Duxford - September 2011

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The Aviation Group visit to Duxford Aerodrome for the 75th Anniversary of the Supermarine Spitfire on Sunday, 4th September 2011.

The group boarded a new looking coach provided by Ford’s of Althorne and set off promptly at 8.30am under the watchful eye of Ken Cocks.   The route took us through Danbury, Boreham Interchange to the A130, A120, M11 to arrive 45 minutes later to join the only 3 coaches already there.   The early start meant we were in the aerodrome without any of the long delays we had suffered on previous visits before and were encountered as thousands poured in later.

As with all outdoor activities the weather dominates and the BBC forecast was solid rain from 10am to 4pm.   In the event the morning provided high white cloud and occasional sun.

Groups split up – some went straight to Hangar 1 where there were a number of continuous running videos about the history of Duxford, various aeroplanes and other events.   Jammed in this hangars were a mass of planes including a Comet 4, Dakota, Harrier jump jet, TSR2, Avro Vulcan, Concorde and a Westland Lysander of the type used by SOE for dropping agents into France with RAF 138 and 161 Squadrons.   Other groups walked the one mile to the American Hangar at the far end of the aerodrome and worked their way back.

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(Right) The Trent Engine   (Left) The Concorde
Photos by John Bowen

Another group paid the £4 premium to enter the parking concourse to walk closer with those planes on display.

It started with the only Lancaster Bomber flying in Europe and part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the Hurricane and Spitfire being parked a little way apart.

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The only flying Lancaster in Europe - look at the size of the Bomb Bay - can carry a "Block Buster Bomb".

Lovely atmospheric photograph of the Lancaster just before it became airbourne and while it was still raining.
Photo by Ray Levitt

A jazzy Hawker Hunter boasted yellow, red and black paint which looked like a brilliant setting sunset.   Peter Twiss who held the World Speed Record for a time in a similar model died recently.

Starting on the opposite side was an ant looking helicopter from the Army Air Corp which had seen service in Afghanistan – an Apache.   It looked destructive with canon and guided missiles hanging from pieces of metalwork evertwhere.

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The Apache Helicopter doing a flying display.   It did a "Wing Over" which is all but a "Loop".

Duxford’s own B17 Flying Fortress with one side of its nose painted “Memphis Belle” while the other side is adorned with a sexy girl called “Sally B” due to its role in a famous film.   For £30 one could have a conducted tour of it with the money going towards its self-funding Trust to keep it airworthy.

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The B17 with nose painting

Two Vampire from the Swiss Airforce looked great.

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The Vampires looked very low on the ground.

10 Spitfires of many versions but most painted in the RAF camouflage colours, three WWI looking Bi-planes.

The Fairey Swordfish was from Yeovilton and is the type which the late Les Sayer, MBE, DSM, was a Petty Officer Rear Gunner/Telegraphist in it from HMS Victorious as it attached the German Battleship, Bismark in WWII.   Note the Torpedo slung underneath.
Les was the only person looking to the rear (the Pilot was Lt Percy Gick, later Rear Admiral) and saw the Torpedo strike the rear of the Bismark, so jamming its rudder so that it could only sail in a large circle.   It was sunk later by the large guns of HMS King George V and HMS Rodney.   The interesting thing is that due to social class nobody asked Les what he saw and it was only some 50 years later that this story was told and verified!   Les died 1st November 2008 aged 93.

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(Left) Bi-Planes. - (Right) The Fairey Swordfish - note the Torpedo.

A Spanish BH109 rebuilt after the war for a film and painted in German colours but provided with a Merlin engine, 5 Yaks painted in Russian colours, etc.

Lunch was taken from many of the hot catering booths but with similar prices to the V Festival – a hot dog for £4.50 while other sought the warmth of the coach.

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The food booths did a great trade.

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The Aviation Radio Hut did a roaring trade - just look at the kit in the hut.

Flying was scheduled to start at 2pm but so did the rain coupled with a high wind such that it was delayed, however the two DeHaviland Rapides and Tiger Moths continued their Fare Paying Passenger rides around the aerodrome perimeter and up into the clouds.

A Member of the Red Arrows team explained that their colleague who had died at Bournemouth had been buried the previous day and as a mark of respect would not be flying today.

Low clouds and driving rain did not deter many pilots who put on a brilliant display of flying including the Yaks using smoke; two very small Swifts based on a German model plane and the jazzy painted Hunter.   Display discipline was good – no diving at the crowd as was carried out years ago – remember John Derry and his DH110 at Farnborough?   Note, this was witnessed by a Member of the Maldon U3A Avaition Group.

A USAF Captain introduced the McDonnell Douglas F15 which demonstrated raw power – you not only hear it – you felt it as well throughout your body.

The McDonnell Douglas F15 which flew in from its current UK base to thrill the crowd.

The culmination was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Swordfish leaving Duxford, the flying display by the B17 and the 20 breath-taking minutes by 7 Spitfires.

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Seven of the Spitfires did a 20minutes display - wonderful.

Getting out of Duxford took 45 minutes, another delay of 45 minutes on the M11 meant we were back home by 8pm thanks to our coach driver’s steady hand on the wheel.

Thanks to Ken Cocks and David Arnold for a tremendous day-out. John Bowen. C.Eng.

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(c) Maldon U3A 2011
Last revised:- 20th September, to add the Ray Levitt Lancaster photo.
21st September - corrected the Opening title to Spitfire.