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Duxford Air Festival

The May Airshow at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford

IWM Duxford Air Festival

27th & 28th May 2017
Rafale

Rafale

Duxford's Spring Air Show is usually themed, with flying and static displays inspired by a subject chosen for the season. However, for 2017 the theme was simply 'Festival', celebrating the Imperial War Museum's 100 years with a huge variety of flying, mostly from the UK but with a significant contribution from abroad.

One such non-UK contribution was, arguably, the star of the show, raising huge applause from the crowds. This major highlight was the Rafale Solo Display from the French Air Force. Capt Jean-Guillaume "Marty" Martinez, in his second year as the Rafale solo display pilot, gave a spirited, high-energy display within a tight box, never out of the view of spectators. The spectacle was enhanced by the striking livery of the jet which did, let's be honest, make the British Typhoon appear rather bland. The Saturday display at Duxford was the first UK appearance by the team this season and one of only two UK shows to get the Rafale in 2017 - quite a coup for the Duxford team.

Sea Vixen

Sea Vixen on Saturday

Trig Team

Trig Team

Sopwith Pup

Sopwith Pup, with GWDT in background

Noorduyn Norseman

Noorduyn Norseman

Spitfire-Mk-1

Mk 1 Spitfires

Another highlight was the Sea Vixen. 'Foxy Lady' had been due to fly at Abingdon a fortnight earlier but neither the aircraft nor the team were ready, principally because of technical issues. The Duxford Air Festival's Saturday display was consequently its inaugural public appearance of the year and the first display since it curtailed one in Eastbourne last August following discovery of an issue with a flap. The display by Cdr Simon Hargreaves was superb but unfortunately the aircraft suffered an hydraulic failure when it returned to base at RNAS Yeovilton and made a wheels-up landing. The pilot is OK but the Sea Vixen was damaged and was inevitably not able to return to display at Duxford on Sunday.

The rest of the programme went more-or-less according to plan but there were a few exceptions. A minor technical problem was soon fixed but an off-site traffic incident prevented the MiG-15 flying on Sunday - a huge shame for the crowd to miss such a great aircraft - but most of the changes affected Saturday's schedule. The wet start gave way to dry conditions by the time flying started but a wind around 20 knots, gusting to 25 knots, meant that the Falcons arrived in their Skyvan rather than jumping from it and both the Dragon Rapide and the Sopwith Pup stayed on the ground. Happily, for those who attended for the whole weekend, both were able to fly on Sunday.

The outing of the Historic Aircraft Collection's Sopwith Pup replica on Sunday, in the hands of Roger 'Dodge' Bailey, Chief Pilot of the Shuttleworth Collection, was its maiden public display. The aircraft represents N6161, from which some original parts, together with other original Sopwith factory and Sopwith Pup components, were incorporated in the 4-year re-construction by Retrotec, part of the Historic Aircraft Collection based at Duxford.

Another Duxford débutant was the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation's Noorduyn UC-64 Norseman. Not only was this the first flight of this particular aircraft at a UK airshow, but probably the first time any of this type has flown from Duxford since the second world war. Shows at Duxford are famous for displays of warbirds, especially the fighters and bombers that are better known to most attendees, but the Norseman was a Festival highlight both for its novelty and for the superb presentation of this relatively modest utility aircraft in its fresh Royal Norwegian Air Force livery. The Norseman is remembered as the type of aircraft in which bandleader Glen Miller went missing on his way to organise a concert in France, so the commentary was accompanied by the band's music and some speculation that Glen Miller's plane may have been lost because of carburettor icing or because it was hit by munitions being jettisoned from returning bombers. Flying with the Norseman was the Aircraft Restoration Company's de Havilland Canada DHC_2 Beaver, resplendent in its red, while and green civilian markings.

