Duxford Flying Day - May 2021 - Cody Froggatt
After a long dark time away from the power, sight and sound of roaring engines, it was time to emerge from the longest period, within modern times of isolation, to return back to somewhat normality.
Imperial War Museum Duxford played host to a new event, somewhat like their popular showcase days from 2020, called IWM Duxford Flying Day. The Duxford air shows team have been working hard over the winter months to create a series of Flying Days so that the public could experience and see air display events throughout the year with Covid regulations fully in place.
Each Flying Day has its own theme and this event was called "Standing together" which would bring the aviation community and aviation fans together . Below is a statement from IWM Duxford:
"Times have been tough for everyone. The close knit aviation and air fan community was hit hard by cancellations last year, not just because they couldn't see fantastic flying displays, but because you couldn't connect with friends and peers in person at shows across the country. We will connect you for a day of aerial flying displays with plenty of opportunities to enjoy together."
Firstly, the most important thing to say is that this isn't an air show and isn't advertised as such. In fact, this event is much more intimate than your typical IWM air show. The expected mass crowds aren't a thing because of the limited capacity and tickets available, which for anyone who's been going to IWM shows and events over the years have come to expect.
Covid protocol is taken very seriously too, from hand washing/cleaning, to the two-metre distance keeping within the crowd line, to the IWM non-NHS track and trace, which I was really impressed with. For those who are worried about Covid and how Duxford is tackling it, there is no need to worry, it is taken very seriously and treated with a lot of precaution.
The Duxford Flying Days aren't just about the flying displays itself, there are many different editions including re-enactors from the Airfield at War - Living History Group, 14 Group Royal Observer Corps - Living History Group and Tail End Charlies - Living History Group. All of which provide a unique photographic opportunity and an opportunity for both young and old to get immersed and involved within the surroundings and settings of Duxford. Providing a re-enactment group lends so much to the atmosphere and feeling of the Second World War.
Something that I found very interesting, that I've never personally seen before at Duxford, was the "Duxford Aviation Society - Military Vehicle Wing", up at the Land Warfare Museum. Behind the Land Warfare Museum is a running area where military vehicles are able to perform in challenging settings which provides the viewing audience with plenty of brilliant photographic & video opportunities. It's great to see the land warfare museum alive and well, especially with the rumour that the IWM was going to close and sell off much of the collection to the dismay of many military vehicle enthusiasts.
As I said previously, this isn't a full show, in fact flying display time only worked out to one and half hours of displaying. Though it may be thought short, the displays have been planned and executed with precision and Duxford flair.
Hawker Hurricane RF-R R4175 flown by Dave Harvey performed a brilliant solo display, as well as superb formation passes along with John Romain in the IWM's Spitfire Mk.1 N3200. John performed a solo display of his own with the turbocharger turned up to full on N3200 and whistling the whole of its display.
I manage to photograph two hot starts with these two fighters which was a real treat, something I've not seen for a long while and well in my case was worth the trip alone.
The Fighter Collection provided two aircraft with Brian Smith flying the Goodyear Corsair FG-1D 88297 and Dave Southwood in the Spitfire LF Mk.V EP120. These provided us with a unique formation which I've never seen in my time of going to Duxford. They then went into their own solo displays which were fantastic. It was brilliant to see the Corsair flying again and it's been a long time since I've seen one and definitely was a treat in itself to see it thundering through the skies.
Plane Sailing's Consolidated PBY5A Catalina was also part of the flying programme and having not seen this monster and beauty of an aircraft for nearly two years, it was brilliant to see her flying again and wonderful to watch her start up and power up in front to me. With the amount of space at this event it was easy to view and photograph all the aircraft which were powering up and taxing in front of me.
Two more flying items included a more sedate aircraft in the flying display which was the Piper L4 Grasshopper expertly flown by Clive Denney and the SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 which i thought at the time was a strange addition to the display but it provided a unique aircraft which I've never seen in a flying display before.
So, what are my overall feelings of the new flying days? Well overall I was impressed and very pleased with my visit. The social distancing is very well adhered to and all safety regulations and protocols are to the highest standard.
The usage of re-enactors and the military vehicle wing of Duxford provided me with some different photographic opportunities that I don't usually look for when i attend Duxford air shows, but with the smaller flying display it gave me the opportunity to appreciate the other things around me such as the airlines collection or the various parts of the museum that i haven't visited before.
As well, most importantly the flying display itself, though short, is sharp, snappy, and punchy. Showing off the best of what Duxford, along with the different groups and associations, and brilliant warbirds have to offer for anyone attending.
I would recommend this to anyone that has not attended a show since 2019, moreover those who have never attended a flying event before as it's a brilliant introduction into watching a flying display and is a fantastic day out for the family. I found it quite interesting how many young children were there with their parents. There were many families around Duxford, more so than I've ever seen before and it warms my heart that hopefully this will bring a newer generation than mine into aviation.
Duxford will host nine themed Flying Days this year as well as two air shows:
Flying Days 2021:
Sat 22 May - 'Standing Together'
Sun 06 June - 'Commemorating D-Day'
Sat 19 June - 'Model Aircraft'
Sun 20 June - 'Thank You Dads'
Sat 03 July - 'Behind the Scenes'
Wed 04 August - 'Squadron 19 Heroes'
Wed 11 August - 'Showtime'
Thur 19 August - 'Young Aviators'
Sat 09 October - 'Best of 2021'
Duxford Air Shows:
*24-25 July - Duxford Summer Air Show 2021
18-19 Sep - Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show 2021
* Now that the Flying Legends air show has moved to Sywell Aerodrome, IWM Duxford will host a Summer Air Show in July.
Thanks to the IWM Duxford for putting on these events this year, especially with the cancellation of so many large air shows in 2020 and 2021.
Article & photographs by Cody Froggatt.