IWM Duxford VE Day Flying Day

IWM Duxford VE Day Flying Day

Imperial War Museum Duxford opened the UK flying display season over the May Day Bank Holiday with the VE Day Flying Day. The first of three ‘Flying Days’ due to be held in 2024 as part of Duxford’s flying season, the day marked 79thAnniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe with a select choice of Duxford’s resident airworthy historic aircraft. The day also saw the first public glimpse of the latest P-51D Mustang to fly in UK skies.

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

After an exceptionally wet Winter and Spring, it was some relief that the first major UK flying display of year took place in warm, sunny conditions. Duxford’s Flying Days have grown significantly in recent years from the small Showcase days which first appeared a few years ago. They have become far more significant events featuring aircraft drawn from many of the different operators based at Duxford. For the VE Day Flying Day, Duxford showcased a varied selection of historic military aircraft covering period before the outbreak of the Second World War through the early post war years. Supporting the flying displays on the ground were static displays and reenactor groups.

 

Even before the main flying display there was a significant moment for the UK’s airworthy warbird scene with arrival of Fighter Aviation Engineering Ltd’s latest addition, North American P-51D Mustang ‘Jersey Jerk.’ This particular aircraft arrived in the UK last year from Australia and has been overhauled and repainted by Air Leasing at Sywell. In February it was revealed in the marking of ‘Jersey Jerk,’ an aircraft flown by Major Donald Strait from the 361st Fighter Squadron, 356th Fighter Group based at Martlesham Heath. Strait flew 122 missions and claimed 13 and half victories making him the top ace in the Fighter Group. The airframe is an Australian CAC produced example and as well as flying at airshows will form part of the Ultimate Warbird Flights operation. On the morning on the VE Day Flying Day it made its first flight in UK skies from Air Leasing’s Sywell base. It arrived at Duxford on its second flight before departing back to Sywell at the end of the flying display.

 

The afternoon flying displayed opened with a look at the development of maritime aviation from the 1930s through to the 1940s. A very unusual combination opened the segment with Plane Sailing’s Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina (actually a Canadian built Canso) flying in relatively close company with the Fighter Collection’s Hawker Nimrod I. Both the Catalina and Nimrod flew during the mid 1930s though the latter was very much obsolete by the time war broke out in September 1939. The Catalina however was a far more advance design and served throughout the Second World War in multiple theatres in offensive and rescue roles. The second half of the maritime flying brought together two later and more potent fighter aircraft, the Fighter Collection’s Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and Fighter Aviation’s Hawker Fury II flown by Brian Smith and Mark Levy.

Two of the most famous Second World types followed. Isabelle Rutland flew a very pleasing aerobatic routine in CK Aviation’s Noorduyn Harvard MkIIb while George Haye showed off the lines of his USAAF marked Supermarine Spitfire XVIe with a punchy, tight display routine.

 

A brief interlude from the warbirds flying was provided by ‘Geoffrey Formation’ – a salute to to the Canadian arm of the de Havilland Aircraft company. The formation brought together two of the their most famous products, the DHC-1 Chipmunk T10 and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s DHC-2 Beaver.  The pair opened their sequence was some formation flying before splitting into solo displays; the Beaver showing off its power and agility while the Chipmunk flew some gentle aerobatics in the cloud dappled skies.

The flying then returned to piston engine fighters from opposing ends of the Second World War. The early part of the Second World War was represented by a solo display by Neil Oakham in Hawker Hurricane I V7479. However perhaps the star turn of the flying display was Fighter Aviation’s Supermarine Spitfire FR.XIVe MV293 flown by Stu Goldspink. This aircraft has been a Duxford regular for many years formally operated by the Fighter Collection before joining the Fighter Aviation fleet. During 2023 it was refurbished with its camera bay returned to original condition. With the aid of Warbird Colour UK, it has been repainted into its authentic post war Royal Indian Air Force markings and looks outstanding.

 

The photo-reconnaissance theme continued with the final flying act of the afternoon, Fighter Aviation’s Lockheed 12A Electra Junior. This stunning restoration is one of the most interesting of recent years as this very aircraft was used on convert missions prior to the outbreak of war to gather intelligence on German and Italian military sites and infrastructure.

With the very welcome spring sun and a nice relaxed flying display, this was just about the perfect start to the 2024 Season. Duxford’s next flying event is the Summer Air Show over thr weekend of 1st-2nd June.