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Duxford Air Festival 2018



"...some fantastic examples of early aviation dogfighting, with full pyrotechnics and “smoke on” displays."

May heralds the start of Duxford flying progamme, with this May Bank Holiday holding the second annual Duxford Air Festival.

This year’s show weekend was forecast to have some extremes of weather, with forecasts of thunderstorms on Sunday.  Luckily, other than a murky & foggy start to Saturdays proceedings, the weekend was blessed with some fantastic sunshine, albeit it be a bit hazy at times, providing difficulty for the photographers amongst the crowd.

Flying kicked off at 1pm with a display from the newly acquired P-47D Thunderbolt owned by Air Leasing. Fantastic to see an example of Republic’s famous radial engined escort fighter. Although a rather gentle and tame display at quite a distance from the crowd, it was lovely to see “The Jug” back in Duxford skies. From a purely selfish photographer point of view, it would have been nice to see what was arguably a star attraction at closer quarters and later on in the flying schedule when the light had improved; an Achilles heel of Photography at Duxford.

The May Air Show is quickly becoming the go to show for family groups, with a variety of acts designed to appeal to the wider audience of families. The line up held a number of varied acts including a return to Duxford for the Tiger Nine Display Team with their 9 DH82A Tiger Moths. Formed in 2005 the team show off the classic RAF Trainer and its modest 130hp Gypsy Major engine, an airframe well know for being easy to fly, but difficult to fly well. The team certainly know how to fly the Tiger Moths “well”…. and then some.

Other display teams present at the weekend include the Trigg Display team in their Pitts S-1D Special, Aero SuperBatics showing off their highly impressive Wing Walking skills atop a pair of Boeing PT-17 Stearman X 2’s, The Global Stars Aerobatic Team, and making their Duxford debut was the French Air Force’s own aerobatic team Equipe de Voltige in their Extra 330SC. Flown by Capitaine Alexandre Orlowski, the single seat Extra certainly wowed the crowds with its exuberant display of aerobatics.  The Capitaine certainly showed why he was the 2015 World Aerobatic Champion.

It was worth noting that the French Airforce also supplied additional display participation on Sunday with the forever impressive Patrouille de France.

Nearly every Duxford Air Show holds some unique element within its flying display, and this years Air Festival was no exception with the inclusion of the Farner Werke Schlepp C-3605 all the way from Switzerland.  The unique looking Silver Aircraft with its elongated nose, housing a Lycoming Turboprop engine gave a lovely display never seen before at a Duxford Air Show.  Hopefully we will see a return to UK skies of this rare flying gem.

Keeping with display teams, the weekend also saw participation from the Bremont Great War Display Team, supplying 9 individual WW1 replica aircraft along with pyrotechnics for the on looking Duxford crowd.  Often a favourite with regular Air Show fans and the casual visitor alike, the team gave some fantastic examples of early aviation dogfighting, with full pyrotechnics and “smoke on” displays.  Always a magic site to see, especially over an historic airfield such as Duxford.

Saturday’s flying display saw an appearance from the RAF Chinook Display Team, with their ever impressive Boeing Chinook Mk6 from 27 Squadron at RAF Odiham.  The team manage to display what can sometimes only be described as magic, as this twin engined heavy lift helicopter is put into some unbelievable manoeuvres in front of the watching crowds.

The Air Festival did hold some great elements of “War Bird Action” with no less than three Hawker Sea Fury’s / Fury’s.  The day saw the return of the Navy Wings Sea Fury T20, after nearly a four year absence from regular flying displays after an emergency landing during a display at RNAS Culdrose back in 2014.  The pinnacle of Piston Power was expertly piloted by Lt Cdr Chris Gotke who put on a fabulous display showing off the powerful radial fighter, effortlessly climbing high above the Duxford Airfield before aggressively diving back down to crowd centre, the Bristol Centaurus Radial engine purring as its passed the spectators.


Another Sea Fury making a return was another T20, this time from the Hangars of The Fighter Collection, based at Duxford.  This “Silver Steed” currently sports a four blade propeller after having its Bristol Centaurus engine replaced with an American Pratt and Whitney R2800 Double Wasp.  The T20 took to the skies with the Hawker Fury FB MK II of Air leasing; an absolutely beautiful looking aircraft, sporting colours of Sea Fury Prototype SR661.  The icing on the cake would have been to see a three ship formation from all the Furies together, but the two ship sufficed nicely.

As well as aerobatics, the French Air Force also brought along “The Noise” with a very welcome return of the Dassault Rafale C.  The Multi Role Fighter made its debut at the 2017 Air Festival and completely blew away the crowds with its high energy display and colourful livery.  Returning with an updated paint scheme, this years display lived up to last years performance with lots of noise, lots of speed and generous amount of topside passes for all the photographers.


Closing the show, John Romain took to the skies in the Imperial War Museum’s own Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia.  The ARCO boss displayed N3200 giving a very graceful show of gentle aerobatics ending a perfect sunny day of flying with the evocative sound of an early Rolls Royce Merlin.

The second of Duxford’s new formatted family shows appeared to be another success, maybe requiring a little more “meat on the bones” for the more seasoned air show goer and warbird lover, but one could argue that there are two more shows scheduled at the historical Airfield more tailored to this.  Hopefully these family type shows will draw in “new blood” into the air show scene and hopefully even shape future careers for the young crowds and guide younger generations into careers in flying, engineering and the armed forces. 

Two more weekends of intense flying action are planned for later in the year with Flying Legends planned for the 14th and 15th July and the Battle of Britain Show planned for the 22nd and 23rd September, tickets are currently available for both shows.

Review by Jonathan Wintle

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