Mick Britton looks back at Duxford's September airshow. Pictures by Gary Parsons and Jack Parsons
After what has been a truly execrable summer for those who spend their leisure time in pursuit of aviation, Duxford's show over the weekend of 8-9 September was graced by a weekend of warm, dry summer weather that brought smiles to the faces of both attendees and traders after recent washouts and near-washouts at shows such as Waddington and Elvington - that, and the fact that the Red Arrows were on the flying programme for the first time in four years.
It's hard to believe that it has been so long since the Reds put in an appearance at this premier airshow venue and one wonders how long it will be until they make a return visit, given that they're off across the pond for six weeks next June! Anyway, judging by the large crowd, one of the biggest that this scribe has seen for the Saturday of a September show, there is no doubt that their presence swelled the number by a few thousand, and despite having to perfom the 'rolling' display due to the unexpected cloud cover that developed after a simply glorious morning, the audience were as ever well pleased with the display by this institution that can never seem to do any wrong. To prove the point, just try to remember when was the last time you heard anyone criticise one of their displays!
The Reds opened the show at the unusually early time of noon on the Saturday as they were performing at the Portrush show in Ireland in the afternoon, leaving a fairly lengthy ninety-minute interval until the next item at two o' clock, Plane Sailing's Catalina. As this was followed by the Harvard pair, F-86 Sabre (in formation with a Mustang), then P-39 Airacobra, Hawk 75 and Mustang (as a three ship and individually) and then B-17 'Sally B' there was decidedly American feel to the first hour of the display.
Ultimate High's Extra 300 followed with extreme aerobatics, before the pace slowed down and the Great War display team acted out an aerial combat where two Fokker Triplanes took on a British Sopwith Triplane and Nieuport 17, naturally coming off worst. After jet aerobatics by the 208(R) Squadron Hawk, the only RAF jet on the programme, came another of those well-loved airshow institutions in the shape of the Battle of Britain Flight before the entrance of a light aircraft flight consisting of an Auster and pair of L4 Cubs brought about another change of pace. This was followed by what has become another firm favourite, the RAF Chinook, making its second appearance of the year at Duxford, although not this particular machine which had been brought back from the South Atlantic judging by the badge of the Falklands-based 78 Squadron, which it carried.
The Army support theme was continued with the DC-3 Dakota before the almost inevitable glider slot, which seems to have become a feature of this Duxford Show. More extreme aerobatics by the 'Redstarz' team flying a Su-29 and Yak 52 provided an entrée to the punchiest aircraft on the programme, the Hunter pair of Sky Blue Aviation, whose brightly-coloured heavy metal have proved the saviours of more than one airshow this season in the absence of RAF fast jets.
The show's finale was typical Duxford fare consisting of a pair of Hurricanes and a trio of Spitfires. Frankly, despite the presence of the Red Arrows, this was by no means a classic Duxford - the programme was altogether rather ordinary without any of those 'special' items that have been served up in previous years, such as the Apache attack helicopters five years ago or the South African Airways 747 four years ago. There was just nothing on the programme capable of making the display live long in the memory - it seemed a case of 'going through the motions', something that Duxford had successfully countered in recent times, it seemed.