2011 UK Airshows

AUG 05 2011
Airshows >> UK: Sally B & Friends Day, Duxford - Review

The new Sally B & Friends Day wasn’t billed as an airshow as such, more a special interest day in the same ilk as the annual American Air Day. The day had some interesting and unique flying displays lined up including the wonderfully rustic looking Aces High Douglas C-47 Skytrain, the Duke of Brabant Air Force’s Beech UC-43A Traveller and a total of three flights by Sally B herself, among many others.

On arrival at Duxford mid morning the queue outside the visitors centre was already beginning to snake, which was a good sign, and through the entrance there were plenty of people milling about among the mixture of traders’ stalls and re-enactors’ camps. The atmosphere was very relaxed, a thread that would run throughout the entire day.

The first things on the agenda were the talks held in front of Sally B. Ken Ellis chatted to both Training Captain Andrew Dixon about flying the B-17 and Chief Engineer Peter Brown on the maintenance of the bomber. This was a really special way to allow the public an insight into the life of the B-17 and questions were even opened to the crowd once the talk proper had come to a conclusion, which was good to see.

Soon after the talks I decided to take in some of the other ground attractions, such as the live music outside Wing Co Joe’s Cafe. First up was Room 21, a 16 piece swing style jazz band playing Glen Miller and the like. Another musical act taking to the stage during the day was The D-Day Dolls, a ‘40s trio based on the Andrews Sisters and giving an utterly charming performance. Clearly the gathered audience also agreed, with rapturous applause after every song. It was nice to be able to hear live 1940s music whilst the Tiger Moths and Dragon Rapides of Classic Wings came and went on the airfield, taking people on pleasure flights.

At 14:00 it was time for some flying! The displays were timetabled into three sections and the first saw Sally B kicking of proceedings to perform a routine titled ‘We’ll meet again’, seemingly in a more spirited style than I recall ever having seen her flown before. Soon enough she was joined by her ‘little friends’ - the OFMC pair – Spitfire Mk.IXB MH434 and P-51D Mustang Ferocious Frankie – which provided escort. The fighters then broke off, performing a few brief manoeuvres as a pair, before breaking into their solo routines. By this time the temperature was beginning to climb rapidly, and adding to the humid air and lack of air movement, it proved to be rather uncomfortable – still the rays helped to top up the airshow tan!

Providing a rare appearance and a display I had not seen before was The Classic Flying Machine Collection with its Fiat G.46. Thought to be one of only three flying worldwide this post war aircraft is painted in a wartime based mottled Italian desert camouflage scheme. It turns out it’s quite a nippy little aircraft and was shown round the sky rather nicely. Unfortunately the Dragon Rapides that were due to display never did.

It was soon time for some more flying. The SWIP Team Twister Duo of Pete Wells and Guy Westgate began its routine overhead as the US transport aircraft; Beech Staggerwing, Beech H-18, and Douglas C-47 began running up, along with Sally B. After the Twisters had cloaked the airfield in smoke and finished their piece the Traveller took to the sky, performing a mini solo display as the larger aircraft took off to form up for the formation. The C-47 took the grass runway, the largest aircraft I’ve seen operate from that surface at Duxford.

The three transport aircraft formed up together before joining up with Sally B. For the first pass the Traveller was struggling to keep up, but did eventually get into perfect position – with the Traveller and H-18 on Sally B's wings and the C-47 trailing in the slot position.

The formation then came arcing round the eastern end of the crowdline for a topside pass before manoeuvring into line astern in largest to smallest order – looking mightily impressive as they thundered through the heavy summer air. This surely was an unorthodox formation that, to my knowledge, has never been done before and kudos must go to the flight crews for this impressive feat of formation work - it can’t have been easy with the four different types together.

In the short gap before the next section of flying a worrying moment came when the undercarriage of one of the Classic Wings Harvards only retracted halfway after takeoff. After a flypast to get visual confirmation from the tower of the gear's position the pilot selected gear down, and thankfully both legs extended fully. After another fly through the pilot brought it in for an uneventful landing on the hard runway with the airfield crash tenders at the ready.

To begin the final section of flying silver schemed North American T-28 Fennec began taxiing out with John Romain at the helm, unfortunately not joined by the Radial Revelations machine as the programme billed. The Fennec is a type I had not seen Mr Romain flying before and I was not disappointed with the display as he showed all of the grunt and power off to good effect in the warm afternoon sun. In stark contrast to this snarling radial beast Mark Jeffries performed his unlimited aerobatics routine in his Extra 330SC.

Closing the show was, of course, Sally B, on her third flight of the day. We were treated to the unique formation of the Twisters of the SWIP Team joining the bomber on each wing, looking absolutely tiny in comparison to the B-17! Sally B then gave a solo display to close the show.

After the flying had come to an end Charlie Brown returned to Duxford in the Historic Aircraft Collection’s (HAC) Spitfire Mk.Vb after a busy day down in Kent flying with Go Action Stations, where Elliott Marsh enjoyed the sight and sound of the Spitfire flying over Capel Le Ferne. Much like the Flying Legends' arrival days, the life jacket Charlie was wearing due to operations over the Channel really did add that little extra authentic touch…I wonder if he bagged any Jerries!?

Nestled inbetween the typically hectic early July and August airshow periods it’s nice to have a smaller more relaxed event such as the Sally B & friends Day. For the first of its kind it attracted some interesting participants coming together for some unique formations and, despite a few displays being cancelled, it was still a fantastic day's flying to enjoy. If this is just the beginning, I for one can’t wait to see how the show will flourish in years to come.

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2011-08-10 -

Can I use your write up for Sally B News out in october please?

Glad you liked the day, it was hard work, but from all comments, worth the while. Kind regards

Elly Sallingboe

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