Autumn Airshow, 14 October.
Gary Parsons bunks
off to see what went on.
There was a definite end of term feeling to this year's Autumn airshow as the pilots gave
particularly enthusiastic performances in the somewhat overcast conditions. A strange day
weatherwise, the last show of the year at this Cambridgeshire venue was perhaps
the warmest, as mild air from the continent provided a proper Indian summer effect, with
the morning in particular being positively tropical. A weak front moved through during
lunchtime which brought low cloud and fine drizzle, but it was an indication of the poor
weather that Duxford has suffered this year that it was still one of the better days seen
in 2001...However, it was a poor day for photography with low light levels and very humid
air - torch, anyone?
Women in Aviation
Adopting a 'Women in Aviation' theme similar to that trialled at RIAT, Duxford managed to
get a good line-up of female pilots, unlike the show at Cottesmore. From Carolyn Grace and
her Spitfire T9 to Anna Walker's Jungmann
biplane, the ladies proved more than a match for their male counterparts, who maybe
responded with some particularly spirited low flying (within the regulations, of
course, but only just...). Mixed in with the women theme was one of 70 years of military
training aircraft, from the RAF Hawk to the Stearmans of the Utterly Butterly team -
although the Hawk was piloted by Pete
Sharpe many of the other trainer pilots (or wing-walkers) were female. Angie Soper
flew in from North Weald with her Yak-11, a particularly
brutal-looking fighter trainer that was very un-ladylike.
No see the Vixen
Top of the bill should have been De Havilland's Sea Vixen, but once again bad weather over
Hurn forced a cancellation. It was to have formated with the Royal Navy Sea
Harrier that was present, but sadly this unique opportunity was denied. The Vixen has
gained a reputation for 'no-shows' this year that is largely unjustified as it is a
temperamental beast that requires considerable ground support and of prime concern is
safety - if the margins don't allow it, it doesn't go. So the SHAR performed alone, in
itself a rare act these days, so was very welcome. Other jets on show were OFMC's L-39 in the capable hands of Mark Linney and
Tom Moloney's Strikemaster, the duo forming up for some flypasts before going their separate
No quarter taken
Quartets were well in fashion - TFC's Cats were again out in force, the naval fighters of
Wildcat, Hellcat, Bearcat and Tigercat
being flown by Smith, Grey, Schofield and Kynsey
respectively. Finale for the day was the Breitling Fighters
from the OFMC, led by Ray Hanna in P-40 NZ3009/ZK-RMH. Joined by Nigel Lamb in P-51
463221/G-BTCD, Cliff Spink in Corsair NZ5648/G-BXUL and Lee Proudfoot in Spitfire
MH434/G-ASJV they beat up the airfield in fine style as well as ensuring the grass didn't
get too long before the long winter break.
- One item of interest away from the flying was the
IWM's recently acquired F-15A still in the paint shop but largely complete with newly
applied BT code and European theatre paint scheme.
Next year will see many celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of the arrival of the
USAAF in England and to set the scene TFC's P-47 and P-51, both in 78th Fighter Group livery (the 78th was based at Duxford
during the Second World War) and piloted by Stu Goldspink and
Rob Davies beat up the airfield in fine style. One hopes that world events will have been
resolved by next year so that proper attention can be given to the few veterans who will
be making probably their last visit to the fields they once flew and fought from. And,
last but definitely not least, 'Sally B' will be much in the
limelight as she was once again.
And what next?
Four airshows are already
pencilled in again for next year, but with the current world political situation little
else may happen elsewhere in the airshow world. Duxford will therefore play an even more
prominent part in enthusiasts' diaries than it has in the past - and deservedly so.