The Duxford Air Show Report

Saturday 8th September - Sunday 9th September 2012

The annual two day Duxford Air Show is one of the must-see events on the calendar for many aviation enthusiasts. In recent years the show has featured some headline-grabbing displays, not least the F-15E Strike Eagle demo team in 2011 and the unforgettable sight of 16 Spitfires in the sky together in 2010. With "something for everyone" booked, and different aircraft displaying on each of the show days, how would the IWM's showpiece compare to those that went before?

Stuart Norris reports from sunny Duxford. Photos by the UK Airshow Review Team.

The flying display started with a single formation flypast by four F-15C Eagles from the 493rd FS based at nearby RAF Lakenheath. Almost a case of blink and you missed it, the flypast was nevertheless a rare sight. After the Eagles had cleared to the east the "Poker" formation of the RAF's Tornado role demonstration swept in at low level and high speed. Making a welcome return to Duxford - the last appearance by the type was the solo aircraft in 2006 - the team were unable to use pyrotechnics due to airfield restrictions. While the lack of explosions and fireballs meant the display lost the impact seen at bigger shows, I for one will never tire of seeing Tornados flying amongst the weeds with the afterburners 'set to eleven'.

After the Tornados had vacated, another type returning to Duxford after a few years absence took centre stage. There's no doubt that seeing the Vulcan flying captures the public's imagination, but by most people's standards this was a very sedate display, especially when compared to other displays this year, most notably at RIAT. The aircraft seemed to cruise around at low speed and though we were treated to topside passes, when the power was applied to generate the famous howl the aircraft was too far away from the airfield for it to make much of an impression.

The display organisers had clearly given thought to the formations featured during the day and the flypast by three bi-planes; the AN-2, Swordfish from the Royal Navy Historic Flight and a Dragon Rapide pointed to this. It was perhaps the most unusual flypast seen at any airshow this year.

Another bi-plane that took part in the flying display was the Jungmeister with Anna Walker flying graceful aerobatics. Besides the Tornados, further RAF participation came from the Tucano and Hawk solo displays, with a Sea King from Wattisham airfield flying in on Saturday morning to feature on static display. The Red Arrows appeared on Sunday only, the sole aerobatic team to fly on Saturday were the Aerostars in their six Yak-50 aircraft.

Airshows at Duxford traditionally have a strong warbird participation and this show was no exception. The Fighter Collection (TFC) contributed with a number of aircraft from their stable, most notably P-47G Thunderbolt "Snafu", making only its second airshow appearance of the summer. The Thunderbolt made a couple of formation passes with TF-51D Mustang "Miss Velma" before both aircraft put on solo displays. TFC's P-40B Warhawk and F8F Bearcat also flew, Stephen Grey putting on his usual highly impressive display in "the Bear" showing the brute power and performance of the aircraft.

For many people the stars of the show were the RE.8 and Albatros D.Va reproductions from The Vintage Aviator Limited. This was just their second UK airshow appearance since being re-assembled at Old Warden, and they were joined by two other reproductions - a Fokker DR1 and Nieuport 17 - to fly a mock dogfight sequence. This may well have been the only chance to have seen all four of these aircraft in the sky together and it was a magnificent sight. It is a real shame given the amount of work that went into the RE.8 and Albatros that they are destined for static display in the RAF museum. D-Day veteran C-47 "Drag-em-oot" made a welcome appearance as did a T28 Fennec, Catalina and of course B-17G Flying Fortress "Sally B".

Classics jets in the display came from the Gnat display team, who were appearing at Duxford for the first time in six years. Also due to make it's first appearance at a UK air show was the CT-133 Silver Star from the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron. Sadly a problem with the radio prevented the aircraft from making its display slot and once the technical gremlins had been fixed there was no time left for it to display, so the aircraft took off and departed back to Essex where it was taking part in the 'Norwegian Wings over North Weald' event the following day.

With the CT-133 unable to take part it was back to the warbirds to close the show and the Cambridgeshire countryside reverberated to the sound of the Merlin engine. First a pair of Buchons - with Cliff Spink and Paul Bonhomme at the controls - flew a tight routine. This was Paul's first display in the Buchon.

After the faux-109s came Spitfire Ia P9374 and Hurricane XIIa Z5140 which, flew a few formation passes and a tail chase routine before the Hurricane landed and the Spitfire went off to the hold. A trio of Duxford based Spitfires then flew a series of passes in vic formation before breaking into the circuit to land leaving the display line clear for John Romain to return in the Spitfire Ia to close the show. John's display was superb and the crowd stood in near silence marvelling at the sight and sound in front of them. The light from the setting late summer sun helped add to the spectacle - airshow climaxes don't get much better.