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Duxford D-Day Airshow 2014

 

 

June 6th , 1944. A day in history that will never be forgotten. For 5 years the German war machine had swept across Europe. Britain and her Allies had amassed a huge Armada to take the fight to the Germans and free Europe.

 

 

 

This years Duxford May airshow was set to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. A popular theme for Duxford displays, Is to transport parts of the wartime airfield back to the 40’s. This show was no different. A section was turned into an Airborne forces display, complete with Willys Jeeps, Tents, Weapons and re-enactors, all of which were more than happy to chat about the equipment on display. Also on show was a large contingent of the various modern day British army units that would also have seen action in the 1944 landings.

Numbers on the Saturday were still quite healthy even though the weather looked set to be a bit up and down. Sunday brought the sunshine and Duxford seemed rammed. With 2-o-clock approaching, it was time to settle down for the display.

Duxford’s organisers had brought together as many aircraft types that were used in the D-Day landings as they could. This is definitely the most black and white stripes I’ve ever seen at an airshow!! Saturdays display was opened by the French Airforce Patrouille De France. Their formation aerobatics was second to none and most enjoyable.

To remember the glider force that landed in France in 1944, several gliders were towed up into the Cambridgeshire skies. Although I did hear some grumbles from the crowd about it being boring, the idea was to signify the efforts made by the brave Glider and Tug pilots on that day, a very fitting tribute.

The Royal AirForce brought along a Typhoon from 29(R) Squadron based at Coningsby. Due to fly with the BBMF Spitfire Mk.LFIXe, Saturdays planned formation was cancelled but both aircraft did perform solo displays, with the Spitfire also in the air with BBMF‘s Dakota III. It was nice to see at least one of the 5 Dakota‘s at Duxford in British markings. Sundays glorious sunshine meant that we did get the two together. Both aircraft were wearing Invasion stripes and with 2 splendid passes the Spitfire broke off leaving probably one or the best Typhoon displays I’ve seen in a long time.

An Auster and Piper L4 Cub gave a nice display of spotting planes used around D-Day on the Saturday It was planned for 3 L4’s to fly but weather meant some of the Cubs never made it. Sunday saw 3 Cubs in different guises. B-17 Sally B was on hand to commemorate the bombers that pounded the fortifications on the early morning of D-Day. As ever she flew gracefully and was welcomed by the crowds. TFC’s Hawk 75 followed Sally B.

One of the best things Duxford constantly brings is its Spitfire tail chases. This time a couple of Buchon’s bounced HAC’s Hurricane. Enter 4 spitfire’s. A MkV from TFC, MkIXT Ml407 from Air Leasing, ARC’s MkIXT and Biggin Hill Heritage MkIX. The sight and sound never fails to bring hairs to the back of your neck!! ML407’s inclusion was particularly special. Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC flew 407 on the day of the landings and was credited with shooting the first Axis aircraft down over the Normandy beachhead.

Displays from the Silence twister duo (Saturday only) and an Apache from Wattisham were followed by an absolute master class in tight formation flying by OFMC’s Mustang/Spitfire pair. Fresh from his 1st ever win in the Red Bull air race, Nigel Lamb was led in MH434 (complete with invasion stripes!) by Alister Kay in P-51 Mustang ’Ferocious Frankie’. The display was immaculate with the two flying very close formation loops and passes. With a flypast by A Hercules from Brize Norton and Mark Millers beautiful DH89 Dragon Rapide, a very special finale was upon us.

C-47 Skytrains littered British airfields in June 1944. A real workhorse, The C-47’s were tasked with dropping British, American and Canadian Airborne troops, behind enemy lines into occupied France on the 6th June. Come forward to May 2014 and 4 surviving C-47s used on D-Day were brought to Duxford. Two of these had made the trip all the way from the States. The National Warplane Museum Of Geneseo, New York, Had sent C-47 ‘Whisky 7’ She was the lead ship of the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron on D-Day, Dropping troops into St-Mere-Eglise. The second was Tradewind Aviations C-47 ‘Union Jack Dak’. She flew with the 73rd Squadron of the 434th Troop Carrier Group, Towing a Waco Glider.
Two British based C-47’s were also in the disoplay. Dakota Heritage ‘Drag em oot’ flew with the 87th Troop Carrier Squadron and still wears the scars of battle. Aces High C-47 served with the 8th Airforce on glider towing operations over France. With a formation Take-off the scene was set for a very evocative end. As three of the Skytrains circled the airfield, gaining height with each pass, Whisky 7 flew graceful passes to the watching crowd. When at height, the Red Devils parachute team exited one of the C-47’s. Dropped to simulate a ‘stick’ parachuting into France. These were very emotional scenes and the crowds stood quiet. Once the Devils were on the ground, The three Skytrains descended and flew a few formation passes with Whisky 7 bringing up the rear. With a formation landing, the end to an absolutely awesome two days was brought to a close.
I really think that this has been one of the best Duxford air shows in recent years and will stick in my mind for a long time. I look forward to Flying Legends in July…..
 

Review by Neil Darby

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