For another three and a half hours the skies above Cambridgeshire were buzzing with aviation action, despite the intermittent showers. And even when it did get a bit wet — we found plenty of interesting places to duck and cover – including stalls and stands and hangers filled with aircraft and historical exhibitions. Set in the grounds of the former WWI and WWII airfield, IWM Duxford has just as much presence as the aircraft it hosts. A lot of the original RAF station is preserved, and the historic heart sits between the American Air Museum and the recently constructed Airspace hanger. We also took a look around the Battle of Britain exhibition, which is set in an original 1917 Belfast hangar.
We lost hours immersing ourselves among all the iconic aircraft at IWM Duxford, both inside and out which is where the dramatic sights and sounds of aviation really brought history to life. Paying tribute to the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid was the ‘Battle of Britain Memorial Flight,’ with the Avro Lancaster, Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire.
Swirling around the sky six Spitfires also took off for a tailchase with a Hispano HA-112 Buchon that was made to look like a Messerschmitt 109. Also keeping our eyes glued to the skies was a display by the precision aerobatic display team of the French Air Force — Patrouille de France. Had we been sat on seats we would have been on the edge of them due to their daring stunts and utterly close formation.
Stunning us equally as much, but in a different way was the B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B — her elegance made most people fall silent.
Later on in the day two De-Havilland Vampires came out to play and caused a bit of a stir up above. By this time it was gone 5pm and nearly time for us to set off on a long journey home. But there was yet still something left in store. The thing that made Duxford really great was that even though the show kicked off with something new, there was also something old, and then at the end something red white and blue – the Red Arrows!
With their colourful display, the Reds chased off some depressing black clouds and stunned the audience with their aerobatics. I’ve been lucky enough to have caught brief glimpses of the Red Arrows flying over our house a few times, but I’ve never watched a dedicated display — now I know what action I’ve been missing out on. The Reds have so much presence and we watched in awe as the skilled pilots showed off the nimbleness of their jets, flying in formation dancing around each other. At one part of the display we weren’t sure where they were going to come from next as they surrounded and circled us like sharks in the skies up above. Seconds before this final display, I can remember hearing one tired child moan to his aircraft fanatical father: “We’ve been here all day dad, can we go home now?” A few seconds later the Red Arrows transformed the air into a playground and there was not another peep from the child – his eyes bulging with delight. The non-stop action at Duxford and variation of aircraft kept all its visitors entertained – it satiated warbird fans, it pleased those with a need for speed, and it turned non-aircraft experts and children into budding enthusiasts…