The Pup was the most anticipated, but not the only WWI replica flying, joined on the programme by eight of the Great War Display Team's aircraft whose upgraded display for 2017 began with tailchases in pairs against a background of pyrotechnics to simulate bombing, strafing and a WWI dogfight, ending with an opposition pass. Their display on Sunday was on slot, but on Saturday it was delayed to the end of the afternoon when the strong gusts had subsided sufficiently for the display to go ahead safely. Quite a logistical accomplishment to rearrange such a large display involving so many aircraft, and full credit to the pilots and the new Flying Display Director who has taken over the reins from recently-retired Jeanne Frazer.

One change that was not weather-related was the substitution of the second Strikemaster, which is not yet ready to display, by Jeff Bell's Jet Provost T5. Ollie Suckling flew the Provost and Mark Petrie the Strikemaster in typically fluent style, reminiscent of the Jet Provost pairs displays of the 2016 season.

It was novel to see the inter-war racers at Duxford. The world's only DeHavilland DH88 Comet from the Shuttleworth Collection, a two-seater designed and constructed specifically for the MacRobertson England to Australia Air Race, flew with the Collection's original, and David Beale's replica, Percival Mew Gulls. Frequently seen at the nearby Shuttleworth Collection airshows it is less common to see any of these classics away from Old Warden. From the same era, Dan Griffiths flew Shipping and Airline's Biggin Hill-based DH90 Dragonfly on both days, joined by Mark Miller in D & M Miller's Dragon Rapide in Sunday's kinder wind conditions.

Typhoon

Typhoon

Strikemaster and Jet Provost

Strikemaster and Jet Provost

There was plenty of family flying entertainment, too. The most polished display came from the impeccable Trig Team of Richard Grace and Dave Puleston in their striking yellow and black Pitts S-1D Specials. Their close-formation aerobatics are always a treat to watch but even anyone who is not a fan of light-aircraft aerobatics must surely have admired the skill of this pair, especially in the gusts on Saturday, which would have kept many teams on the ground.

Other light aerobatic displays came from the Blades, who did their usual thing; the Breitling Walkers who laid their normal smokescreen through which it was sometimes possible to see newbies Gina Marshall and Katie Hobbs atop the wings of their respective Stearman biplanes, and Peter Troy-Davies in the Rotorsport Calidus Autogyro. There is no doubting the skill of the pilot nor the flexibility of his autogyro, but we have to question whether a venue such as Duxford, with its long crowd line, is best suited to such a diminutive aircraft. The commentators, control tower and people in the posh seats were able to appreciate its gyrations, but it was a distant wonder to anyone beyond the central element of the crowdline.

Most of the aircraft were also on static display for a couple of hours before the flying started, so for £6 there was a chance to get really close to them in the flightline walk. Also on static display was a Bell Boeing CV-22B Osprey, based at nearby RAF Mildenhall. Although there was no flying display, this huge tiltrotor did demonstrate its capabilities to those who happened to be in the right place at the right time and was in a spacious exhibition area where its crew were able to explain its flexibility as a vertical or short take-off, long range, high-altitude, high-speed blend of helicopter and turboprop aircraft.

Exhibited nearby was the Army Air Corps' AgustaWestland WAH-64D Apache AH1 supporting the first public appearance in 2017 of a flying display by the Attack Helicopter Display Team. As last year, the AHDT display was a solo but very impressive nevertheless, beginning with a role play in which the Gunship destroyed an enemy position in support of ground troops, sliding into an exhibition of the Apache's capabilities and ending with their signature 'hover in front of a wall of fire' finale - which you had to be crowd-centre to appreciate. On Sunday the display Apache developed a technical fault, but after a short delay the second example from the static display was pressed into service and the display went ahead.

The army were also a bit luckier than the RAF with the weather when it was their turn to demonstrate the service's parachuting skills on Sunday. The Parachute Regiment's Freefall Display Team, the Red Devils, jumped from a Britten-Norman Islander at 4,500 feet, not to a central point, but to various landing spots along the crowdline to give more people a chance to see them. During the display Cpl Mike French jumped with the Regimental Flag and LCpl Chris Sharman descended with a 2,000 Sq Ft Union Flag. But one of the most important deliveries was an engagement ring, with which the IWM's Executive Director, Graeme Etheridge, proposed to Catherine. She accepted.

