Throughout the 2021, the Imperial War Museum Duxford will augment its two main airshows of the year with nine themed ‘Flying Days’ featuring flying displays from both resident and visiting aircraft. To mark the re-opening of Duxford, the first Flying Day on the 22nd May was called ‘Standing Together.’
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit both air displays and museums very hard with lengthy periods of enforced closures both in 2020 and 2021. Duxford and the Imperial War Museums have not escaped the financial pain and in turn that has brought about some significant changes to Duxford’s normal airshow calendar. The loss of Flying Legends from the Duxford calendar grabbed the headines though happily the show has managed to relocate itself to Sywell Aerodrome in Northamptonshire. In its place, Duxford has brought in its own two day ‘Summer Airshow’ in July and retained the September Battle of Britain Airshow. On top of the major airshows, Duxford has hosted ‘Showcase Days’ for the past two seasons. In 2021, Duxford has planned more of these events with a total of nine scheduled to take place from May to October. Two more would have taken place if the UK government’s roadmap had allowed.
As in previous years, not only do the Flying Days allow Duxford to present more flying displays to the public throughout the year, they also play an important part in the training and mentoring of those who wish to participate in air displays as flying control committee members, flying display directors and display pilots. The role these Flying Days has played in bringing in ‘new blood’ and maintaining vital airshow skills was marked earlier this year by the British Air Display Association who awarded IWM Duxford the ‘BADA Trophy’ for its Showcase events during a difficult 2020 display season.
The first Flying Day of 2021 was themed as ‘Standing Together’ to reflect that it was one of the first events of the season to reconnect the air display community and enthusiasts. Aside from the aircraft, the Flying Days also ground exhibits which for the opening event included the Laguna Spitfire Legacy touring exhibition, various Living History groups plus the charity Help for Heroes.
There was just one block of displays for this opening display lasting just over an hour. It opened with the lightest of the afternoon participants, a Piper L4 Grasshopper from the CN Cub Group and displayed by Clive Denney which highlighted the agility of the type which made it the ideal spotting aircraft in the land battles following D-Day.
The Second World War theme continued with the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Hurricane XII flown by Dave Harvey. 2020 saw the aircraft repainted into the markings of Czechoslovak pilot Josef František DFM & Bar, who flew as part of the Polish 303 Squadron during the Battle of Britain. Together with HAC’s Supermarine Spitfire Vb which was on static display by the control tower the pair of aircraft form the Polish Heritage Flight. The Spitfire has also recently been repainted over the winter into the colours of 303 Squadron to represent the aircraft flown by Flying Officer Wiktor Strzembosz.
Paul Freeland’s beautiful and sleek SIAI-Marchetti SF260 was next providing some contrast to the military heavy iron that made up most of the display. Paul’s display reflects the elegant lines and fine performance of the Italian touring aircraft which has proved popular in civilian and military hands.
The short flying display was concluded by a cavalcade of aircraft from Duxford operators starting with the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina from Plane Sailing. The Fighter Collection made a welcome return to the skies over Duxford too with the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair piloted by Brian Smith and their Supermarine Spitfire LFVb flown by Dave Southwood. Due to the loss of airshows in 2020 due to the pandemic, the TFC fleet remained on the ground though they did support what events Duxford could organise superbly during the late summer and autumn. Spring 2021 has seen TFC ready their aircraft for flight again and both Brian and Dave put on some really punchy displays in their respective mounts.
Closing the flying was a Battle of Britain pairing which saw a second outing of the day for HAC’s Hurricane XII alongside the IWM’s Supermarine Spitfire Ia N3200 flown by John Romain. Following some close formation passes the pair split before John brought the day to a close with a lyrical solo in the Spitfire.
Despite some very grey skies at times, this was an enjoyable and relaxed day with some superb flying and plenty of time to explore the excellent museum. The next Flying Day themed around D-Day will be held on the 6th June.