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Duxford VE Day Airshow 2024
‘Where else can you see a piece of fabric from the Wright Brothers plane, several Spitfires, Concorde and an SR-71 Blackbird in the same place?.’
The Imperial War Museum at the historic Duxford Airfield have a fantastic line-up of flying events this year. Including two major air show weekends. They are also hosting a handful of smaller events comprising of a flying evening, three themed flying days and a flying finale to close the season in October. The flying days are a great chance to visit the museum, witness some aerial action and look around the hangars without the airfield being as busy as it will be on the full air shows.

The first flying day of the year was centred around a VE Day theme and featured a one hour and 45-minute flying display in the afternoon. Airscene arrived early to take a wonder around the airfield, which had a nice, relaxed atmosphere with plenty going on for families and aviation enthusiasts. The museum is a fantastic place to visit on any day and features an unrivalled collection of aircraft spanning the full spectrum of powered flight history. Where else can you see a piece of fabric from the Wright Brothers plane, several Spitfires, Concorde and an SR-71 Blackbird in the same place?
Additionally, the Duxford Airliner Society were providing on board tours of their impressive collection of aircraft. There were some static aircraft displays including a DHC Chipmunk (sadly, relegated from the flying display due to a technical issue) and a pair of authentic Great War replica aircraft. The Duxford Military Vehicle Wing were providing exciting opportunities to take a ride in one of their impressive machines. There were also several re-enactment groups onsite alongside a handful of aviation related stalls and displays from the Airbourne Assault Museum and the Royal Anglian Regiment Museum.

We were blessed with excellent weather for flying, a slight breeze with warm sunshine and just enough fluffy clouds in the sky to provide the perfect backdrop for aviation photography. The flying programme, as with any historic aircraft show was subject to a few alterations notably the newly restored Spitfire Mk IX from Bigin Hill was unable to attend and the much-anticipated debut of the Hawker Tempest II will have to wait for another day. That aside, the vast array of airworthy aircraft based on the historic site mean that a hole in the flying programme can always be filled with something equally as exciting.

The flying commenced at 2pm with an unusual naval formation flypast from the PBY Catalina and Hawker Nimrod before they quickly separated for the UK’s only airworthy Catalina began its solo performance. Easily the largest aircraft of the display today, the Catalina cast a graceful shadow over the airfield. Know as ‘Miss Pick Me Up’ the flying boat features US markings representing a wartime OA-10A of the 8th Air Force, 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron based at Halesworth, Suffolk.
Renowned warbird pilot Stu Goldspink put the Nimrod through it’s paces demonstrating that the interwar aircraft is surprising agile for a 1930s biplane. It’s easy to take these aircraft for granted at Duxford, but it’s worth noting that there are only two airworthy Nirmods left in the world, and they are both based here. Today we saw the Mk I, owned and operated by The Fighter Collection.

We were then treated to a second naval aviation flypast next with the Grumman Wildcat and Hawker Sea Fury once again arriving in formation before breaking off to perform solo displays. The Fury was one of the fastest piston-engine aircraft ever built, at a time when jets were commonly being used by air forces across the world. This Fury, operated by Fighter Aviation Engineering is presented in the colours of Sea Fury prototype SR661 and was thrown around the sky by pilot Mark Levy. Brian Smith took control of the Wildcat, with a spirited display but the difference in performance between the two fighters was evident. The Sea Fury is considered by many to be the ultimate design in piston engine fighter aircraft which was famed for shooting down a MiG-15 during the Korean War.
Next up was Isabel Rutland flying the North American Harvard. The US advanced Second World War training aircraft is a popular feature at air shows, although it was not a front-line aircraft, it still has an impressive performance and with Isabel at the controls, it was clear to see why it was the perfect aircraft to prepare pilots for the likes of the Spitfire and Mustang. The Harvard also has a unique guttural sound that echoes of the historic hangars every time it passes.
The American theme continued with the ‘Suffolk Spitfire’ up next. The Mk XVI is currently painted in US Army Air Force Colours which looked fantastic against the blue Cambridgeshire skies. The markings pay tribute to Lt. Robert Connor of 309th Fighter Squadron, USAAF who flew an aircraft with this design, know as’ Porky II’ in the Mediterranean theatre in 1943. George Haye was at the controls of the Spitfire today.
The next display moved away from the VE Day theme, but it was nice to see two aircraft from the de Havilland Canada stable. The Chipmunk and Beaver paired up to perform a few passes together, before breaking into solo performances. The de Havilland Canada Chipmunk was the RAF's primary training aircraft from 1950 until the early 1990s. The Beaver was a powerful utility aircraft which could take-off and land in short distances and could even be modified for water landings too.

No Duxford air show would be complete without a Hawker Hurricane. Today, Neil Oakman took the Mk I up for a spin today. This aircraft (V7497) has genuine war history, it was delivered to 501 Squadron, RAF Kenley at the height of the Battle of Britain and shot down over Deal in Kent forcing Pilot Officer Everett Bryan Rogers to bail out. The aircraft was recovered and rebuilt in 2018 and is currently displayed in its original squadron markings.

The finale of the display was a most fitting demonstration of Second World War reconnaissance aircraft. This unique Lockheed 12 Electra provided invaluable reconnaissance over German territory during the outbreak of the Second World War, gathering -in secret- photographs of what was happening on the ground in Europe. This aircraft was operated by Sidney Cotton during the war, Cotton was considered the father of aerial reconnaissance in Great Britain.

The show was closed with another flawless display by Stu Goldspink. This time, he was flying Spitfire FR Mk XIV, MV293. MV293 was built after the Second World War for the RAF before serving with the Indian Air Force (IAF), then returning to the UK for storage. It has recently been restored with its reconnaissance camera windows in the fuselage sides, today it made its flying display debut in its authentic RAF markings. Just to add the icing on the cake, the crowd were able to witness the P51 Mustang ‘Jersey Jerk’ take to the skies. Not part of the flying display, but this is the first public appearance for this new to the UK aircraft.
If you have never been to Duxford, the flying days are an excellent way to explore the museum and enjoy some flying at the same time. Although this was not a full air show, it certainly wets the appetite for the upcoming Summer Air Show which has a fantastic line up including the D-Day Squadron of Dakotas and the Red Arrows. Check out www.iwm.org.uk for details.

Review by Lee Chapman. Photos by Chris Clarke.