Aircraft
Flying (tap / hover over icon for more detail)
Rafale Rafale Solo Display (French Air Force)
Typhoon
Apache
Great War Display Team. Eight of the GWDT WW1 types displayed
Breitling Wingwalkers (pair)
The Blades
Autogyro
Bronco Demo Team

Strikemaster pair Mk 82A G-SOAF (NWMAS) paired with Jet Provost XW324
Sea Vixen (Saturday only)
Noorduyn Norseman
DeHavilland DH88 Comet
Percival Mew Gull
Percival Mew Gull Replica
DeHavilland DH90 Dragonfly G-AEDU
Catalina
B-17G 'Sally B'
RAF Falcons (Due Saturday but too windy to display)
Trig Team
Mustang TF-51D Miss Velma
Red Devils (Sunday only)
Dragon Rapide (Sunday only - too windy on Saturday)
Sopwith Pup (HAC) Sunday only. Wind above the threshold of 5KTS on Saturday
MiG-15 (Saturday only. Off-site traffic incident prevented display on Sunday)
x2Spitfire Mk 1a x 2 (N3200 and X4650)
BeaverDHC-2 Beaver G-DHCZ
Most of the aircraft in the flying displays are also on static display and can be seen on the flightline walk before the show. Additionally, there will be static aircraft that will not take part in the flying display including:
US Air Force CV-22 Osprey
All appearances are subject to technical, weather and other constraints

In the absence of the Falcons on Saturday, the RAF's sole appearance was the first public display by the new Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 display pilot, Flt Lt Ryan Lawton. The Typhoon display evolves each year and Ryan's has built on Flt Lt Mark Long's 2016 display, keeping it in a tight space in front of the crowd yet still demonstrating the agility and responsiveness of the UK's primary swing-role combat aircraft.

As well as the flying, there were living history re-enactments, sounds of the era including live music and access to all of the museums on site. A bonus this year was a chance to see the Bloodhound Supersonic Car, designed and built in the UK, which is destined to achieve over 1,000 mph in a world land speed record attempt in South Africa and due to make its first ground run this coming October.

The pattern of the show this year was a departure from earlier Spring airshows at Duxford, which have followed various themes but have relied heavily on resident aircraft. This year the popular locally-based warbirds were certainly not forgotten: favourites Sally B, accompanied by Anglia Aircraft Restorations' Mustang 'Miss Velma'; Plane Sailing's Catalina and the Museum's Spitfire Mk 1a 'N3200' flying alongside Comanche Fighters' Mk 1a 'X4650' represented the Duxford-based contingent and its historical links with the US and Royal Air Forces; but the balance between resident and visiting aircraft was reset in favour of visitors. This should answer critics of spring shows in earlier years who have suggested a sense of deja-vu, a label that could certainly not be applied to the 2017 Festival.

With aircraft from most eras, including the first war, the second war, inter-war, cold war and modern; with no fewer than six jets on the agenda and several débuts, variety was the name of the game in what was truly an air 'Festival' at Duxford.

Good Value

The programme for the event was a rather hefty £8. It was well produced and very informative but one has to wonder how high the cost of a programme will go and how many more would be sold if it returned to the price levels of recent years. Add the cost of parking (£5), £6 for the Flightline Walk and the premium prices for refreshments, and this is certainly not a low-price venue.

Nevertheless, with flying stretched to the best part of five hours each day and plenty else to see around the museum site from early in the day until an hour or so after the last display, shows at Duxford may not be low cost but they do offer excellent value.

About IWM Duxford

Duxford was an airfield in the First World War and was an RAF fighter station and then an American fighter base in the second. It was the base of the first operational Spitfire squadron during WW2.

