The closing of the Air Show season at Duxford was dedicated to The Battle of Britain and also very typical of the English weather, it rained, it poured, it was cold, it was windy…. but it didn’t deter the British public from turning out in their hundreds to support this historic event that lay very close to their hearts. An event that held very special memories to almost everyone who was there in one way or another, and no amount of rain was going to dampen their spirits.
The opener and also announced as the Special was provided by the 16 Tiger Moths formation that formed the number 100 in celebration of 100 years of RAF history.
The highly capable and extremely manoeuvrable, the multi-role Typhoon FGR4 from 29 Squadron at RAF Coningsby and flown by Flight Lieutenant Jim Peterson, was next on the program for the Battle of Britain Air Show. The Typhoon FGR4 is equipped with canard foreplane to give the Typhoon extra agility, lift and STOL performance. A large part of The Typhoon is made of carbon fibre composites and very light alloys and powered by twin Eurojet EJ200 turbofans which give the Typhoon a top speed of Mach 1.8 and supersonic flight without the use of reheat, known as ‘supercruise’.
Driven by rain and wind on Saturday, it was extremely difficult for many aircraft, including the SE5a and the Bristol Fighter from The Shuttleworth Collection. The Bristol Fighter did, however, manage a demo. It was sadly the same story for the Gloster Gladiator MK I and the Westland Lysander Mk III, also from the Shuttleworth Collection, in that they could fly on Saturday but did not return to Duxford on Sunday morning due to the bad weather.
Bryan Adams sings about the summer of 69, but it was the summer of 2003 that was the start of a major restoration of the Bristol Blenheim Mk.I and after 11 years of accuracy work, on the 20th November 2014 Chief Pilot John Romain and James Gilmour as Flight Engineer took Blenheim MkI on its maiden flight at Duxford for a successful 26 minute test flight. Following some minor adjustments, a further two test flights were carried out. The tribute to the Battle of Britain was this time reserved for a formation flight of the Blenheim MkI flanked by two Hawker Hurricanes.
The NORWEGIAN AIR FORCE HISTORICAL SQUADRON is a non-profit organization, dedicated to keeping unique aircraft where they belong – in the air! The Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron was founded in 2008 and is based at Rygge Air Base Norway. De Havilland Vampire T.55 two seater PX-M and de Havilland Vampire FB.52 single seater PX-K flew together with the BAC Jet Provost T5 XW324; the XW324 in the expert hands of Jeff Bell who keeps the aircraft at East Midlands Airport.
We are now in the area of the trainers, first the Post-War Trainers like the Percival P40 Prentice (VR259). It was the first RAF trainer with side-by-side seating and it was twice as heavy as the Tiger Moth. The Percival P40 Prentice is now the only remaining airworthy Prentice. De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk next in the Post-War Trainers is a fully-aerobatic tandem two-seat primary trainer for the RAF, after a long service in the RAF many ex-military Chipmunks have found their way into private hands. Another side-by-side seating trainer in the Post-War Trainers is the Scottish Aviation Bulldog. The North American T-6 Texan was a single- engine advanced training aircraft used initially to train pilots of the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), the United States Navy, the Royal Air Force and many other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II.
The Shuttleworth Collection was very strongly represented at The Battle Of Britain Airshow for the next item; the Post-War Trainers, The Blackburn B2, Tiger Moth (Private own), Avro Tutor and 2 Miles Magister performed on Saturday in very bad weather conditions, which these experienced pilots could not stop, to demonstrate a beautiful flight in these conditions. However, on Sunday, due to logistical problems and also due to the bad weather, only the Tiger Moth and Miles Magister gave us a demonstration.
In the current time of training, we have the Grob Tutor T1 mainly made from carbon-fibre and powered by a 180hp Textron-Lycoming engine with a max speed of 173mph. The Tutor is a fully aerobatic, side-by-side seating aircraft and this with the latest avionics, like the Differential GPS, which can generate a simulated Instrument Landing System approach.
Despite the bad weather on Saturday we were literally into fireworks into the sky over Duxford and this from the many explosions that took place to reinforce the theme, The Russian Front. A beautiful spectacle of 4 Hispano HA-1112 Buchon and 2 Yakolev Yak-3…… like a cat and mouse fight.
There is no Battle of Britain Air Show without it…. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight; The Avro Lancaster, the most successful British heavy bomber of World War II, powered by two 24-cylinder Rolls-Royce Vulture engines and armed with a mixed load of high-explosive bombs and armed with a powered tail turret mounting four 0.303-inch (7.7-mm) machine guns, a powered twin-0.303 turret on the upper rear fuselage, and a pair of 0.303s in the nose; a few had twin-0.303 belly turrets. Operated by a basic crew of seven, including the pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, navigator, radioman, and gunners. Many of these young crew lost their lives over enemy lines during dangerous nightly bombings. The Lancaster PA474, from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, is one of only two Lancaster aircraft remaining in airworthy condition out of the 7,377 that were built (the other is in Canada with the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum at Hamilton, Ontario). The Lancaster PA474 was assisted by a Spitfire and a Hurricane.
