What fantastic weather we ae having here in September, is this what they mean by an “Indian Summer” and what does it mean exactly I wonder.
I had a day at the September air show down in Duxford in Cambridge, I stayed overnight on Friday near Huntingdon at an “olde worlde” coach house in the village of Great Stukeley. Naturally I joined the regulars for a few jars of IPA, Some of the old guys got talking about how Oliver Cromwellwas hated around these parts.
As MP of Huntingdon during the English civil War the 1600’s he promised the wealthy lots more if they supported the Parliamentarians against the Royalists, but Cromwell reneged on his promise! In the history books he comes across as a religious fanatic and implemented harsh barbaric measures against Catholics in Scotland and Ireland and confiscated their lands, the measures have been likened to genocide, yet 2002 BBC poll voted Oliver Cromwell as one of the 10 greatest Britons of all time! How mad is that?
It was funny to listen to the tale of Steve’s future Irish father-in-law refused to stay in Huntingdon for his wedding recently because of the Cromwell connection and stayed in nearby St Ives instead….one of only three places in the UK to have a statue to Cromwell! The poor man was able to see it from his bedroom window!
I arrived at the Imperial War Museum Duxford at about 9 in the morning, and handed over my £25 ticket, after parking the bike I changed into comfy clothes for the day. Strolling around the re-enactment areas I got talking to an old boy in RAF uniform, he had in fact served in the RAF as had his father before him unfortunately he died whilst flying Mosquito fighter bombers during WWII and the tunic he was wearing today belonged to his father, how fantastic is that?
If you paid another £4 you could walk along the flight-line to see the aircraft up close and get some good photographs AND exclude the damned barriers, white tape, orange cones and the tops of people’s heads!
This is the Hawk, the very same type that our RED ARROWS fly, this had a colour scheme to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee.
A huge yellow Search and Rescue Sea King helicopter dropped into land on the grass behind me, we were all asked to stand still and keep a hold of our hats and children, the moment it touched down, the hot prop wash blasted us with hot air blowing everyone backwards slightly.
This is the Fairley Swordfish, an old biplane which was so antiquated before WWII started but was the only aeroplane we had at the time that could carry a torpedo and it was slow, very slow! With the torpedo underneath it could only reach about 90 MPH.
The temperature was steadily climbing already, the air was so still too, it was going to be a hot one. People where pouring in by their thousands, ordinary folk with families and not just aircraft nuts with expensive long lens camera’s festooned around their bodies.
This a copy of a German Me 109 in a North African desert paint scheme from WWII. Many old ones were acquired by Spain after the war, but original engines and spares couldn’t be found, instead they were rebuilt with surplus Rolls Royce Merlin engines from England would you believe. Spain used them for many years in their Air Force and called them Hipsano Buchon’s
The thing that draws a lot of people here to Duxford is the historical aircraft that are kept here, Like the Spitfire above. Several groups like The Historic Aircraft Collection rent hangar space here at Duxford and rebuild these aircraft bringing them alive for us to see today, one or two are original and flew in WWII others were built just after the war. They are better looked after than when they where in service, you can visit inside the hangers to see them going through their maintenance periods during the winter months and are often stripped down to the basic green dope (a paint like primer) Engines are fully stripped down and rebuilt after a pre determined number of hours flown, unlike us mere mortals who maintain our cars and bikes after an amount of miles done.
Before and after the flying part of the show you can take a pleasure flight in a historical aircraft, a Tiger Moths biplane like the one above or one of two twin-engined Dragon Rapide R.N transport aircraft from the 1930’s or even a Havard training plane from the 1940’s Did you know that Gary Newman the pop star from the 80’s has one of these? Over the years I have flown in both the Gypsy Moth and the Dragon Rapide..the Rapide I flew in had wicker basket seats and a nice flowery curtain between the pilot and us in the back!
The flight-line walk closed around dinner-time to allow the aircraft to be made ready for the afternoon’s flying display.
£4 might seem a lot but to see the Historic aircraft up close and get uncluttered photographs makes is more than worth it to me.
This colourful old thing is an Antonov An-2 from the late 1940 and comes from Russia. All aircraft come with a handbook and is full of details and handling characteristics, important stuff like how slow you can go before you fall out of the sky! Well this plane doesn’t have that, it can fly as slow as 30 mph and in a strong wind even slower! They are still used in parts of Africa and Asia where conditions are rough and ready.
Behind the flight-line and the barriers stand several civilian airliners bought by the museum and a pound or two you can walk inside them. How many of you have flown in any of these then?
The flying part of the show was due to start shortly at 13.00hrs with a fast jet fly past from the Americans. I sat and ate lunch on the lawns, I brought my own these days. I wasn’t prepared to pay their silly prices. £2.50 for a small bottle of water. The vendors need bloody shooting!
The Americans arrived in style to open the show with four F-15E’s, originally billed in the programme as two, they sent four…perhaps because we were due to send two Tornado’s shortly and they do like to be No 1 don’t they!! hey came over from RAF Lakenheath, about two minutes flying time from over there in Suffolk.
The Americans have nothing like this though have they? It’s the Avro Vulcan 558, the only one left in the world today flying, and it lives just a few miles from me near Doncaster. They began flying around 1960. The Americans used to call her the “Aloominum Shadow” I know she sounds fantastic, especially when powering up from a couple a hundred feet to climb up into a half roll and back down again. She emits a spine chilling howl as the air is sucked into the four huge engines set deep inside the wings, a resonating howl that sets the hairs on the back of your neck on end!
I wish 558 would roar like she can everytime she exits her base her at Doncaster Robin Hood airport (formerly RAF Finningly) instead of saving it for us at the air shows but I don’t think the majority of the residents living within a five-mile radius or the CAA would tolerate it!!
Back to 1940 now two American WWII fighters the Mustang and Thunderbolt showed what they were capable of. Above is the Republic Thunderbolt.
The throttle is opened wide as the Mustang prepares to get airborne, they served in the war fitted with the same Rolls Royce Merlin engines that powered our WWII Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster bombers.
This is unusual because its a sea-plane! It can land and take off from the water. The wheels fit into watertight compartments when this happens. It’s a Consolidated Catalina PBY. Another slow mover at nearly 200 mph!
These are Gnats built by the British firm Foland, we built them to use as trainers and sold quite a few around the world. India in particular flew them as fighters and developed them further.
Four replica biplanes from WWI came next, they had been built by a New Zealand restoration firm and shipped over, they are to fly in just a couple of shows before going on display here in England The one on the right is replica Fokker Triplane a red one was used by a German ace known as the Red Baron, on the left is a two-seater used by the british it’s an RE-8. Id hate to guess at how slow these guys are flying!
This American WWII bomber is famous on the historic airshow circuit and has been for over thirty years now, it’s the B-17 known as the “Sally B” She has for years been a living memorial for the 85,000 American flyers killed during WWII in the skies over Europe. The one yellow and black engine is in memory of the man who set up the whole “Sally B” years ago, he was killed in a flying accident leaving his wife Ellie to take the project forward with help from the club, the club is made up of thousands of people just like you and me.
The Tucana prepares to take to the skies, the Tucano is the RAF trainer, you can see and hear the distinctive buzz of these guys especially in the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors as they learn their trade.
This was the last display I saw today. I changed back into my bike kit to follow the Mghty Vulcan back up the A1 to Doncaster, she did it in about twenty minutes I took about a hundred minutes, no comparison really!