Duxford Flying Day - October 2021 - Cody Froggatt
With the celebrations of the Battle of Britain, and the 'Battle of Britain Air Show'
, less than two weeks ago, we gather once again at IWM Duxford for the 'Best of 2021' Flying Day.
Arriving at Duxford I was greeted by the sight of more than what we would usually expected to see in the flying programme at a Duxford Flying Day. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the Hawker Nimrod and Curtiss Hawk on the flightline.
As ever, with each flying day, they have their own unique theme and this was no exception, as the last flying day of the year is intended to showcase the highlights from the whole season. With selected aircraft picked by the flying display directors of the IWM and the Duxford air show team, this was intended to be a look back at the best of 2021.
Once settled in at the runway 24 end, the incoming arrivals were very interesting to see. The arrival of the Ultimate Warbirds P-51D Mustang 'Contrary Mary' arrived in with quite a noise, as did a couple of Yaks and a Pitts Special which would later be in the flying display.
The arrivals and departures during the Flying Day is an interesting aspect to have as It allows for an informal way in which to display different aircraft without having to have them within a flying display. The informality is really nice to have, it does bring a uniqueness to the Flying Day.
Opening the flying display was the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team. The cloud base did play ball for them, allowing for a mid show jump which was great to see. Having not seen the Falcons since 2018, it was really good to see the team perform. Their display also allows for some great photo opportunities for capturing ground crews or air crews leaning up against the historic aircraft, who were taking an opportunity to watch the display.
After the Falcons picked up all their equipment and cleared the display area, it was the turn of the Piper L4 Grasshopper & Fieseler Fi 156 Storch. Having never seen a Storch before within a flying display, only previously on static, I was quite intrigued by it. The display of the Piper and Storch in a battle type scenario was very interesting, the formations they performed too were quite eye catching and it was great to see these two aircraft types from the Second World War. They played a great background too for the Ultimate Fighter Display Team, consisting of Republic P-47D Thunderbolt 45-49192 'NELLIE' and P-51D Mustang 44-84847 'Contrary Mary' who were powering up and taxiing during their display.
Once the Grasshopper and Storch finished their displays, the Ultimate Warbirds took to the skies to hold, ready for their display. It was then the turn of the Bucker Bu 131 Jungmann. Again this is another aircraft I've seen plenty of times on static throughout the country, however, I've never seen it display in person before. Quite an interesting aircraft too, and very dynamic as it performed a series of aerobatics. I was deeply impressed with the aircraft, and the usage of smoke was quite a nice touch too.
Now it was the turn of the Pitts Special. The performance was a relatively normal Pitts display, I know that sounds probably a broad statement, but if you have seen a Pitts display before, you would understand fully the various rolls, loops and other various ways in which man and machine can be chucked about around the sky, which always gets gasps from the crowd, I may add too.
Then came the turn of the US fighters, from The Ultimate Fighter Display Team. I've gushed about the way in which they perform and their displays in the past. This time is no different either. The tightest and most agile display in which you could perform with these vintage warbirds. The Ultimate Fighter Display Team is renowned for a very good reason, the displays are superb! They perform so tightly, allowing us to capture magical pictures, great angles and aspects of these aircrafts. Once again, the display was no different here, and was pure perfection.
The LeVier Cosmic Wind was up next. Again, this is another aircraft I've never seen perform before and was deeply interested in seeing it. Unfortunately, I didn't get many great pictures of it due to it's size and being so small in the sky. The weather was poor too throughout the day, with a heavy haze and for some flying displays it was tricky trying to get any decent photographs of them. However, this was still very interesting to see. I really need to get down to Shuttleworth to see and get some decent pictures of it flying. This did also perform alongside the Bucker Bu 131 which provided us with the opportunity of seeing these both together.
With that finished it was the turn of two Hawker Hurricanes. To our surprise they added another one to the already advertised one on the day. The Hurricanes - V7497 and R4118, performed two separate solo displays, but it was unfortunate that they didn't form up together for a formation pass, but we can't have it all, I guess. However, this was a great little segment of two really rare warbirds within the flying program.
But then it was time for one of the highlights of this event, moreover, one of the highlights of the year for the IWM shows. The RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) arrived in at crowd rear, with the arrival of the Lancaster and two Spitfires. Spitfires TE311and P7350 flew in formation with Lancaster PA474 and what can be said about the BBMF other than Wow! They truly put on a show for us. This is the first and only time that the Lancaster has flown "publicly" for this season. Disappointing, yes, but quite exciting to see the old girl flying and gives massive hope and promise for next season. For Squadron Leader Mark Discombe whose time with the BBMF is coming to an end, this was his final public outing as OC of the flight. I truly believe this is a proper way in which to close out your BBMF career.
