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Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show 2022
‘A magnificent show paying perfect tribute to the Queen and few of the Battle of Britain.’

At 8 minutes past one, the crowd bowed their heads and fell silent as a mark of respect for their Queen who had passed away just a few days earlier. The eery silence was impeccably observed by all and only broken two minutes later by the sound of freedom, the Rolls Royce Merlin. John Romain’s Spitfire PRIX entered the airfield to begin a solo display dedicated to Her Majesty. Poignantly, the blue photo reconnaissance spitfire began the display with a victory roll leaving lumps in everyone’s throats. The Spitfire operated by the Aircraft Restoration Company is still marked with its ‘Thank U NHS’ message which it proudly displayed all over the UK during the Covid pandemic. How fitting that the icon of Victory and defiance 82 years ago is still used to spread thanks and pay tribute to modern causes today.

The passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II on 8th September 2022, cast a large shadow over Imperial War Museum Duxford as its staff and volunteers made final preparations for its largest air show of the year. The decision was made to go ahead, but this would be a different event to the one initially conceived, with many tributes paid to Britain’s longest serving Monarch. The recently arrived Bae 146 was closed for visitors over the weekend and many members of the public had chosen to place flowers next to the aircraft formally used as the Royal flight aircraft, on which the queen would have travelled all over the World. The final flypast of the ‘Duxford Big Wing’ was also accompanied by the National Anthem to close the show.

The period of National Mourning also brought with it a few changes to the intended line-up with both the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Navy Wings organisations respectfully choosing not to fly during the period. Despite these setbacks the IWM still put on a magnificent show paying perfect tribute to the few of the Battle of Britain. Duxford’s full air shows typically run over two days with a similar flying line-up on both Saturday and Sunday accompanied by a plethora of ground activities, reenactment displays, stalls and a small fun fair. Your entrance ticket for the day also includes access to the unrivalled museum onsite which contains a World class collection of aircraft, military vehicles, and exhibitions. One of the highlights within the hangars today was the recently painted Handley Page Victor which is nearing the end of its lengthy restoration.

Airscene attended the show on the Sunday, we arrived in time for a press photocall along the flight line walk, which at 8am was clouded in a heavy fog. The reenactors from the Spirit of Britain group kindly posed for pictures for us whilst the weather conditions provided some atmosphere to our shots as we aimed to recreate the scenes at Duxford as it was in the summer of 1940 – in the thick of the Battle of Britain. As the fog lifted a mind-boggling array of airworthy warbirds were revealed along the edge of the taxiway. The line-up included 17 spitfires, 5 Hurricanes, 10 Tiger Moths and a host of other rare and unique aircraft, mostly from the Second World War era. The public are of course allowed to walk amongst the collection as they wait to take to the skies, a unique aspect of a Duxford air show.

Following the solo spitfire display in honour of the Queen, the flying display proper got underway with a display from the Hangar 11 collection P51 Mustang which currently wears the famous red tail markings. The mustang whistled through the skies in the very capable hands of Peter Teichman before given way to the ‘Eastern Formation’ which consisted of two Hispano Buchons and a Yak-3. The Buchon is a Spanish licenced version of the Battle of Britain foe, the ME109, only with a Rolls Royce Merlin under the cowlings. The two aircraft sceen today achieved fame in the filming of the 1968 Battle of Britain movie. Today’s Yak-3 was a modern built version of the famous Russian fighter, which in a respectful nod to the ongoing war appeared in Ukraine markings rather than Russian.

In a welcome change of pace, the Norwegian Historical Flights’ de Havilland Vampire appeared next. It was the only fixed wing jet of the day. The Vampire was one of the earliest British Jets, appearing in 1947, demonstrating the leap in technology driven by the pace of the Second World War. Today the Vampire wore a black strip on one wing in remembrance of Her Majesty. Duxford favourite, Sally B, the Boeing B17 bomber was up next and was by far the largest aircraft in the flying line-up today. It paid tribute to the USAAF contribution to operations during the Second World War, a theme that was also picked up by the Spitfire MkXVI which performed a solo display wearing its authentic American markings.

The middle of the afternoon saw two superb formations of four aircraft. The first was the Bristol Mercury formation which consisted of four aircraft powered by the rare Mercury powerplant. The Bristol Blenheim led the formation of two Lysanders and a Gloster Gladiator, a true ‘only at Duxford’ moment as the Blenheim and Gladiator are the sole airworthy examples of the types. The second formation was dubbed the 38 formation as it consisted of aircraft types all in service in 1938. The familiar Spitfire and Hurricane Mk 1s were joined by the Fighter Collection’s Wildcat and Hawk 75. They too performed several formation passes, before breaking off into solo routines.


A very welcome sight over the airfield were the two eastern bloc Helicopters of the Czech Air Force; The Mi-24 Hind and Mi-171 Hip are both Russian designed Cold War relics rarely seen in the UK. They performed a pairs display demonstrating the capabilities of the aircraft in a well-choreographed aerial ballet. It was fantastic to see & hear these rare beasts, their loud and purposeful engines rattled the aerodrome and drowned out the commentary as they thundered up and down the flight line.

The Hind later returned complete with trailing coloured smoke for a solo display, in what is sure to be the types last appearance in the UK in Czech hands. The ageing helicopter is due to retire at the end of the year. It was fantastic to see the Czech Air Force at the Battle of Britain air show recognising the huge contribution played by Czech pilots back in 1940.

Prior to the show finale the crowd were able to enjoy the Tiger Nine team flying nine Tiger Moths in formation and opposition passes whilst demonstrating the capable World War Two trainer that many Battle of Britain pilots would have cut their teeth on. The two fastest piston fighters of the day, the Bearcat and Corsair were also paired up for a late 1940s demonstration of air power in a superb tail chasing display.
As is tradition the show closed with a symphony of Rolls Royce Merlins in the ‘Duxford Big Wing’ paying tribute to Douglas Bader’s battle tactics a formation of 16 Spitfires and 4 Hurricanes took off on mass and performed three formation passes before a spectacular break to land accompanied by the National Anthem. The only flying Griffon engine Spitfire of the day displayed separately as the ‘joker’ whilst the big wing formed up. The final display was worth the entrance money alone, there is nowhere else in the World you can enjoy such an experience, this is uniquely Duxford.

Details of next years shows have yet to be announced but if you are quick you may just get a ticket for the Flying Finale on 8th October. If you have not yet visited the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, I urge you to do so, even on a non-flying display there is so much to see and do.

Review by Lee Chapman