Duxford Spring Air Festival - Duxford,
Cambridgeshire 28th May 2017
Comment - On paper at least, IWM Duxford's season opener over the 27th and 28th May weekend should have been a memorable show. Fast jets included the RAF Typhoon and L'Armee de l'air Rafale, the French jet making one of only two UK airshow appearances due in this season. Classic jets saw Sea Vixen 'Foxy Lady' booked alongside another cold war icon, the MiG-15UTI from the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron. Warbirds due to show included stalwart B-17G Sally-B, a P-51D and a pair of Spitfires. Other acts included vintage racers from Shuttleworth, the Army Air Corps Apache role demo and the Great War Display Team.
However, on the day (we visited on the Sunday) things just didn't gel and I certainly left a little somewhat deflated, feeling that it was one of the least inspiring shows I had been to for a long time. Certainly, on the photographic front I came away with hardly any pictures, something which has not happened for me at an airshow for a very long time.
To be fair, several factors did work against the show. The biggest disappointment was the lack of 'Foxy Lady,' the Sea Vixen having suffered a serious hydraulic failure returning to Yeovilton the previous day. Fortunately, pilot Commander Simon Hargreaves pulled off a safe and skilful emergency wheels-up landing seeing both pilot and aircraft back on the ground in one piece. I certainly wish 'Foxy Lady' an expedient return to flight as soon as possible.
We also lost the MiG-15 display as a traffic incident outside of the airfield led to its cancellation, again something that was beyond the control of the organisers. It was therefore left to the Typhoon and Rafale to bring on the noise but the Typhoon seemed lost in the wide expanse of Duxford's greying skies, the rolls and vapour-filled turns being too far away for any meaningful photography. The Rafale put on a much tighter display with more 'presence,' however, by then the standard UK grey airshow sky had well and truly set in and the effect of the exotic colour scheme was curtailed.
Perhaps it was the dulling grey sky and the threat of an imminent rain front that contributed to my despondent mood, but the Spitfire pair that then closed the show again seemed quite lost in a sky that, on other occasions, has been filled with warbirds galore.
Admittedly, the sun did come out earlier in the day and this helped proceedings, the Red Devils being one of my highlights due to the 2,000 square feet Union Jack that one of the paratroopers dropped with. The big-friend, little-friend pairing of Sally-B and Miss Velma was my other personal highlight, again, a bit of sun and blue sky helping to liven things up photographically.
In conclusion, IWM were aiming for a more family orientated show, and
this was reflected by the acts that were booked, although events outside of
Duxford's control impacted even on this. However, for a warbird fanatic, who
has experienced so much magic at this historical airfield, it was a
disappointment. Yes, I saw the participant list beforehand and so knew it
would be no Flying Legends or Battle of Britain show, but the magic of
Duxford that is normally present was just not there this time.