvard aerobatics. Very much in line with the Yak-52 display we have enjoyed over the years from the same pilot, this sequence proved to be a real highlight of 2021 in my eyes and I enjoyed seeing the display again at the Duxford August flying day.
Wrapping things up was a display from long-term Duxford resident and a familiar sight on pleasure flight duties, Harvard “Wacky Wabbit”. Over the winter of 2020/21 this airframe was fitted with a smoke system, a unique feature for a UK based Harvard. I got a chance to see the Harvard put through a wonderful aerobatic routine complete with smoke at the Little Grandsden show this year.
With the wide range of warbirds and rarer types that have enriched the UK airshow scene over the last couple of decades, it is easy to overlook this wonderful training machine but it’s presence in a striking airshow routine is still incredible.