By Nigel Hitchman

This past weekend, the Imperial War Museum hosted the first of three “Duxford Flying Days” of the 2024 airshow season.  Naturally, the show featured locally based warbirds, with a surprise visitor.

Before the show started, which had a “VE Day” theme, spectators were treated to a surprise visitor in the form of Air Leasing/Fighter Aviation Engineering’s newly imported Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-21 Mk.21 Mustang A68-110 (G-JERK), which is painted to represent P-51D USAAF #44-415152 QI*T JERSEY JERK, flown by Maj. Donald J. Strait, commanding officer of the 361st Fighter Squadron/356th Fighter Group based Martlesham Heath Air Force Station 369.

The fighter had made its first flight in the UK earlier in the day at Sywell with Cameron Smith at the controls and arrived at Duxford on its second flight, Richard Grace was in the back seat.  Though it was not part of the display and departed before the end of the day, JERSEY JERK was an incredibly thrilling and unexpected sight to behold.

The display itself started with an interesting duo of the PBY-5 Catalina G-PBYA and the Fighter Collection’s Hawker Nimrod 1 G-BWWK/S1581.  They were in a nice close formation while practicing behind the display area, but for the display the Nimrod just followed the Catalina for the first pass and then the two split up.

Next up was Fighter Aviation Engineering’s Hawker Fury II G-CBEL together with The Fighter Collection’s Eastern Aircraft FM-2 Wildcat G-RUMW/JV579 which did one formation pass together and then performed individual displays. Followed that fighter duo was George Haye flying his USAAF painted Spitfire LF.XVIe G-PBIX/RW382 doing a nice display making good use of the curve around the M11 end of the display line.

Isabel Rutland gave a very nice display in her Norduyn Harvard IIB G-BTXI/FE695, only her second public warbird display I was told.  We look forward to seeing her displaying her recently acquired P-51D Mustang G-MRLL Marinell in the future. Following all of that heavy iron was Tom Harris’s de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver together with G-AOSY/WB585 DHC-1 Chipmunk doing a nice formation display.

Probably the best display was Stu Goldspink in Fighter Aviation Engineering’s Spitfire FR.XIV G-SPIT/MV293 making its first public display in its new SE Asia colours scheme applied during rebuild at Air Leasing last year.

The final display was probably the most famous warbird of them all, Fighter Aviation Engineering’s Lockheed 12A G-AFTL, the Lockheed Electra that Sydney Cotton flew on his clandestine missions over Germany just before the start of World War II.

Not all of the excitement was in the air.  There were several interesting aircraft found in the field’s hangars.  They included Fighter Aviation Engineering’s Hawker Tempest G-TEMT/PR533 which is currently awaiting some engine accessories away for work and then hopefully it can resume test flying and start display flying.

Comanche fighters Spitfire Mk.IX ML417 (N2TF), which was restored by ARCo over the last couple of years.  This aircraft is unique in that it was converted back from a two-seater by PPS in the 1980s for Stephen Grey, something that wouldn’t happen today.

G-BIRW Morane Saulnier MS505 which was recently acquired by Propshop/ARCo from the Royal Scottish Museum where it’s been since 1983, before that it was owned by Graham Warner, the founder of the company. Going full circle and still currently wearing the Luftwaffe colours it had when previously owned by Graham.  They are now just starting restoration.

The remaining “Flying Days” will be “The Americans” on July 26 and “19 Squadron” on August 31, 2024.