It is now home to the Imperial War Museum with aviation, tanks, military vehicles and naval exhibits as well as the Fighter Collection, The Old Flying Machine Company, The Aircraft Restoration Company, Historic Aircraft Collection, B-17 Preservation Society and others.

Location

Local area

Getting to the Show

By car

Duxford is in Cambridgeshire, off Junction 10 of the M11. If you are coming from the north, a signposted alternative is to leave at Junction 11 and take the A10 to Royston, then the A505. This is a much longer route designed to split the traffic up. There is parking at the museum. The Post Code (for Sat Nav) is CB22 4QR but some systems will only recognise the older code CB2 4QR. There is a park and ride at Junction 11 of the M11 on show days. The bus is free (you have to show your show ticket) but parking isn't.

By coach

National Express have direct coach services to Cambridge. You can book seats online. Click the National Express name to go to their web site.

By Train

The easiest train station is Cambridge, which has a direct service from London. A half-hourly courtesy bus runs between the show ground and Cambridge station on show days. Otherwise take a Stagecoach service C7 or Myalls service 132.

Click here to create a pocket timetable for your journey between any stations on the National Rail network.

The variety of rail tickets and fares can be very confusing. Trainline and Raileasy web sites list all ticket and fare options for the time and day of travel you choose, but they both levy an admin fee. Click either of the blue ticket agency names to go to their web site.

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Bing (Microsoft)

Accommodation near the show

It is best to book as far as possible in advance. This is not only because nearby hotels and guest houses tend get booked up well before the date of an airshow but also because prices can be better when you book early online.

There are plenty of booking agencies. We find that many of the well known ones are better at finding hotels from international or larger UK chains and may suggest hotels in main towns or cities quite a distance from the show site.

There are plenty of booking agencies. We find that many of the well known ones are better at finding hotels from international or larger UK chains and may suggest hotels in main towns or cities quite a distance from the show site.

If you need plenty of options, we find that, between them, LateRooms and Expedia list a good selection of smaller, as well as bigger, hotels and will find accommodation in villages and small towns as well as the main centres. Expedia also give, and take, Nectar points.

Click either blue agency name for a list of hotels and guest houses near the show. The venue is already built into both links, so when the list comes up you just have to enter your dates.

Trivago will list competitive prices for a range of hotels, but they might not necessarily find them all, because some chains do not subscribe to their service. You may also get a better rate if you book direct with an hotel, especially if you are a member of a loyalty or rewards scheme.

The International Hotels Group have a Holiday Inn Express near the airshow but it sells out very quickly for airshow dates. There is another Holiday Inn Express and a Holiday Inn in Cambridge about 9 miles away and a Holiday Inn Express in Stanstead about 20 miles to the south. There are three Premier Inn hotels in Cambridge and another two within 20 miles of the show.

Weather for the show area

UK Met Office Forecast

A full 7 day Duxford weather forecast from the UK Met Office

The Met office seven-day forecast includes maximum, minimum and "feels like" temperatures, the likelihood of rain, wind direction, gusts and visibility: the latter can have an impact on the viability of displays.

The BBC's five-day forecast has overall conditions including temperatures, UV range and a description that may help to determine how pleasant the day will be for the visitor.

Click the blue-text link to go to the forecast. The location is already built into the links.

 
2017 Show
Dates

May 27th & 28th 2017

Airshow links

Duxford Air Festival


Tickets were

1 day (either)
Adult (16+) £33.95, Child up to 15 FREE, DP + carer £21.85, Parking £5

2 day
Adult (16+) £48.90, Child up to 15 FREE, DP + carer £32.20, Parking £10

Times

Gates 08.00
Flying about 13.15-17.15
Closed 18.30

Travel

OX13 6JG
For links to travel and route planning web sites, click the 'Getting there' tab

Photos

Photos taken at a previous May airshow at Duxford.