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Autumn leaves #1

Duxford seasonings

Dave Eade/DEltafoto looks at the last major airshow of 2007, held at Duxford on 14 October. Pictures by Gary Parsons and Derek Mason

Some would suggest it was the weather, or the rumours abounding that a certain delta-shaped aircraft would move from Leicestershire to Cambridgeshire sometime Sunday 14 October for essential work; whatever the reasons (and however far-fetched), the people responsible for the Autumn Airshow will happily take the gate receipts from this particular event. Suggested to be around 40,000, the crowd got more than value for money and the Imperial War Museum rounded off the year with what was one of the best shows at Duxford this year.

From Coast to host
Playing host to veteran pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary was Neil Oliver, host of the BBC series 'Coast'. The women of the ATA, or 'Legion of the Air' as it came to be known, performed a vital function in delivering planes from factories to squadrons, shuttling planes back for repairs, and providing transportation and communications in wartime Britain. Equally as important, the work of the ATA freed up male pilots for combat duties. Look out for a BBC programme on the ATA soon...

A glance at previous years' reports for the Autumn Airshow gives away the enthusiasm this publication has for this event. A combination, perhaps, of "At last it's all over!" with a general feeling of "Job well done" pervades every aspect of this show. The stall-holders are all in great humour, the crowd are at their most appreciative - saying both "Thank you" and "See you next year" to many of the stalwarts of the 2007 airshow performers. This particular scribe would like to add his own handshakes and pats on the back to some that gathered here.

The Royal Navy 'Black Cats' team have gone from being a small Yeovilton novelty, through winner of the RIAT Trophy awarded by the FRIAT members to become one of the most professional and photogenic of performers in their 2007 form. Now flying two Lynxes adorned with superb paint-schemes the team have become one of the most popular items on any programme. Not only to the pilots but to the ground-crew that follow the helicopters around - ensuring that both are fit to display, we extend our own particular "well done".

The pairing of two classic jets is always something to whet the appetite - none more so than the F-86A Sabre of Golden Apple and the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Sea Hawk. Diminished only by a very persistent haze, the sun did its best to shine down on these two excellent performers both as a pair and during their individual routines. If the clatter of shutters was anything to go by, this item was a hit!

Sally B's put to bed for the winter
Due to participate in the airshow but denied a season finale by a sick engine, the B-17 Preservation Group's engineers took the opportunity to remove the wingtips of B-17G 'Sally B' so that she could be wheeled straight into the hangar after the airshow. "It's a shame about the engine" said Steve Carter, lead engineer for Sally B's powerplants, "but it's been on the aircraft since 1984 and was due a major overhaul. It's done nearly 800 hours, so it doesn't owe us anything." The team have a fresh engine ready to be installed, so the future still looks bright for this stalwart of the UK airshow circuit. - Gary Parsons

It being this year's last opportunity to see many of Duxford's jewels in the air, it was saddening that neither the Catalina from Plane Sailing or B-17G 'Sally B' was able to take to the skies for their allotted slots, an engine malady grounding the latter. The second 'Cat' grouping - this time the cats of the Fighter Collection was very visible, especially to those on the Land War Museum hump, with superb displays given by the Bearcat, Wildcat and Hellcat. When you are just thinking "Follow that!" the combined Spitfires of the OFMC, BBMF and Spitfire Ltd set about giving John Romain in the 'Me109' Buchon a hard time.

Farewell performances are always moving and, as well as it being the last show for this years Black Cats crew, it was farewell and "Job well done" to Flt Lt Bobby Moore in the Tucano. We have written before of the consistent standard of the RAF Tucano displays - and Bobby's was no exception.

Autumn leaves #2

Superb colour schemes featured well, none more so than the excellent Dragon Rapide from the Millers. After a re-build that warrants mention in the Guinness Book of Records, this particular aircraft, in the colours of Scottish Airways, was a joy to behold.

Losing nothing for its repetition from last year, pride of place this year has to go once more to the Belgian Air Force F-16 display. Limited by Duxford's position relative to restricted airspace, the display was both noisy and full of interest. The idea of flying a 'Heritage Formation' with the F-16, Spitfire XVIII and P-51 was priceless and pure magic - a glance around the photo forums of the internet shows just how popular this item was.

The beat-up and tail-chase from the Fighter Collection brought this excellent show to its finale - an amazing aerobatic routine by the Sukhoi 26s of the Matadors. Their superb flying just put the cap on what had been, definitely, the best Autumn Airshow that this particular scribe has attended - and I would suggest - the best ever!

While it seems no time at all since the BBMF 50th Anniversary display here in May, another season has gone past and, for Duxford, despite the bad weather of 2007 - a very successful one. It remains only to extend our thanks to all the performers, technicians, ground-crew, volunteers, air traffic and commentators who MAKE Duxford what it is - and remember - it's only six months to the next season!


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