Another assignment for the Lancaster PA474 was the 617 Squadron Flypast with the Tornado GR4 and the LightningII. The Tornado GR4 flew his last flying display before retiring from active service in 2019.
A recurring phenomenon for The Battle of Britain Air Show....... the bad weather. So for the Hawker Formation, we only had a duo from the Hawker Nimrod MkI and the Hawker Nimrod II on Saturday.
The Korean Flight, a flying display of one Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-15, a two-seat trainer version built in Poland in 1952 and served with the Polish Air Force until 1990. The Mig-15 is painted as ’Red 18’ to represent the aircraft of the Soviet pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. In the Korean Flight display, the Mig-15 was flanked by two, non American P-51D Mustangs.
The Boeing B-17 G ”Sally B”, is the leading aircraft in the bomber Escort, B-17 Flying Fortress G-BEDF. Sally B is the last remaining airworthy B-17 in Europe and based at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and flies under the colour scheme of the USAAF 447th Bomb Group. The Boeing B-17 G ”Sally B” flies regularly at air shows in Europe and also commemorative events in the United States, like the United States Army Force’s official flying memorial to the thousands of young Americans who died in the Second World War. The fact that such a complex aircraft is still flying more than seventy years after it was built, is a testament to the unstinting efforts of the people behind Sally B and the thousands who support the project through the Sally B Supporters Club.
The white painted Catalina (G-PBYA) was an elegant display against the many colours that the sky exhibited at that moment in the afternoon over Duxford. The Catalina was built in Canada in 1943 and served the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war on anti-submarine patrols. In 2004 the Catalina arrived at IWM Duxford and is now painted overall in a white livery with the markings of the 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron based at Halesworth in Suffolk.
The Gnat Display Team has its home base at North Weald Airfield in Essex. North Weald Airfield was first established in 1916, only 13 years after the Wright Brothers made the World’s first powered flight. It initially served to protect London from the Zeppelin raids in the First World War. North Weald’s finest hour came in the summer of 1940, when it served as a front-line airfield in the Battle of Britain. The Gnat came to the attention of the general public in 1965 when the Red Arrows were formed and using seven Gnats and under the leaderships of Ray Hanna.
The Transport Formation, de Havilland, built exceptional aircrafts like the DH89A Dragon Rapide. It flew first in 1934 and was an immediate success. During the Second World War the RAF took all Rapides and ordered another 500 more under the name Dominie. The Dominies served as communications aircraft and as radio and navigation trainers. Another product of de Havilland is the DH 104 Devon, built as a replacement for the Dragon Rapide. The DH104 Devon is powered by a pair of 400 hp de Havilland Queen engines, have a cruise at 187 mph and have a capacity of 11 passengers.
Another member in the Transport Formation is The Avro C19 Anson, a British twin-engined, multi-role aircraft, but was mainly used as a trainer and built by the aircraft manufacturer Avro. The Avro C19 Anson /TX176 from the Shuttleworth Collection flew again on 8th March 2002 after an extremely difficult restoration by a handful of volunteer and retired staff. The last in the Training Formation flight is for the Percival Pembroke C1 and in1953 it replaced the Avro Anson in the light transport and communications role.
The Voyager Formation, a flypast with the A400M Atlas from Airbus, and able to carry 37 ton of payload over 2000 nautical miles, equipped with 4x 11000 she EuroProp International TP400 turboprops and this with a max speed of 460 mph. And with these figures is A400M more fuel efficient at lower altitudes than the C-1 and is faster at higher altitudes than the Hercules while offering the same rough-field and tactical flexibility. At the end of 2021, the RAF would have 22 Atlas A400M in its possession. The Atlas A400M was escorted by two Eurofighter Typhoons from 29 Squadron at RAF Coningsby.
No Battle of Britain Air Show with British pride would forget The Red Arrows; formed in 1965 and giving, as always, breathtaking displays all over the world.
The BAE Systems Hawk Ts is the current aircraft of the Red Arrows and carries a Union flag inspired scheme on the tail fin that emphasises the team’s role in acting as Ambassadors for the United Kingdom and representing the values and professionalism of the Royal Air Force. Squadron Leader, Martin Pert, was able to lead his team, despite the lesser weather conditions on Saturday, to acrobatic perfection and with the necessary emotions among the audience, I personally saw an older man crying at the closing of The Red Arrow display where they formed the figure 100 in the air…. a truly amazing sight for all to see and very much tugging at the heart strings.
The end of the Battle of Britain came to a close with a formation of 18 Spitfires
A gathering from Spitfires from The Fighter Collection, The Shuttleworth Collection and Historic Aircraft Collection, Air Leasing, Aero Legends, Maxi Gainza, Aircraft Restoration Company and old Flying Machine Company, Eastern Airways and The Imperial War Museum.