Following the success of the inaugural Duxford Flying Evening in 2021, the event returned for 2022 with an expanded flying programme. The evening showcased many of the Duxford based warbirds in solo displays as well as some very unusual formations and combinations. The weather was also kind with some dramatic cloudscapes framing the displays.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Duxford’s first Flying Evening was one of highlights of the 2021 display season. Such an event at Duxford was long overdue and was a perfect evening with some great flying, beautiful weather and relaxed surroundings. It was wonderful to see it back for 2022 with a greatly expanded flying programme. With the success of the first event, it was no surprise to see a much bigger audience this time around. Duxford also managed the rare feat of repeating the fine weather and dramatic sunset of the first edition.
As in 2021, the event was centred around the control tower area with a handful of catering concessions. However, all of the airfield was open to watch from if people so desired. The flying displays started at 6pm just as the late afternoon sunshine started to turn golden and leave long shadows across the airfield.
Opening the displays were the Fighter Collection with a trio of naval fighters from different eras. First to display were the American duo of Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and Grumman F8F Bearcat flown by Stu Goldspink and Brian Smith. Despite a slight interruption to allow an Air Ambulance transit the area on an urgent mission to a London hospital, both Stu and Brian showed off just how powerful their naval fighters were in the cloud dappled skies. They were followed by the elegant Hawker Nimrod I which was put through a beautiful routine by Pete Kynsey with its silver wings illuminated beautifully against the dark grey clouds to the south of Duxford.
The first of the Flying Evening’s more unusual combinations followed with a radial theme. The gaggle of aircraft for this sequence included the Aircraft Restoration Company’s de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, Anglian Warbird’s North American AT-6C Texan plus the Flying Comrades team of Yakovlev Yak-18T and two Yak-52s. For the first pass the Beaver was paired with the Yak-18T while the Texan led the two Yak-52s. They then split off with the Beaver and Texan performing solo displays and the Flying Comrades flying their own team routine.
Following on from the radial theme were four very different pairings celebrating various themes. A salute to the polish and other allied airmen of the Battle of Britain brought together the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Supermarine Spitfire Vb and Hurricane Heritage’s Hawker Hurricane I R4118. Another Spitfire featured in the next pairing as well. This time it was Anglia Aircraft Restoration’s Spitfire Vc EE602 which flew escort for Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Sally-B. EE602 was one of the RAF Spitfires that escorted B-17F ‘Memphis Belle’ during her final operation over Europe making the pairing a very apt one as Sally-B played the part of Memphis Belle in David Puttnam’s 1990 movie.
By far the most eye-catching pair of the evening were the Fighter Collection’s Curtiss P-36C Hawk and P-40F Warhawk flown by Pete Kynsey and Rolf Meum. They caught the last of the golden rays during their display which really set off the polished metal of the P-36C and the desert camouflage of the P-40F against the ever-deepening blue sky and grey clouds. It was also a very beautifully flown routine with the two aircraft each flying two short aerobatic sequences each swapping over at various points during their display slot.
Attention then swung back to naval aviation for the next pairing with the Hawker Fury ISS from Anglia Aircraft Restorations flown by Paul Bonhomme and Kenneth Aarkvisla at the controls of the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s de Havilland Vampire FB6. Both the Hawker Sea Fury and Vampire were contemporaries in the post-war Fleet Air Arm as the service started the switch from piston to jet fighters. The Vampire was the first jet aircraft to land on a Royal Navy carrier in the hands of legendary test pilot Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown and went on to developed for naval use as the Sea Vampire.
As the very final rays of golden light bathed Duxford, more de Havilland aircraft took to the air. These included the DH83 Fox Moth, the newly restored DH82a Tiger Moth from Vintage Fabrics and a pair of DHC-1 Chipmunk T10s. This was just the second public appearance by Vintage Fabrics’ Tiger Moth which wears the colours of an aircraft transferred to the United States Army Air Force from RAF service. As such it still wears the tradition camouflage and yellow undersides of a RAF trainer, but has US roundels. It was used as a squadron hack by the USAAF and was originally named ‘Dorothy.’ However, following a landing accident and repairs it was also called ‘El Pisstopho Jnr.’
The warbird flying was concluded in twilight with a Battle of Britain tailchase featuring Anglia Aircraft Restorations Hispano HA1112-M1L Buchon and the IWM’s own Supermarine Spitfire Ia N3200. With the skies now inky blue and purple, Steve Jones and Jon Gowdy’s sequence was a very evocative way to bring the warbird flying to a close as the sun finally disappeared over the western horizon.
The flying was not quite over however. The finale to the evening was an aerobatic pyrotechnic display by Mark Jefferies in his Extra 330SC. With white sparks streaming from his wingtips, Mark gave a punchy performance of rolls and loops in the dark sky though unfortunately his ground-based pyros failed to fire.
This was a very fine way to spend a late summer’s evening with some truly wonderful flying displays, some great weather and the very relaxed surroundings of Duxford ‘after hours.’ I’d even go as far as saying both of Duxford’s flying evenings so far have offered some of their most enjoyable events of the last two seasons. With the event clearly proving very popular hopefully there will be many more Duxford Flying Evenings in the future.