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Duxford Autumn Airshow 2013



Duxford Airfield, October 14th,1973. This was the start of what has become a huge part of the UK airshow scene. IWM Duxford has now been hosting air displays for 40 years. We have seen some great aircraft and some hugely talented pilots over those years too. A couple of highlights for me (who has only been attending for 23 years!!) has been the sight of 8 P51’s flying with 2 B-25’s and B-17 Sally B all together in the early to mid 90’s. The tail chase’s between Ray Hanna in the Hawker Fury and Stephen Grey in the Bearcat and this year in particular, 2 Gloster Gladiators flying in formation at Flying Legends. To mark this milestone, IWM Duxford were hoping to bring as many types from that first airshow as was possible.


Unfortunately, the weather looked set to spoil the 40th anniversary. Upon arrival Duxford was consumed by rain. Even by opening time, many of the stall holders had not setup. I must admit. My soggy bacon roll was no consolation either!! As usual though, the Duxford staff were their pleasant, helpful selves. I couldn’t help noticing the ‘lack’ of crowds usually accustomed to Duxford displays. You could walk around the hangars quite easily and there was no hussle and bustle down the trading stalls.

There were also some noticeable cancellations to the flying too. A big blow was the loss of Midair Squadrons newly returned to flight, Canberra PR.9 I think that if the weather had been ok, this aircraft alone would have brought out many enthusiasts. We also lost Rob Gauld Galliers Nieuport 17, ARC’s Messerschmitt ME108, Spitfire Ltd’s MK XVIe, TFC’s Gladiator and Golden Apple operations F-86 Sabre.


So, with 1.30pm arriving long term resident of Duxford, B-17 ‘Sally B’ took to the skies. Being one of the longest residents Sally B was the obvious choice to open the proceedings. The first of two rotor displays was next with a solo by the Royal Navy Black Cats Westland Lynx from 702 Naval air Squadron down in Somerset. As ever Duxford didn’t dissapoint with another unique formation trio. Mark Miller led ARC’s DHC.2 Beaver and Golden Apples PT-17 Stearman in what was called a ‘bumble by’ This was a brilliant idea and made for some interesting photos.

Moving on, The Fighter Collection put up an impressive quintet of war bird power to see out the year. A formation pass by their P40B and F, FM-2 Wildcat, Hawk 75 and F8F Bearcat was truly welcomed by the crowd. As usual, you didn’t know where to look once the formation split with action all across Duxford. More war bird action followed with the Duxford based Consolidated Catalina ‘Miss pick up’, with the final 2013 display by Flt Lt Andrew Fyvie-Rae in the 72(R) Squadron Tucano afterwards.

One of the acts I was looking forward to only partially materialised. Due to the weather…Obviously, we had a two ship formation of Miles Magisters. A third was to be present but Real Aeroplane Companies version was socked in at Breighton. Even so, with the wind and rain battering them the two Magister’s did an outstanding flight..

Displays by Pete Kynsy in his LaVier Cosmic wind and HAC’s Buchon pair Led on to the second of our Rotor acts. 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps Ah MK1 Apache from Wattisham did an awesome display. I do feel that sometimes helicopter displays at most air shows, end up being displayed to only one part of the crowd. Not today though. The Apache’s show was as aggressive as the heli looks itself.

With the end of a cold wet day coming to an end, it was time to say good bye to two, amazing display pilots. Firstly, Flying his T-28 Trojan, Martin Willing has decided to hang up his helmet. Martin has owned and displayed the T-28 since 1997 and will be hugely missed at air shows , Thankyou for the memories Martin!!

Secondly we come to another big personality on the Airshow circuit and also an iconic aircraft. Jonathon ‘Flapjack’ Whaley has also decided to retire from display flying. Unfortunately, this also means that the awesomely painted Hawker Hunter, ‘Miss Demeanour’ may also be departing. The Hunter is going up for sale and who knows..she may end up being re-painted .the colours are not to everyone’s liking, however, I think it ensured that she has been the most booked Hunter on the airshow scene. Once again ‘Flapjack’ did an impressive display, even giving us the Hunter ‘Blue note’. Another pilot who will be sorely missed!!!

So, there is only one way to end a Duxford airshow season…..Synonymous with the wartime airfield, the Supermarine Spitfire. With HAC’s Hurricane warming up the crowd, a four ship proceeded to give a graceful formation against a dramatic sky. Brian Smith, Nigel Lamb, Richard Grace and Charlie Brown put up a very evocative display to bring to a close the 2013 season.

It is to be noted that the Duxford Autumn show could have easily been cancelled looking at the weather, however, the Pilots, ground crew and IWM staff made sure that it wasn’t and I for one was glad. There may have been cancellations, but this was due to weather and unservicability. I look forward to 2014.….

Review by Neil Darby

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