For the past two years the IWM Duxford Flying Days, alongside events at the Shuttleworth Collection, have formed the backbone of the UK Display Season. For 2022, Duxford has six Flying Days planned alongside the two major airshows plus the Flying Evening and Flying Finale in October. The VE-Day Flying Day opened Duxford summer long season of air displays featuring a number of home-based warbirds and aerobatic aircraft.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
There are fewer nicer places to be on a sunny warm spring day than Duxford. The grass airfield always looks particularly fine early in the season with the lush green grass speckled with spring flowers under the soundtrack of the Classic Wings pleasure flights and the occasional burble of a Harvard. Many seemed to agree as this first Flying Day was a sell-out with both the public and membership car parks packed out.
Flying Days are not full airshows by any means. There is no long line of traders and just a few additional catering outlets. There are however some additional ground exhibits including the likes of the Vulture Squadron replica aircraft and static displays from some of the based operators. For the VE Day Flying day these included Aerial Collective, the Suffolk Spitfire and Hurricane Heritage.
The larger audience was reflected in the line-up for the VE Day Flying Day which was somewhat bigger than previous flying days and could easily rival some full airshows. Opening the flying were a pair of American fighters, The Fighter Collection’s Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and Anglia Aircraft Restoration’s North American TF-51D Mustang ‘Contrary Mary.’ The pair of fighters were flown with great aplomb by father and son team, Brian and Nicholas Smith. Brian was recently recognised by the British Air Display Association as he is perhaps the longest-standing purely civilian display pilot in the history of UK airshows, having carried out his first display as part of the Tiger Club Turbulent Team in 1971, and been continually active ever since. Nicholas, flying the Mustang, is amongst the latest generation of warbird display pilot and is currently a F-35B Lightning II pilot with the Royal Navy and based at RAF Marham.
Some classic aerobatics followed with the unique combination of Le Vier Cosmic Wind and Bucker Jungmann flown by Pete Kynsey and Anna Walker. The pair opened their sequence with a ‘corkscrew’ flypast with the Jungmann flying inverted with the Cosmic Wind barrel rolled around the smoke ahead of some solo display flying. One of Duxford’s newest display pilots, Alex Lewton, followed flying a very pleasing aerobatic sequence in the Yakovlev Yak-52.
One of the highlights of the afternoon displays saw Plane Sailing’s Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina fly another unusual formation with Peter Kuyper’s Beechcraft UC-43 Staggerwing. Peter purchased the Staggerwing in 2020 but it is an example with a long association with the UK having previous been owned by Robs Lamplough. It is presented as the personal aircraft of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands while he was in exile in the UK during the Second World War. As such it wears RAF markings, but with the orange triangle of the Netherlands Army Air Force under the cockpit.
The penultimate pairing of the afternoon marked the legacy of Hawker Aviation with the Fighter Collection’s Hawker Nimrod I piloted by Stu Goldspink flying alongside the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Hurricane XII flown by Dave Harvey. The Nimrod returned to airworthiness just in time for the last flying day of 2021 and it was great to see it back in the air again so early in the season. Dave Harvey also gave a spritely aerobatic display in the Hurricane which wears the colours of 303 (Polish) Squadron when based at RAF Northolt. Together with HAC’s Spitfire Vb which also wears 303 Squadron markings, the Hurricane forms part of the Polish Heritage Flight which marks the extraordinary contribution and sacrifice Polish aircrew made serving with the Royal Air Force. As well as commemorative events in the UK, the flight hopes to also attend events in Poland now travel restrictions are easing.
Closing out the flying was a classic Duxford pairing of Spitfire and Hispano Buchon. Pete Kynsey led the duo in the Fighter Collection’s beautiful Supermarine Spitfire Vb EP120 with Dave Puleston flying Anglia Aircraft Restoration’s Hispano HA1112-M1L Buchon ‘White 9.’ Following some close formation passes the pair then split for an aerial dual in the cloud dappled Cambridgeshire skies. Once the Buchon was eventually seen off by the lone Spitfire, Pete performed a short solo display to close the short, but excellent flying programme.
The next flying day takes place on the 5th June and will commemorate the D-Day Landings. For more information on that event and the rest of the summer flying programme at Duxford, please visit https://www.iwm.org.uk/airshows