Gary Stedman reviews Duxford's Autumn Airshow. Photography by Gary Parsons and Roger cook, Pynelea Photo Bureau
In its own traditional style, Duxford rounded out the UK airshow season with the Autumn airshow on Sunday 16 October. With last year's event a marked improvement on the quite small displays from previous Autumn shows, 2005 came with a few expectations, which generally speaking, it did deliver on. This good event would have been a truly memorable display if the early participants list had not shrunk quite so much prior to the show - the loss of many of the service displays was unfortunate, in particular the Jaguar's swansong.
The weather, as usual, played its part again, although I can't remember early morning fog being quite so much of a factor at a recent Duxford show. Still, it provided a opportunity for photographers to go for that atmospheric shot, rather than the usual angles, during the flightline walk. No particular item stood out as the crowd-puller, rather a reasonable selection of visiting warbirds, current service aircraft and Duxford's own residents. The RAF provided a Hercules C5 and two 4 FTS display Hawks while from the Royal Navy came a pair of Lynx HMA8s, in the form of the 'Black Cats' duo.
Opening at 13:30, the USAF was given the honour of the first slot of the day, with a 100th ARW KC-135R and a pair of 48th FW F-15E Strike Eagles. Whilst certainly welcome for their rare appearance in a flying programme, you just hoped that the USAF would not embarrass both itself and Duxford with a repeat of its performance at UK shows in recent years. From a rather 'iffy' first pass (the Eagles missed to the south by a few miles, while the Stratotanker flew over the crowdline), pride was restored second time around however, the Eagles in particular impressing with a spirited climbout. From somebody who frequents their bases on a regular basis - and while appreciating that they are not accredited display pilots - it's frustrating watching such over zealous 'safe' flying, especially when the crews are capable of so much better.
Flying varied from the sedate, but still pleasing displays provided by the Catalina (thankfully now in a more traditional scheme) and DC-3 to the power of the T-33/F-86 pair and the sheer presence of the warbird formations. Aerobatics was in the form of the six-plane Yak display team and the Red Bull Sukhoi Duo. Several of Duxford's warbird population were already in the hangar for the winter, including the Wildcat, so the 'cat' slot gained a Corsair instead. The RAF demonstrated how sprightly a J model C-130 can perform with a modest tactical demo.
Regardless how often you see it, a Spitfire tail chase around the airfield will never lose its 'wow' factor. Seven flew this time around, in what looked to the crowd as an unscripted (which it obviously is not) but spectacular chase around the airfield. Flying Legends it may not be, but it's still great fun to watch a routine that Duxford has become renowned for. The finale was a bringing together again of two aircraft that have recently returned from quite a journey - few can be unaware of the 'Merlins Over Malta' project that saw a Spitfire and Hurricane return to the skies of Malta during September 2005. Both aircraft, operated by the Historic Aircraft Collection at Duxford and still in their specially applied Malta colour schemes, did a number of flybys to finish out both the show and the UK Airshow season in 2005.
first Duxford airshow is 21 May.