IWM Duxford held its third flying evening over the August Bank Holiday weekend. It has fast become one of my favourites events of the display season presenting a number of Duxford based aircraft as the sun sets over the Cambridgeshire. This year the flying suffered a little due to unserviceability of some aircraft, but the event still enjoyed its own unique relaxed atmosphere and some stunning light.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
IWM Duxford has had some luck with its Flying Evening events for the past three years. Even if much of the day of the event has seen unsettled weather, things always seem to improve as the start of the flying approaches leaving some stunning golden cloudscapes in which to frame some exquisite warbirds displays. And so It was for the third edition of the event.
Line-up wise, it was a slightly smaller event than the first two and the participants very familiar to those who attended last year’s event. But judging this event purely on the list of participating aircraft would be to miss the point of the event. The core attraction of the flying evening is the experience and atmosphere which is totally different to other IWM Duxford Flying Days and Airshows. The cloudscapes and stillness of the evening make for a much more emotive experience watching historic aircraft dance around the Cambridgeshire sky enhanced further by some very select and subtle choices of accompanying music. There’s none of the hustle and bustle of the bigger events too as many of the spectators find a good spot to set up a small picnic, soak in the ambience and watch some great flying. Having said that it is quite bizarre that some spent much of the time in a long queue for a burger – is having fast food really that essential that you miss out on the unique-ness of the event? That said if there is one criticism of the organisation it was the lack of catering – one Powters Burger van really wasn’t enough. At the first event, there did to seem more efficient catering on offer with less queues.
Opening the flying were the Fighter Collection with three of their Curtiss Hawks – the P-36C Hawk, the P-40C Warhawk and the P-40F Warhawk. Sadly the P-40C suffered a technical snag while in the hold waiting for the display and landed early. However, the opening aerobatic presentations of the P-36C and P-40F were a superb start to evening in the hands of Rolf Meum and Brian Smith. The American theme continued with the next display with Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Sally-B giving a wonderful display set to the music from ‘Memphis Belle’ lit beautifully by some golden light.
The run of warbirds continued with Martin Overall flying a lyrical routine in the Imperial War Museum’s owm Supermarine Spitfire Ia N3200. Notably this was the only Spitfire flying in the event and had been due to be paired with Bygone Aviation’s Hawker Hurricane I. Sadly that aircraft was withdrawn before the flying displays with technical issues.
The displays them moved away from military aircraft with an air racing sequence featuring Pete Kynsey flying his Le Vier Cosmic Wind “Ballerina” and David Beale’s Percival Mew Gull replica. Both aircraft looked stunning in the evening light with their bright colour schemes ‘popping’ against the deep blue and darker clouds.
Adding an aerobatic spectacle to the evening were the Flying Comrades. The team of David Hardisty, Alex Lewton and Tom Turner performed a series of flypasts, formation loops and some tailschase aerobatics in their Yakovlev Yak-18T and pair of Yak-52s. They are very much a Duxford team often appearing at the IWM Flying Days and other events across the East Anglian region.
Following the interlude, the flying then return to historic aviation. The only jet in the display was the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s de Havilland Vampire FB52 flown beautifully by Kenneth Aarkvisla. Its fiery start-up certainly gave the audience around it quite the spectacle but sadly it was unable to join up with the Hawker Fury after that aircraft suffered a minor snag on start-up.
The maritime theme continued as the skies turned inky blue with Plane Sailing’s Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. The big white amphibian looked moody in the darkening skies with its landing and navigation lights blazing through the mark.
The penultimate flying acts then took onlookers back to the First World War with a dusk patrol from Paul Ford and his beautiful Fokker Dr1 replica. With the light fading first the Triplane was silhouetted against the twilight skies with the moon emerging from the clouds.
The finale to the evening was a pyrotechnic spectacular Airborne Pyrotechnics. The father and son team of Tim and Tom Dews fly a pair of Grob 109b motorgliders equipped with some very bright programmable LEDs and wing-tip pyrotechnics. As delicate trails of sparks streamed off their wing-tips, the pair flew an aerial ballet of formation and solo aerobatics augmented by further colourful pyrotechnic effects left the audience spell-bound as darkness enveloped Duxford – the perfect end to the flying.
However, for those that ventured over to the Airspace hangar, there was one further treat in store. The recently restored Handley Page Victor K1 parked in the Conservation area of the hangar was illuminated with some colourful lighted and the hangar doors opened allowing visitors to capture a unique image on their smartphones as they headed home. It was a nice touch to end a very enjoyable evening enjoying some wonderful ‘after hours’ flying. We hope this is an event that continues for many years to come!