IWM Duxford Summer Air Show

IWM Duxford Summer Air Show

Imperial War Museum Duxford’s first major two-day air display of the year, the Summer Air Show, took place in mid-June. As in previous years, this first major airshow of the year steered away from a warbird themed event and presented a varied mix of civilian operated displays from across the UK and Europe mixed in with some military displays. One of the highlights of this show were the Fokker Four team from the Netherlands visiting Duxford for the first time with their delightful display in four Fokker S-11 Instructors.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.

For the past few seasons, the first major airshow of the IWM Duxford has always been a family centred event with a broad cross section of displays from both military and civilian operators. 2022’s Summer Air Show certainly reflected that ethos with a large number of visiting displays for the two-day show. However, merely the mention of ‘Duxford’ does raise ‘expectations’ with many that there will be some significant contributions from the based operators with their array of now fairly rarely seen warbirds. While no-one would have expected the line-up of warbirds seen at September’s Battle of Britain Airshow, it was a surprise to see just two piston-powered fighters on Duxford’s flightline for the show. With Old Warden hosting an evening show and a fairly major private airshow taking place at Rendcomb, it was a busy weekend for various operators and Saturday’s audience did see a couple of Spitfires and a Hurricane depart for other events during the day.

Duxford was also very unlucky with the Royal Air Force allocations with the Summer Air Show missing out on displays from the Red Arrows and Typhoon Display Team which were both sent to overseas airshows during the weekend. To their credit however the Red Arrows did manage a flypast in fairly challenging conditions on the Saturday during their transit from Northern Ireland to Denmark.

It wasn’t the easiest weekend to host an airshow.  Saturday saw much of the southern half of the UK blanketed in low cloud and rain which precluded the Aerosuperbatics Wingwalkers and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster from reaching Duxford. Then on the Sunday there was an unfortunate incident before the air display had begun where one of Classic Wing’s de Havilland Dragon Rapides nosed over while landing after conducting a pleasure flight. No one was injured as a result of the incident and it was dealt with quickly by Duxford and Cambridgeshire emergency services and Classic Wings staff.

 

Despite challenging weather on the Saturday and Sunday’s incident, it was airshow full of enjoyable flying displays in a relaxed atmosphere. On the ground there was a something of village festival feel to the entire event with live music, classic cars, military re-enactors and a vintage fun-fair spread across the Duxford site. With no restrictions, Duxford was also able to reintroduce the Gold Pass and Members enclosures to their events after a hiatus during the pandemic. One thing that has been kept on from the pandemic seasons is free access for the flightline walk.

Due to the low cloudbase, neither the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team or RAF Grob Tutor T1 displayed on the Saturday. Sunday’s weather however was much improved and both appeared early the display programme giving polished performances. The Royal Navy Black Cats Helicopter Display Team however were able to display a solo Leonardo Wildcat HMA2 on both days. For 2022 Lt Jim Carver takes over as display pilot and has a busy programme of displays throughout the summer both in the UK and Europe.

 

The flying displays featured a plethora of civilian display teams covering all aspects of flying. Somewhat surprisingly, Rich Goodwin was performing at Duxford with his Pitts S-2S Special G-JPIT for the first time. His display of unlimited aerobatics certainly caught the attention of the audience and was particularly impressive on the Saturday as he fitted in his full display in under the cloud. Further aerobatic thrills came from the Blades Aerobatic Team flying their four Extra 300LPs who have become very welcome regular visitors to Duxford over the past few seasons.

The low cloud was no problem for Peter Troy-Davies in the Calidus Autogyro. Peter has been off the display circuit for the past two years so it was great to see him back at Duxford with his entertaining and close-in routine that captivates the audience. Another team making a welcome to Duxford were Team Raven. 2022 sees some major changes to the team which now flies a six-ship of Vans RV8 aircraft all wearing a new union-flag inspired scheme. Raven’s pilot line-up has also seen major chance with three new, but highly experienced display pilots joining original members Simon ‘Sid’ Shirley, Gerald Williams and Mark Southern. Raven 2 for 2022 is Pete Wells, former leader of the Twister Duo team. On the opposite side of the formation, former Sea Harrier and Royal Navy Historic Flight display pilot Russ Eatwell takes up the Raven 3 position. Finally, very experienced glider and fast jet display pilot Chris Heames has recently joined the team as Raven 6. Their display keeps action in front of the crowd all the time with a mixture of six-ship, four-ship, three-ship and two-ship formations crammed into their display.

