The 'Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show'
took place on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd September 2018.
There were concerns by many people attending this event that the flying display could be cancelled or very limited due to the weather. The forecast had rain for Saturday afternoon and heavy rain and strong winds for Sunday. However, despite some drizzle on Saturday afternoon, the flying display went ahead as planned. IWM Duxford issued a statement at 11am on Sunday saying that the flying display schedule would be virtually unchanged for the second day, but there would be a revised start time of 1pm. On Sunday there was heavy rain in the morning but the weather brightened up considerably during the afternoon and the flying display went ahead at 1pm with many of the aircraft displaying.
Tickets for this event were sold out before the show and there were traffic problems, particularly on Saturday. Some people were stuck in traffic for up to 2 or 3 hours trying to get to Duxford and there were large queues waiting a long time for shuttle buses to arrive at Trumpington Park & Ride (Junction 11 of the M11).
Despite the problems getting to the air show and the heavy rain on Sunday morning there was plenty to do and see on the ground. There is the extensive museum as well as the 'RAF100 Inspire Showcase' which showcased cutting-edge technological developments from the RAF's industry partners and included a large-scale virtual flying display. You could also step back in time and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the Spitfire Summer which featured live performances of the 'D-Day Darlings', finalists of 'Britain's Got talent' and meet wartime characters and enjoy vintage fashion and hair styling. There were also over 60 trading stalls across the Showground and the Flightline Walk where you can get up close to the display aircraft for the additional charge of £5.
Themes for this airshow included the 'Battle of Britain'
and the 'Royal Air Force Centenary'
. There was also a celebration of '617 Squadron'
with a special flypast.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed on April 1st 1918, after the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), making it the world's oldest independent air force. The centenary of the RAF was celebrated at Duxford with flying displays by the Typhoon FGR4
, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
with their Lancaster, Spitfire & Hurricane, RAF Tutor
and the popular Red Arrows
display team in their nine Hawk T1 aircraft.
A 'Voyager Formation' flypast had been planned with the large RAF Voyager tanker in formation with two RAF Typhoons and an RAF A400M Atlas transporter. Unfortunately the RAF Voyager was cancelled but the Typhoons and Atlas did perform a flypast.
The '617 Squadron' flypast included the BBMF Lancaster
, a Tornado GR4
and the new F-35B Lightning II
. 617 Squadron was made famous when Lancaster bombers took part in the 'Dambusters Raid' on 16th-17th May 1943. The Lancasters, led by 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Gibson breached two German dams in the Ruhr Valley and damaged a third. They used special bouncing bombs designed by Sir Barnes Wallis to breach the dams and flood the industrialized Ruhr Valley. During the 1990s, 617Sqn operated the Tornado and were the first squadron to carry out a TIALD sortie and scored 229 hits with Paveway precision laser-guided bombs. The Squadron has recently reformed with the new F-35B Lightning II which is a fifth generation single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multi-role combat aircraft, based at RAF Marham. The F-35B can also operate from the new Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers.
This was probably the last time to see an RAF Tornado GR4
at an air show as it will be retired by the end of March 2019.
The RAF Tornado GR1 entered service in the early 1980s and is a twin-engine, variable-sweep wing multirole combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy.
The variable-sweep wing was designed so that that the wings could be swept forwards to improve manoeuvrability and landing capability or swept back to improve high-speed performance and stability at low level. The Tornado also uses reverse thrust so that it can land on short runways.
The Tornado has been the backbone of the RAF's precision-strike force and has been used in combat constantly from the early 1990s:- The Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Kosova, Libya, right up to the present day fight against terrorists in Syria and Iraq today.
The Tornado will be replaced by the RAF Typhoon FGR4 and the F-35B Lightning II. The Typhoon was originally designed as a highly agile air superiority fighter but later production aircraft have been increasingly better equipped to undertake air-to-surface strike missions with many different weapons including Storm Shadow cruise missiles and the impressive Brimstone missile. The F-35B Lightning II will also operate alongside the Typhoon offering a stealth capability along with advanced sensors and secure data-links in a Short Take-Off and Vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft.
A surprise act at the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show was a formation of sixteen Tiger Moths
, including the Tiger 9 Display Team, which created '100' in the sky to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force. The Tiger Moths operated out of Fowlmere airfield, which is to the west of Duxford.
Taking part in the display were several aircraft from the Shuttleworth Collection including their Spitfire Vc
(AR501), Sea Hurricane Ib
(Z7015), Avro Tutor
, Bristol Fighter Gloster Gladiator I Miles Magister
and Westland Lysander
. The Shuttleworth SE5a was cancelled before the weekend due to a technical issue. However, due to the weather forecast of rain and winds for Sunday they decided to fly the Shuttleworth aircraft back home to Old Warden after the display on Saturday. Unfortunately because of the wind that was forecast they decided not to return to Duxford on Sunday which left a few gaps in the flying display schedule.
