Duxford Autumn Airshow 2012

As an early morning mist clears from the skies above Duxford it looked likely to be a sunny clear day for all at the Autumn Air show 2012. If the event organisers were breathing a sigh of relief, there was certainly no sign of it but one cannot deny there was likely much holding of breath and watching of local weather reports. As a low sun glinted cheekily upon the colourful array of exhibitors it seemed that once again flocking visitors were in for a treat.

A rather quiet programme by some standards, the thinner crowds also lead one to question whether a current recession is beginning to feel its pinch in the world of aviation. Nevertheless it promised to be a most glorious display of speed and superiority as each fought to be the star of the show. Some more flamboyant like the highly colourful Hawk T-1 jet drew gasps of awe at her sheer dramatic speed and obvious skill from her pilot whilst others less aesthetic yet no less impressive relied on prowess alone. A sad day for aviation indeed since for this Hawk in particular this was to be her swansong, never again will she be seen to delight the public at an air-show. A final bow out of memorable proportions, this was one lady who did herself proud.

Joined by the no less colourful Tucano T1 ZF269 ‘ER’  , the public were in for a real treat as the RAF amply displayed its technical skill  and well deserved reputation as a forerunner in the world of aviation. Fearless daring from both pilots as the equally impressive Hawk and Tucano demonstrated exactly what they are capable of. To a backdrop of excellent commentary, the public kept its gaze firmly skyward drinking in the drama unfolding above. One could not fail to miss the gasps of appreciation resulting from a perfect accelerated stall. Regrettably also the last performance from the dashing Tucano pilot as he waved his farewells to an appreciative crowd, leaving to begin training as a Typhoon jet pilot, he clearly will be missed at Duxford.

Quietly serene amongst its more junior counterparts stood the matriarchal figure of the B-17 Flying Fortress ‘Sally B’ and perhaps one will forgive this writer for a certain amount of bias when it comes to the charms of this rather glorious old girl. A quieter, slower paced display from the lady herself but nonetheless impressive as her smoke plumed finale put the icing very firmly upon a steady but stunning performance. No less formidable was the imposing bulk of the Dakota FZ692 ‘Kwicherbichen’ ,  a commanding presence that needs none of the vivacity of the more colourful planes to draw the eye. Sheer air domination kept all eyes upon her as she paraded her arena with ease, giving awaiting photographers ample opportunity to capture her dramatic form.

Not to be outdone a most spectacular pairing from the distinctively throaty P-51D Mustang, aptly named ‘Ferocious Frankie’ and the aesthetic delights of  the Hawker Hunter F-58A ‘Miss Demeanour’ . An aerial dance of breathtaking proportions saw them sail the skies in a dramatic battle for supremacy set effectively against a rapidly darkening sky. Yet if the conditions were now not so much to the liking of waiting photographers this did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the awestruck public watching avidly below. Disappointed they were definitely not as the pair played a most lavish game of aerial cat and mouse that left onlookers wanting more.

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the Merlin engined Mustang, ‘Ferocious Frankie’ paired with effective ease with the legendary Spitfire IX from The Old Flying Machine Company. With a distinctive sound they proved why the Mustang engine was such an important development in aviation history. One could think of no better place to commemorate this momentous event than at Duxford itself, where it all began. A moment to remember and one not likely to be forgotten by those who had flocked from near and far to see them. If the clicks of nearby camera’s were anything to go by this is one event definitely captured for posterity. 

Certainly a treat for the eyes, Duxford Autumn Air show delivered on every front despite a day of slowly plunging temperatures and the advent of an angry looking sky. Onlookers by no means willing to tear themselves away, staying steadfast to the last to pay tribute to all who took to the air. Still they came, the Pitts Special pair, Hispano Buchon (Messerschmitt Bf 109),the bright blue and yellow Boeing Stearman and the dramatically feline Black Cats Lynx Pair. To the delight of their audience they held court over the skies of Duxford bringing to a close another year in the aviation calendar.Definitely in for the long haul the fans paid a well deserved homage, ensuring the success of yet another show.

As the day drew to a close reluctant to leave enthusiasts lingered for one last look as a re-emerging sun cast a late afternoon glow over the stars of the day.  A show it promised to be and a show it most certainly was.

All photographs reproduced with kind permission from Sanjay Rampal http://falkencommunications.wordpress.com/

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There’s nothing like a dame

Across the horizon the clouds roll in obliterating the sun and turning an already frigid day distinctly chilly. She does not care about the cold, her low throaty purr never falters as she turns and makes ready her escape. All eyes are upon her yet she is in no hurry for this grand old dame knows that she commands the glance of every eye with little effort at all.

Against a moody sky she surges aloft, soaring ever higher in a smooth steady arc towards the clouds. Flying free and with an elegance belying her age she takes to the sky like a caged bird suddenly given its freedom and i have to shield my eyes as she disappears almost from sight. She will not leave for she loves an audience but the need to tantalise is not one she will give up easily and she revels in the anticipation of the crowd below. One timely tip of a well shaped wing and she banks steadily towards her waiting audience, swooping lower to display her charms to her awestruck fans below. 

Celebrity indeed as the cameras click frantically and she preens for them all taking her time passing them by before leaping coyly out of reach and heading for the heavens once more. A diva of the very best kind and how her public adores her, she knows it and tips a jaunty roll before banking steadily to journey her catwalk once more. One cannot deny her beauty, the last of her kind she is petted and adored as only the unique can be. From the far flung regions of the world they come to revere her and as usual she does not disappoint, posing happily for picture after picture without complaint.

Her name is Sally B, but if you are lucky you can call her Belle.

A beautiful old matriarch, not content to retire and end her days with a well earned rest, she continues to delight the crowds wherever she goes and they love her for it. Like her screen goddess contemporaries before her she ages with a glamour of a bygone era, timeless and unforgettable. Performing for the crowd her poise never wavers, turning again to display a sultry pose clad in elegant red, one well shaped ankle swinging jauntily beneath her. A girl of two faces indeed she will turn again and leave little to the imagination. 

A plane without equal she is indeed the darling of the aviation world and as she descends towards ground and her awaiting public she is happy to greet them, gliding to a slow meander at close proximity. A swift turn and she is done, her starring role over for another day and content to step out of the limelight for a time at least. 

Her name is Sally B but if you are lucky you can call her Belle.

Photos with kind permission courtesy of Sanjay Rampal   http://falkencommunications.wordpress.com/

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