The Lanc disappeared back off to RAF Coningsby but the fighters surprisingly landed to much surprise and happiness of the crowd. After the fighters had landed it was the turn of the DeHavilland Rapide DH-98 from Classic Wings to perform. An interesting display as i have never seen a Rapide within a flying display before. This was a great opportunity to get some different pictures of this girl flying and it didn't disappoint one bit.
Then came the turn of the T-67 Firefly, an aircraft I haven't seen much of since it retired from the RAF, and to be honest with you I didn't see much of it while it was in active service. This was interesting to see and was a quiet and an agile display too. The Firefly was followed up by a Yak-52 and the De Havilland Chipmunk, and interestingly these two flew a display together, which allowed for an interesting glimpse into Western and Eastern trainers of the Cold War period.
But then it was the turn of yet another highlight of mine, The Fighter Collections Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat G-RUMM. A personal favourite of mine, this aircraft had the perfect sky, as the weather gods provided, for the old girl to perform to her highest ability. Much like at the 'Battle of Britain Air Show', two weeks previously, she performed with high dynamic loops and rolls, it was an amazing display. The Fighter Collection also surprised us with the addition of the Hawker Nimrod Mk.I S1581 (G-BWWK) which was also up earlier in the day, during arrivals. However, for me personally, this was a very nice surprise, much like the Bearcat and I truly appreciated this within the flying program.
Once the Bearcat finished, it was the turn of the North American Harvard ‘Wacky Wabbit' to take to the air. She held for a bit while there were a few departures and aircraft landing. The display from ‘Wacky Wabbit' was brilliant, once again having not seen a Harvard within a flying display for quite a long time it was brilliant to see one again. The display was quite immaculate too with some really high dynamic aerobatics from this old girl and some great photographic opportunities.
Then it was time for another few surprises, three Spitfires Mk V Spitfires LF Vc EE602, LF Vb EP120 and Vb BM597, were in formation with a Curtiss Hawk 75 from The Fighter Collection. A formation I thought I'd never see at IWM Duxford and it was interesting and unique to see. They broke formation, with the Curtiss performing a solo display, while the Spitfires performed a trio display with tail chases and plenty of topsides. This was a really nice sequence put on by the pilots and flying directors and really helped to build the excitement and anticipation for the climax of this year's 'Best of Flying Day'.
There was one more major surprise before the closing act and that was the Lysander Mk. IIIA V9312 from the Aircraft Restoration Company. This was a great surprise, much like all the acts which were added on the day. No one could complain as it felt more like an October air show rather than a normal Flying Day. The Lysander is always a popular act and for me personally it's great to see it flying once again, especially since it hasn't been out much during the 2021 season and personally I'm really glad that we got the opportunity to see her.
But then came the climax with Fight Lieutenant James Sainty in his final public display for 2021, and what seems to be his final display publicly as a Typhoon display pilot, came roaring in left to right and performed his display. For me this is the first time I've seen his full display having only previously seen him at Abingdon where he performed just two passes. Unfortunately, the airframe used wasn't 'Blackjack', it does look like the Blackjack airframe has gone bust and will need replacing with a newer more functional airframe. So, for the time being Sainty has been flying with a grey aircraft which is unfortunate, but it is what it is. However, the display was dynamic and typical of what you would expect from the Typhoon Display Team and was a fitting end to this Flying Day and to his career as Typhoon display pilot.
So, what are my overall thoughts of the final Flying Day of 2021. Well, this wasn't a Flying Day for me, this felt like rolling back the clock to when the October air shows were still going on at IWM Duxford. For the money charged, this show was well priced and was more of an air show than a Flying Day.
It truly was worth every penny and this was a great advertisement for why people should be getting IWM membership
which allows free entry to IWM Duxford Flying Days. Having this for free technically, through the membership, is a no brainer for anyone that could afford to become a member. I highly recommend it because this show was just one of the many Flying Days throughout this year which have been brilliant with some quite spectacular flying and display acts. Long may they continue too, because these have been a great refreshing way in which the IWM has presented us with various flying acts without having to present us with a major air show.
Article & photographs by Cody Froggatt.