Airshow, 8/9 September
Duxford's Indian Summer...
...Although you would not have believed it given the weather. A cold northerly breeze dominated the weekend, presenting some difficulties for some of the acts, plus leaden skies on Sunday gave a distinctly end-of-year feel to proceedings. Yet we still have the Autumn airshow to go! Gary Parsons reports from the plains of Cambridgeshire.
Providing the Indian flavour were two Westland-Agusta WAH-64D Apaches, fresh from Middle Wallop and the Army Air Corps build-up for the types introduction into front-line service next year. Having no reservation (sorry) about putting them through their paces, a full flying demonstration was offered, a singleton on Saturday being increased to a duo on Sunday, both machines giving a sioux-per (sorry) spectacular display of agility. Saturday saw the two Apaches formate with a Harrier GR7 in a demonstration of Joint Services ground support, one of the major themes of this years September airshow. On Sunday the Harrier became a Scout, not so impressive, but different all the same.
An Army agglomeration
Rather ponderously called Air support to soldiers on the ground, the running order featured such army co-operation types as the Bristol Fighter, Blenheim, Lysander, Tornado and, of course, the Harrier GR7. The latter was also central to another theme, that of celebrating 20(R) Squadron itself, the squadron having operated most of the types listed previously.
The Army theme was complemented by the appearance of the Historic Flight, heading the finale together with the Apaches. Flung around in the breeze, the Austers of the 'Military Auster Flight' joined the AAC's Beaver in leading a merry dance before giving centre stage to the Apaches and the future of Army aviation.
Representing the soldiers themselves was the parachute display team Red Devils, jumping from a C-47 rather than their normal Islander mount. We all thought they would jump overhead Huntingdon given the strength of the wind, but their skill knew no obstacle, and bang on the marker they were.
Hawkers to the fore
With so many Hawker designs present, it was only appropriate that the show paid tribute to Sir Sydney Camm, designer and instigator of so many of the British aircraft industrys finest aircraft. From the Cygnet, Camm's first design, to the Harrier, designs such as Hurricane, Sea Fury and Hunter were displayed with vigour. Classic Jets' WB188, ably piloted by Craig Penrice, looked magnificent in the spells of sunshine on Saturday and joined by OFMC's T8 XJ615, it was another fitting tribute to the Hunter in its fiftieth year. Let's hope that next year will see both Classic Jets' 'WB188's in formation together!
No less than five Hurricanes were present, four providing a marvellous spectacle as they flew in formation - if only the BBMFs machine could have joined in! Four Spitfires also performed, but so blasť have we become about Spits that this hardly featured on the wow scale.
On a lighter note (literally), the brave Cygnet pilot deserved an award for keeping it moving forward in the gusting winds - it came to a complete halt on occasion!
Salute to 20 Squadron
The Harrier also played a part in celebrating the existence of 20 Squadron, today in its reserve squadron form as the official OCU for the Harrier force. Quite why a tribute was being made to the squadron wasn't particularly clear, as it isn't any significant anniversary, but the unit has a strong tradition of army co-operation and it was a good excuse to show representative types such as the Avro 504K and Brisfit.
Sally B was again in action at her home base, but misfortune once again struck as she landed on Sunday. Several puffs of smoke could be seen as she landed with some real screams of protest from the tyres - when she pulled off the runway onto the taxiway one of the crew jumped out and joined the firecrew in taking a good hard look at the mainwheels, a brake fire feared, but fortunately there seemed no harm done. She seems to ride her luck at the moment - lets hope that she will have an mishap-free future from now on, she deserves it! Next year will see her busy as it will be the 60th anniversary of the arrival of USAAF forces for the Second World War, so she needs to be in the rudest of health.
In action once again was TFCs Skyraider, together with two T-28 Trojans, or Fennecs as they actually are, flown by John Romain and Martin Willing. Representing Close air support to the army, the tubby T-28s were thrown about by their pilots, the Aircraft Restoration Co.'s camo-example contrasting nicely with OFMC's all-silver 51-7692/G-TROY.
An unusual display item was Air Atlantique's Twin Pioneer G-APRS which performed a remarkably sprightly take-off in the stiff breeze - many thought it had vertical take-off capabilities! This ability was especially fortunate on the Sunday as RAF C-130J decided to reverse towards the grass strip just as the Twin Pioneer was rolling...
The C-130J (ZH884) threatened to do a display on arrival on Saturday, but just as we expected the demo to start it landed. Sunday saw a take-off, then disappearance...a shame that a few passes couldn't have been made. The listed Jaguar failed to appear for operational reasons, leaving the RAF presence to the Tornado, BBMF, Nimrod and Harrier. Oh, and the Reds of course, who commenced proceedings Saturday lunchtime and closed them Sunday evening. So, a good entertaining mix of old, new, familiar and no-so-familiar was this September's show - just one more this year to go!