On Saturday only, the 'First World War' theme included the Bristol Fighter and the 'Mercury Formation' theme consisted of the Gloster Gladiator and the Westland Lysander. The 'Pre-War Trainers' theme included the Blackburn B2, Tiger Moth, Avro Tutor and two Miles Magisters.
Battle of Britain Day
is celebrated on the 15th September every year. It is celebrated on this day because the most decisive confrontation of the battle took place in the skies above London on 15th September. Two massive waves of German attacks were decisively repulsed by the RAF on this day by deploying every aircraft in 11 Group, which resulted in sixty German and twenty-six RAF aircraft being shot down. Although fighting continued in the air for several more weeks, and British cities were bombed sporadically for the rest of the war, German tactics to achieve air superiority ahead of an invasion failed.
As you would expect at Duxford's Battle of Britain Air Show there were plenty of Spitfires taking part in the display. These included the following:
• Spitfire I (N3200) - Imperial War Museums
• Spitfire I (AR213) - Comanche Fighters via TFC
• Spitfire I (X4650) - Comanche Fighters via TFC
• Spitfire Vb (EP120) - TFC
• Spitfire Vb (BM597) - HAC
• Spitfire Vc (AR501) - Shuttleworth Collection
• Spitfire Vc (JG891) - Comanche Fighters
• Spitfire Vc (EE602) - Richard Grace
• Spitfire VIII (MT928) - Maxi Gainza
• Spitfire IX (TD314) - Aero Legends
• Spitfire IXb (MH434) - OFMC
• Spitfire T9 (PV202) - ARC
• Spitfire T9 (NH341) - Aero Legends
• Spitfire T9 (PT462) - ARC
• Spitfire PRXI (PL983) - ARC
• Spitfire PRXI (PL965) - P. Teichman
• Spitfire XIVe (MV268) - Richard Grace
• Spitfire XVIe (TD248) - Eastern Airways
• Spitfire XVIII (SM845) - Eastern Airways
The Spitfire is one of the most famous fighter aircraft of World War II. Originally designed by R.J. Mitchell, the Spitfire proved to be very adaptable and was modified with more powerful engines and greater loads throughout WW2 leading to 24 marks of Spitfire. The Spitfire was initially fitted with the superb Rolls Royce Merlin engine and later progressing to the more powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon engine.
The Mk.I, as used in the Battle of Britain, had eight .303 machine guns, a merlin engine producing 1,030hp (770kW) and a top speed of 367mph. In contrast the later Spitfire Mk.24 had four 20mm cannons, up to 2x 25lb bombs on wing racks plus a 500lb bomb on the centre rack, a Griffin engine producing 2,120hp (1,771kW) and a top speed of 454mph.
The distinctive semi-elliptical wing shape of the Spitfire was designed to be the most efficient aerodynamic shape and be thin enough to avoid creating drag but thick enough to house the retractable undercarriage, armament and ammunition. The shape of the wings and sound of the Merlin engine as well as its part in the Battle of Britain and throughout the war make the Spitfire one of the most famous and iconic aircraft of World War 2.
At the end of Duxford's Battle of Britain Air Show on Saturday there was a flypast of no fewer than eighteen Spitfires after the IWM Spitfire I performed a solo routine. There were slightly less on Sunday with thirteen Spitfires in the flypast.
There were four Hawker Hurricanes plus the Shuttleworth Collection's Sea Hurricane at Duxford and these included the Hurricane I
(V7497), Hurricane I
(P2902), Hurricane XIIa
(5711), Hurricane I
(R4118), and the Sea Hurricane Ib
It was good to see the newly restored Hurricane I (V7497) which was flown operationally from RAF Kenley during the 'Battle of Britain' when it was shot down on 28th September 1940. It has since been restored and flew again on the 30th August 2018, from Elmsett Airfield, with Stu Goldspink at the controls. The flight test went exceptionally well and V7497 will be a permanent static and flying resident at IWM Duxford.
During the air show the Bristol Blenheim I
(G-BPIV) displayed alongside some of the Hurricanes.
The Buchons and two Yak-9s displayed together, using pyrotechnics, with the theme being 'Russian Front'. On Sunday the HA-112-M4L Buchon
'White 9' (G-AWHH), and HA-1112 MIL Buchon (G-AWHK)
displayed with Will Greenwood's Yakovlev Yak-3
(G-OLEG) and Mark Davy's Yakovlev Yak-3
(G-CGXG). Saturday also saw HA-112-M4L Buchon
'Yellow 7' (G-AWHH) in the display.
The Soviet Yakovlev Yak-3 proved to be a formidable dog-fighter during the Second World War, as it was small and light with a high power-to-weight ratio. With its speed and manoeuvrability the Yak-3 was more than a match for the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The Buchon was a license-built version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109G, developed in Spain during and after World War II and is powered by the Merlin engine rather than a Daimler-Benz engine.
