IWM Duxford’s 50th Anniversary Flying Finale

With over 100 years of history, Rolls-Royce have provided the power for many icons of flight, including British designed Spitfire and American P-51 Mustang. Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk.XIX PS853 and P-51D 122-40417 fly as ambassadors for Rolls-Royce. Photo via IWM Duxford - John DIbbs
Aircorps Art Dec 2019


Imperial War Museum Duxford’s airshow season will draw to a close on Saturday, October 14, with a spectacular 50th-anniversary flying event, marking five decades to the day since the iconic Cambridge aerodrome first held an air show back in 1973.

The inaugural ‘Duxford Air Day’ marked the first time the general public had been invited into Duxford to immerse themselves in the site’s rich aviation heritage, witness the work of IWM and enjoy a packed flying display. With a diverse range of fixed and rotary-wing aircraft (accompanied by a balloon ascent), the flying program certainly encompassed everything from historic types to front-line fighters. With the show a resounding success, airshows quickly became an integral aspect of IWM Duxford’s work, allowing subsequent generations the opportunity to admire a variety of aircraft both on the ground and in the air.

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Re-enactors with aircraft at Duxford’s Battle of Britain Air Show in September 2017. (photo by Dave Layland)

Now, fifty years later, the single Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane on display in 1973 have been bolstered by a number more. IWM’s only airworthy aircraft (Spitfire Mk.1a N300) will be accompanied by examples operated by Comanche Fighters, the Rolls-Royce Heritage Flight and the Historic Aircraft Collection. Two Hurricanes – a Mk.XIIa and a Mk.I – will also join the flying programme as aerial ambassadors for the type’s Battle of Britain service.

Although the twin powerplants of the 1973 show’s de Havilland Mosquito will not be participating in the collective music of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, there’s hope that through projects such as the People’s Mosquito – hoping to return the ‘wooden wonder’ to UK skies as soon as 2027 – the iconic DH design may well fly at Duxford airshows in years to come.

Other types on the 1973 programme can still be seen in operation elsewhere today (such as the Hunting Percival Provost, the Gloster Gladiator, the Fairey Swordfish and the de Havilland Dove). Others are regrettably absent from the UK airshow circuit: most notably the English Electric Canberra and the Hawker Hunter jets, the latter of which has not put in an airshow performance since the tragedy at Shoreham in 2015.

Instead, Duxford spectators will be able to watch the only Bristol Blenheim flying in the world (operated by Duxford-Based Aircraft Restoration Company), the Comrade Pair (flying a Yakovlev Yak-18T and Yak-52), the Consolidated Catalina PBY-5A, a Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing and a North American T-6 Harvard Pair.

Consolidated Catalina PBY 5A IWM
The huge Catalina is set to grace the skies at Duxford Flying Finale. It represents the wartime 8th Air Force, 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron at Halesworth, Suffolk. Photo via IWM Duxford

Also absent from the contemporary line-up is the 1973 spectacle of Dr. John Gore’s 56,000 cubic foot hot air balloon ascent (nicknamed ‘Aquarius’). The balloon had made a cross-Channel flight earlier in the year and (as the original programme explains) had ‘been involved in the hunt for the Loch Ness monster’. Instead, excitement comes courtesy of The Titans (performing stunts in an Xtreme Decathlon and XtremeAir XA42), the pyrotechnic performance of the Firebirds Aerobatic Team, and Otto the Helicopter (promising a routine ‘full of stunts and aerial madness’). Diana Britten, the first woman to have been British Aerobatic Champion, will also be flying ‘dazzling gyroscopic’ manoeuvres in her CAP 232.

Continuing the tradition of public pleasure flying, the 1973 rides in a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft  (courtesy of Humber Airways) have now been superseded by de Havilland Tiger Moth and Dragon Rapide options, operated by the airfield’s Classic Wings, before and after the airshow.

Tickets must be booked online in advance and can be found via this link. A range of commemorative merchandise, including a limited edition bookazine ‘which charts the key aviation highlights of the past 50 years through a rich array of vintage photographs and archival material from the original programmes’, is also available.

Duxford Air Shows 50 Flying Season 2023

 

Moreno-Aguiari

Born in Milan, Italy, Moreno moved to the U.S. in 1999 to pursue a career as a commercial pilot. His aviation passion began early, inspired by his uncle, an F-104 Starfighter Crew Chief, and his father, a military traffic controller. Childhood adventures included camping outside military bases and watching planes at Aeroporto Linate. In 1999, he relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, to obtain his commercial pilot license, a move that became permanent. With 24 years in the U.S., he now flies full-time for a Part 91 business aviation company in Atlanta. He is actively involved with the Commemorative Air Force, the D-Day Squadron, and other aviation organizations. He enjoys life with his supportive wife and three wonderful children.

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About Moreno Aguiari 3336 Articles
Born in Milan, Italy, Moreno moved to the U.S. in 1999 to pursue a career as a commercial pilot. His aviation passion began early, inspired by his uncle, an F-104 Starfighter Crew Chief, and his father, a military traffic controller. Childhood adventures included camping outside military bases and watching planes at Aeroporto Linate. In 1999, he relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, to obtain his commercial pilot license, a move that became permanent. With 24 years in the U.S., he now flies full-time for a Part 91 business aviation company in Atlanta. He is actively involved with the Commemorative Air Force, the D-Day Squadron, and other aviation organizations. He enjoys life with his supportive wife and three wonderful children.

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