To judge an air show there are many different aspects to consider. Of course, it should be entertaining and for most that may be good enough but for the seasoned air show supporter the technical standard of the acts may be more important. A "line abreast" formation for example may not be as exciting as the "avalanche" in a solo act but technically, this is far more difficult to perform and to some it will be more entertaining. The aircraft used in an air show could also be an important component but even more so is the range of aircraft used during the event. Have you ever been to an air show where there are 15 to 30 minute breaks between acts? Even worse, the program says your favourite act is still 40 minutes away but it starts just as you reach the front of the queue of the roosterkoek stand.
A good air show should score well in all of these categories and based on the scores I gave the "Battle of Britain" air show at Duxford on the 22nd of September 2018, this is the best air show I have ever attended. We saw aircraft ranging from WWI through to today's fourth generation fighters. Every single act was spotless and to an extremely high standard. The program was not divided in to 15 minute slots as we usually see, it was broken down to the exact amount of minutes the act needed. Even the 7 minute buffer required before the Red Arrows started their display was on the program to confirm why there was no activity for this short period and of course, it was exactly on time. But man, the weather was rubbish!!
This air show opened with a Tiger Moth formation in celebration of the RAF centenary this year. In extremely challenging conditions and with aircraft known for marginal performance, this formation was a pleasant surprise.
As scheduled for 12:57 to 13:05, a Typhoon arrived exactly on time to for its 8 minute display to start the finale of the RAF Centenary celebrations this year.
A Bristol Fighter and Gloster Gladiator owned the skies for the next 16 minutes as some of the first aircraft to serve in the RAF.
Referred to as the Blenheim Flight, a Bristol Blenheim MK1 and 6 Hawker Hurricanes gave us a feeling of what Duxford looked and felt like 80 years ago. At the outbreak of WWII, the RAF had more Bristol Blenheim's (over 1000) than any other aircraft type and bore the brunt of the early daytime bombing operations.
Early jet trainers of the RAF such as the Jet Provost and the Vampire were also featured. I know that my friend Brian Stableford (the General) used to fly the Jet Provost during his service here in Britain. So Brian: I missed you today!!
Post-war and pre-war trainers played a remarkable role in the RAF's evolution and it was a privilege to once again see a Blackburn B2, Tiger Moth, Avro Tutor, Magister, Bulldog, Provost and others back in the air.
Even the Russian front was represented with 4 Buchons and 2 Yak 9s. The Yak 9 (sometimes referred to as Russian Spitfires) is one of my favourites; it's just a pity they remained too far away for a good photo. Hopefully I will get one next time.
We have seen the "Battle of Britain Memorial Flight" at most British air shows this year but this time the Lancaster passed the first time with a Spitfire and Hurricane and to my astonishment it had a Tornado and F-35 Lighting II flanking it on the second pass.
The sound produced by the Rolls-Royce Kestrel engines in the Hawker Nimrod really draws attention. It is essentially a naval version of the Hawker Fury and flew for the first time in 1930 already. A Hawker Fury Mk1, Nimrod Mk1 and a Nimrod II shared the slot between 15:29 and 15:39.
As part of the American front, we saw 2 Mustangs and a B-17 Flying Fortress.
Although the Catalina was an American designed and built aircraft, its first combat experience was in British hands. It was therefore appropriately displayed during the show and also parked on the apron for close inspection by the public.
Transport aircraft of the RAF graced the sky together with a Rapide, Anson, Pembroke and Devon in formation.
The lead formation of the RAF Voyager and Typhoon aircraft which participated previously in the American Exercise Red Flag gave us a brief view just before the Red Arrows arrived.
I am a sucker for an aircraft formation and I have seen many around the world but every time I see the Red Arrows, they leave me speechless. They may not be as noisy as the Thunderbirds with their F-16s or the Blue Angels with F-18s but their technical ability in a nine-ship formation is yet to be surpassed.
And then it was the "Hommage" (a French term defining respect to leaders and heroes) with 19 Spitfires flying over our heads. Taking photographs of large formations is not an easy task, especially in such poor conditions so this short video recorded with my telephone may give you some idea.