IWM Duxford August Showcase Day II

Wednesday 19th August 2020

After a successful first Showcase Day of the year at the beginning of the month, the format returned for the second of IWM Duxford’s flying displays of 2020. The Duxford event was part of a collaboration with Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, to stage a first ever joint Showcase Day, with unique and shared assets at each location. However, even the best laid plans can be thwarted by the weather.

Scott Perry donned his raincoat and reports from IWM Duxford for UK Airshow Review. Photography by the author.

August, the height of British summer and hopefully some fine weather. But this is 2020, the year when nothing seems to go to plan. Just four days after the Shuttleworth Collection’s Magnificent Musical Flying Display was hampered by the weather, IWM Duxford’s second Showcase Day followed suit. With rain drizzling throughout the morning, the heaviest of the day’s showers hit right in the middle of the planned flying display to cease the day’s action prematurely. How very typically 2020.

The weather did not deter the public from arriving to support the event in great numbers though, with the main museum car park filling rapidly throughout the morning. Additionally, a reasonably large portion of the area outside the Visitor Centre was used for members parking, which was not required at the previous Showcase Day. Thus, also helping to ease queuing to get into the museum with a lower footfall through the main Visitor Centre entrance. In other areas, the organisation of the site was very similar to the previous affair in regard to one-way systems through the museum’s buildings and a self-policing social distancing policy on the crowd line.

The effects of the weather were clear throughout the morning, with many of the aircraft due to participate in the display remaining in their respective hangars. Some were brought out just before the start of the curtailed flying programme, but others remained in the safety of cover. One of those that didn’t emerge was due to be one of the stars of the afternoon; the freshly marked Hurricane of the Historic Aircraft Collection paying tribute to Czechoslovak ace Josef František and all the Czechoslovakian airman who fought in Britain during the Second World War. Despite not being able to display the aircraft, the Hangar 3 doors were opened in order to allow a good, close and well illuminated view of the aircraft, which was greatly appreciated by many enthusiasts in attendance.

The diminished flying display was started by a solo display of P-51D Mustang ‘Miss Helen’. The quantity of displays may have been lacking but the quality certainly wasn’t. The Mustang was put through its paces superbly with multiple close and low passes of the aircraft sweeping around the Airspace hangar in popular Duxford fashion. Darren and Mark Miller’s DH89 Dragon Rapide was a repeat performer from the previous Showcase Day, this time displaying alone and giving a sequence of passes before ending the display in a spiral climb, allowing it to survey the cloud base as it decreased. The lower cloud base that prevailed does force a different kind of display, with the aircraft remaining lower throughout their displays. This was certainly true of T-6 Harvard Aviation’s ‘Wacky Wabbit’, which gave spectators a series of more intimate flypasts compared to the higher aerobatic display it was put through at the previous Showcase Day.

A formation of Yak-50 and Cosmic Wind were forced to cancel their routine despite having already taxiied out to the runway, due to the arrival of a heavy shower that brought proceedings to an early finish. In a nice gesture from the two pilots they taxied the full length of the crowd line on their way back to their parking spots in order to ensure that those who were still braving the weather got to at least see the aircraft running on the ground. The lack of a PA system on the crowd line once again proving a bugbear as announcements were not audible for many of those gathered to watch the displays. To miss out on the commentary is one thing, but to miss out on announcements as to whether or not the day’s activities have been brought to an abrupt ending are much more problematic. Thankfully, by the time the decision to cancel the rest of the flying was announced most people had retreated for shelter anyway.

This edition of Duxford’s Showcase Days may not have had the same atmosphere as the previous one, with no ground displays or abundance of arriving visitors. However, this is totally understandable with the effects of the weather on the ground displays as well as those in the air. Despite this, there was still some morning activity provided by the Plane Sailing team, undertaking some taxiing training with their PBY-5A Catalina, thus still providing the opportunity to see it in action around the site, even though its display slot was cancelled.

This was certainly not the event in its prime and planned state, but the valiant efforts of all those who still displayed and enabled the show to go on are very much appreciated. Unfortunately, those attending the sister event at Stow Maries suffered a similar fate, with only a single aircraft able to get airborne for the crowds. Hopefully, a repeat of the collaboration can be staged in better weather in the future. For Duxford, this was the final test of an air display before they move into full airshow mode, exactly a month after this event. Let’s hope for better weather on that occasion.