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A Grand Day Out!

Mick Britton reports on another American Air Day at IWM Duxford

22-Aug-2011

Held at Duxford on the third Friday of August, the American Air Day once again confirmed its growing reputation as an entertaining and affordable day out for both families and aviation enthusiasts, evidenced by the queue of traffic on the north bound exit from the M11 early in the day.

Whilst this is undoubtedly the best venue to interact (or catch up) with the UK-based elements of the US Third Air Force, its representatives were noticeably thinner on the ground and in the air than in previous years, which is undoubtedly a reflection of its increasing commitments in the world’s trouble spots. The RAF Lakenheath representation was especially sparse, with only the 56th Rescue Squadron making an appearance, albeit minus any of its HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, which are mostly all deployed, as is the 494th ‘Panthers’ Fighter Squadron and its F-15Es.

At least there were three flypasts by pairs of Lakenheath F-15 Eagles during the day, two of which were courtesy of the 492nd ‘Bowlers’ FS and the other by F-15Cs from the 493rd FS so at least the punters got to see both variants of the type. RAF Mildenhall’s contribution was a fly-by by a KC-135R of the 100th Air Refueling Wing plus an MC-130 ‘Combat Talon’ Hercules, which flew straight in and disgorged its cargo for a motorcycle and quad bike event before taxiing into the static and opening up for tours.

Disappointingly there was no formation flypast by the KC135 in formation with F-15s this year, which has been the best photo opportunity of previous events, nor did the Spangdahlem A-10s deployed to RAF Lakenheath put in an appearance. However in between the fly-bys the crowd was richly entertained by displays of American aircraft of an earlier vintage, including the Boeing Stearman, North American Harvard, Beech Staggerwing and Consolidated Catalina. The impressive display by the Harvard Team in particular went a long way to compensating for the absence of the more popular Duxford warbirds such as the B-17G and P-51D Mustang. Also, as this was the eve of a big air show weekend with events at both Bournemouth and Shoreham on the south coast, Duxford was particularly busy with based aircraft either practicing or departing for those venues. Thus the crowd was treated to several displays by the Historic Aircraft Collection Spitfire IX as well as a flypast by a departing pair of T-28s. One left feeling well satisfied with an event that provides excellent value for money.

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