'Post-War Trainers' included the Aero Legends Percival Prentice
(VR259), DHC-1 Chipmunk
(WZ879), Scottish Aviation Bulldog
, Dave Cooper's Percival Provost T1
and Harvard T6
(G-BGPB). The Percival Prentice did not take part in the flying display on Sunday.
The Percival Prentice was a RAF basic trainer with a low-wing monoplane with a fixed tailwheel undercarriage which was introduced in 1947. The DHC-1 Chipmunk tandem two-seat primary trainer was developed and manufactured just after WW2 by de Havilland Canada and was a replacement for the DH Tiger Moth trainer. The Chipmunk was eventually replaced by the Scottish Aviation Bulldog. The Percival Provost was developed for the Royal Air Force in the 1950s as a replacement for the Percival Prentice and the Harvard was an American designed advanced trainer which was used by the USAAF & USN (known as the Texan), as well as the Royal Air Force, and other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II and into the 1970s.
The 'Hawker Formation' display only took place on Saturday because of the crosswinds on Sunday. The formation consisted of two Hawker Nimrods and a Hawker Fury. The Fighter Collection displayed Hawker Nimrod Mk.I
(G-BWWK), and the Historic Aircraft Collection displayed their Hawker Nimrod Mk.II
(G-BURZ) and Hawker Fury Mk.I
The Hawker Nimrod was a British carrier-based single-engine, single-seat biplane fighter aircraft built in the early 1930s and the Hawker Fury was a British biplane fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force in the 1930s which was the first interceptor in RAF service capable of speed higher than 200mph.
The 'Transport Formation' theme included the Classic Wings DH.89 Dragon Rapide
, BAE Systems Heritage Flight Avro Anson C19
, Percival Aircraft Percival Pembroke C1
and Aero legends De Havilland Devon
. Only the Pembroke and Devon displayed at Duxford on Sunday.
The de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide was a 1930s short-haul biplane airliner which could carry six to eight passengers. The Avro Anson, introduced in 1936, was a British twin-engined aircraft which was used in many different roles including transport. The Pembroke was a British high-wing twin-engined light transport aircraft introduced in 1953 to replace the Avro Anson for light transport duties with the Royal Air Force. The De Havilland Devon was a military version of the de Havilland Dove short-haul airliner, one of Britain's most successful post-war civil designs.
Also in the flying display was Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
'Sally B' (G-BEDF) which is a regular performer at Duxford and the last remaining airworthy B-17 Flying Fortress left in Europe. Plane sailing's Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina
'Miss Pick Up' (G-PBYA) also displayed at the show and both of these aircraft have a Supporters Club which help keep them airworthy. Please check out the 'Sally B Supporters Club'
and the 'The Catalina Society'
The 'Jet Trainers' theme included a pair of DH Vampires and a Jet Provost. The De Havilland Vampire FB52
and De Havilland Vampire T55
are both operated by the 'Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron'. The de Havilland Vampire was Britain's second jet fighter, after the Gloster Meteor, and was introduced in 1946. The Vampire FB.52 was a variation of the FB.6 fighter-bomber and was exported to a number of countries while the Vampire T.55 was an export version of the DH.115 trainer. The Jet Provost
trainer was originally developed by Hunting Percival in the mid-1950s and derived from the earlier piston engine-powered Percival Provost. A heavily armed ground-attack version was later developed for export called the 'Strikemaster'.
The 'Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron' also displayed their MiG-15 with two P-51D Mustangs for the 'Korean Flight' theme on Sunday. The Mustangs were the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation's P-51D Mustang
(44-73877/G-SHWN) and the P-51D Mustang
(44-72216/G-BIXL) 'Miss Helen'.
The Soviet MiG-15 was introduced in 1949 and was one of the most widely produced jet aircraft ever made. It featured swept wings which helped it achieve high transonic speeds, and saw service in the Korean War. The Mustang also took part in the Korean War, as the F-51, and was the main fighter of the United Nations until jet fighters, including North American's F-86, took over this role.
Two Folland Gnat T1s
(XR992 & XR538) were also part of the flying display at Duxford. The Folland Gnat was a British compact swept-wing subsonic fighter aircraft which was introduced in 1959. Although initially developed as an affordable light fighter it was actually used as a trainer aircraft. The Red Arrows Aerobatic Team were originally equipped with seven Folland Gnat trainers as it was less expensive to operate than front-line fighters. In late 1979, they switched to the BAE Hawk T1 trainer which they still use today.
The Red Arrows
in their nine Hawk T1 trainers put on one of their last UK flying displays of the year at the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show. The team are based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire although it has been announced recently that the base is expected to close by 2022. The government have said that the Red Arrows will be relocating to a site that is "more fit for purpose".
On static display was Aircraft Restoration Company's Westland Lysander Mk.IIITT
(V9312/G-CCOM) which has recently had a successful post-restoration test flight, after a fourteen year restoration effort.
Thanks to the 'Imperial War Museum Duxford' for putting on another great airshow despite the difficulties with the weather and traffic.
Article by Dave Key with photos by John Bilcliffe - www.military-airshows.co.uk