 

Another display featuring a large number of aircraft came from the Great War Display Team. Their re-enactment of a First World War dogfight featured seven replica aircraft on the Sunday with three RAF SE5as, two Fokker Dr1s, a Junkers CL1 and the Avro 504K.

Aircraft from the Cold War featured well throughout the afternoon. North Wales Military Avaition Services returned to Duxford and presented their pair of BAC Strikemaster Mk80/82s. Like Team Raven, their display had new pilots for 2022 with Chris Heames leading Ian Brett through a mix of formation and tailchase flying.

A real standout display of the airshow came from the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron who have been much missed from the UK circuit during the past two years. They returned to Duxford with their de Havilland Vampire FB6 and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15UTi jets both wearing new markings. The Vampire has been at Duxford for quite a number of weeks having taken part in filming for a new cinematic adaption of Frederick Forsyth’s novel, The Shepard. The story revolves around a RAF Vampire pilot flying home for Christmas from Celle in Germany and the NAFHS Vampire has been repainted in 94 Squadron colours for the production. However, The MiG-15UTi’s scheme is all the more eye-catching and surprising. NAFHS decided to remove the Soviet markings from the MiG after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. The new scheme represents one of the captured MiG-15s operated by the United States Air Force for evaluation and training in the 1950’s. It looks absolutely fantastic and perhaps a scheme no-one thought they’d ever see again!

 

But the overall highlight of the flying was the Duxford debut of the Stichting Fokker Four team from the Netherlands. Flying four ex-Royal Netherlands Air Force Fokker S-11 Instructors in their classic yellow and day-glo orange scheme, the team have been stalwarts of Dutch air display circuit since 1982 and have very occasionally visited the UK. The unique Fokker S-11 instructor first flew in 1947 and was the first post-war product produced by Fokker Factory in Amsterdam. 40 served with the Royal Netherlands Air Force training pilots for the likes of the Hawker Hunter, Lockheed F-104G Starfighter and Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter. Remarkably, despite the team’s long history this was their first ever visit to Duxford and there were very enthusiastic participants. They were also very well received by the Duxford audience with their very original and pleasing display. We hope it is not too long before they are invited back to a UK show.

 

The warbird participation may have been surprisingly small, but it was full of quality. Solo displays came from Plane Sailing’s Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina plus Anglia Aircraft Restoration’s North American TF-51D Mustang and the Aircraft Restoration’s Supermarine Spitfire PRXI.  

One of my personal favourite displays of the afternoon came from pair of North American Harvard IV and AT-6C Texan piloted brilliantly by Rod Dean and Nigel Wilson. It was a timely reminder of the truly magical warbird sequences so often seen in the skies over Cambridgeshire and that make Duxford such a special place. Rod, who was leading the tailchase, is celebrating 50 years as a display pilot in 2022 having been a RAF Hawker Hunter display pilot in 1972 when he took the award for best solo jet display at that year’s Air Tattoo hosted at North Weald.

 

Appearing towards the end of the display was Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress ‘Sally-B.’ Thanks to superlative efforts of Elly Sallingboe, B-17 Preservation Ltd and the Sally-B supporters club, this aircraft has been on the display circuit for 47 years as a unique flying memorial to the men of the United States Army Air Force who fought in European skies during the Second World War. To mark nearly 50 remarkable years of display flying, Sally-B flew a special and unusual formation with the Blades Aerobatic Team.

 

Even if the show did lack the punch of a big warbird set-piece or the RAF’s ‘headline’ displays, Duxford’s Summer Air Show did present a very enjoyable afternoon of flying on both days with a number of stand-out moments and eye-catching displays in relaxed surroundings. Duxford’s flying season continues with the Americans Flying Day on the 23rd July and the main Battle of Britain Airshow on 10th-11th September.