Elliott Marsh's 2011 blogGAR Entries

SEP 19 2011
blogGAR: A Spitfire Summer at Duxford

2011 was the year where the Goodwood Revival unfortunately priced me out of attendance. I'd love to have gone, really, but the very high level ticket prices for both days and two nights' accommodation would have left a dent in my bank balance that, following many airshow weekenders and five days in Germany, I really couldn't afford.

I was kicking myself on Friday when word came through that ARC's quite spectacular Spitfire Mk1 P9374 was one of the dozen or so Spitfires gathered to celebrate the type's 75th anniversary and, even more disappointingly for me, it had been participating in the Revival's flying display slots in the hands of John Romain.

While it was too late to book a last minute ticket (the Revival sold out on Saturday and Sunday, and a desperation call to the ticket office on Friday afternoon yielded nothing), I still had one option of seeing at least a handful of the Spitfires in attendance. Knowing from the published slot times that the Spitfires were due to depart in the early evening en masse, there was only one place (besides Goodwood...) to be: Duxford.

Six of Duxford's resident Spitfires were due back from the Revival, and with a surprisingly decent forecast, I thought it would at least be worth a punt, if only for the Mk1. Arriving at Duxford mid-afternoon, I found the airfield playing host to dozens of buses for Show Bus 2011 and unfortunately, the 'Area 51' end had also been roped off to accommodate the beginnings of the Helitech tents. This restricted the viewing areas somewhat, but it did mean I was almost forced into a good position to see the Spitfires being towed back in to their respective hangars once they'd recovered.

It was an anxious wait until about 5.50pm - with the ever-present shadow of IWM staff looming as the clock counted down to the 6pm witching hour - but thankfully, with minutes to spare, a quartet of Spitfires appeared out of the West, flying a wide circuit against a dramatic backdrop of towering cloudscapes. The evocative sight and sound of multiple Spitfires returning to Duxford, with the dying embers of summer bathing the classic landscape in gorgeous golden light, never fails to tingle the spine.

Leading the four-ship, Paul Bonhomme in The Fighter Collection's MkXIV. On his wing, Steve Jones in the Old Flying Machine Company's MkIX, Charlie Brown in the Historic Aircraft Collection's MkV and Pete Kynsey in TFC's MkV.

Following their break to land and shut-down, John Romain arrived in the sublime Mk1 alongside Cliff Spink in ARC's TIX. The Mk1 really is a stunning piece of aviation artwork and I await with anticipation the first time I see this most beautiful of Spitfires flying a solo display.

All too soon, the Spitfires had landed and shut down. The light remained epic just in time for the aircraft to each be towed back into their hangars and thankfully, even though 6pm had long since been and gone, the IWM staff exercised their discretion in allowing the few remaining enthusiasts the opportunity to stay on the airfield after closing time to photograph the Spitfires being tucked away. We were all very thankful, I assure you.

It may have only been a gaggle of aircraft arriving and landing, but given the perfect evening conditions and the irrepressible purity and beauty of the aircraft itself, it's hard to feel anything other than warm and fuzzy having played witness to it all!

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2012-01-01 - Kallie van der Merwe
Dear Elliot. Thank you so very much for a marvelous article and brilliant photos. I suspect you may have had the better deal after all! I found your article especially refreshing, not having been able to attend the Goodwood Revival as, from South Africa, the expenses are even more taxing, haha! I am writing a short story involving a Mk II and have done a bit of reading up, to the point of now being able at least to distinguish on looks between the MK I and II's and the Griffin-engined models. Your photo's emphasized this. Thank you again and I wish you many more extraordinary experiences of this kind.
1 January 2012

best wishes.


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