IWM Duxford D-Day Anniversary Air Show Report

Saturday 24th May - Sunday 25th May 2014

History was made on the morning of 6th June 1944 as "D-Day" commenced Operation Overlord, the infamous Allied invasion of troops into German-occupied Europe. Much like events 70 years prior, the weather on the first day seemed all too inclement. However, the rain held off and a full weekend of flying was had and in its 70th anniversary the IWM Duxford's Spring Air Show pays homage to the "Day of Days".

Tom Jones reports on the Imperial War Museum's commemorations. Photography by the UK Airshow Review team as credited.

As the show sought to remember D-Day, the clear focus was on aircraft adorned with "Invasion Stripes". These hastily applied markings were painted onto D-Day aircraft in an effort to make the task of recognising allied planes easier and to prevent friendly fire incidents. Such schemes were well represented at the show, notably Spitfires MH434 and ML407 were suitably repainted for the occasion. ML407's presence was particularly significant as the aircraft was credited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft over Normandy on D-Day

Displays came from the Patrouille de France who opened the show in fine style, and the wonderfully photogenic OFMC pairing of P-51D "Ferocious Frankie" and Spitfire Mk IX MH434, it is great to see the pair back performing their tight routine after a rather quiet season for "Frankie" last year.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was also on strength putting forward a formation of their Dakota and Spitfire PRXIX (presumably a replacement for the planned Spitfire LFIXe), before spending some time on the ground, and on the Sunday a spectacular routine involving the aforementioned Spitfire and the RAF Typhoon FGR4, itself wearing specially painted invasion stripes.

The RAF Typhoon display itself is very commendable this year, and a marked improvement on the various practice displays seen during the pre-season work up. Whilst it's still no match on displays such as the French Rafale or Solo Türk, the routine seems to concentrate more on the Typhoon's raw power as opposed to the nippy agility of its European counterparts. It is certainly different to Jamie Norris' routine last year and is given extra effect with the inclusion of its special paint scheme.

Other modern day armed forces contributions came in the shape of a flypast of a 47 Squadron C-130 Hercules representing the armed force's modern day transport capability, and the Army Air Corps Apache solo display. Interestingly enough, the Apache solo this year includes a marked panel just below the cockpit with a graphic noting the significance of the WWI centenary this year.

A nice touch to the flying display was a mass formation of gliders to honour the extensive use of Horsas and Hamilcars during the landings. Eighteen aircraft took part in total, including two glider displays from Graham Saw and the GliderFX Team respectively.

Other displays came in the form of a very spirited display from The Fighter Collection's Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, and the ever spectacular Duxford trademark tailchase, involving both Hispano Buchons, numerous Spitfires including Biggin Hill based Mk IX MK912 and Historic Aircraft Collection's Hurrincane. Fittingly enough, Biggin's MK912 is thought to have inadvertently become the first Spitfire to land in France after D-Day.

However, the star participants for many were four C-47s each wearing invasion stripes honouring the airborne assault of D-Day. Indeed, two of the C-47s were from the USA, those machines being Tradewind Aviation's "Union Jack Dak" from Connecticut and the National Warplane Museum's "Whiskey 7" from Geneseo, New York. All but the Ace's High C-47 played a role in D-Day. "Whiskey 7" played an especially crucial role in that during the early hours of D-Day it was the lead aircraft of the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 82nd Airborne Division over Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

The quartet closed the show on both days, with "Union Jack Dak" dropping the Army's Red Devils parachute display team whilst in vic formation with the Aces High and Dakota Heritage machines. During that time "Whiskey 7" performed a few solo passes whilst the trio re-formed. The three in formation completed their display by performing a rather unusual 3-ship landing.

The show was very well executed and aptly remembered those who participated in the events of June 1944. However, as good a show as it was, comment must be passed on the lifting of concessions for seniors, carers and students. It may well be a sign of the times, but with IWM's very clear historical and educational focus, forcing students, the elderly and especially veterans to pay the full price of an entrance fee is something that seriously needs to be looked at.

Another such sticking point was the flightline walk. For the price of £6 one can get access to get closer to machines on the flightline. Whilst it is a good idea in principle and has been successful in previous years, the flightline this year on the Saturday morning was rather empty. It was a little frustrating to pay the increased price from last year to go on the walk, only for other participating aircraft to be towed out at a later time.

However, the overall picture is that once again IWM Duxford has set the bar for the 2014 season. Its new two-day format seems to have worked well, with what seemed to be a secure attendance on both days, and insurance against the all important and all too unpredictable British weather.