October 5th, 2008


Lovely Weather for Duxford

Evidently, getting up at 7 yesterday wasn't enough for a weekend, so I got up slightly earlier today, to make my way to Finchley Road, to meet up with the Photo Club to get a minibus to Duxford for an air display.

For those not in the vicinity, here was this morning's weather forecast for Duxford:

Sodding Wet

However, as I'd already paid transport and entry, I figured I'd go anyway, but grabbed my kayaking gloves on the way out. Good choice.

The trip up was a fairly reasonable 90 minutes (from Finchley, another 70 from here), and pretty drizzly. And it turns out that the "Mess Cafe" at Duxford does a pretty good fry-up, so we started the day with that. However, with a cloud ceiling persistently lurking at around 500 feet, odds on seeing anything fly were mixed.

Duxford fortunately has a ton of indoor displays; 3 large display halls and 2 open conservation hangars; the Imperial War Museum keeps all the vehicles and aircraft that it can't fit in London there. I only managed to see about half of them, because they managed to start getting aircraft up. We were summoned out of one hangar by the sound of propellers; we headed out the door to see a Catalina seaplane flying over us.

Suitable comments were made as to the weather and what was getting airborne. Was the runway really that wet? (No, Catalinas have retractable wheels).

Nothing else flew for a while, so we headed back into hangars, but were summoned back out by Tannoy in time to see (and hear) an F16 blast by overhead. It flew back and forth a couple of times then buggered off back to Cambridge Airport. The weather then start to get windier and colder (to the point of Sodding Freezing, colder than forecast), but the cloud ceiling started to climb, and a number of aircraft followed it. These included a pair of Lynxes of the Royal Navy's display team, the Patrouille Francaise (the French Air Force's Alphajet display team) which flew past from Cambridge in diamond formation training tri-coloured smoke, then flew back the other way in arrow formation training tri-coloured smoke, and were never seen again, a Hawk, Tucano, Spitfire, Hurricane, Hawk 75, P51 Mustang, Extra 300, Air Cobra, and a 1930s passenger biplane I can't currently remember the name of (Empire Deluxe or some such?). And my old friend the Chipmunk, for which I had something of a nostalgic feeling, as I've actually piloted them a couple of times. To everyone else, however, the dullest thing in the show.

Then the Rafale / Eurofighter / Tycoon (whatever it's called today) showed up, and started cheating the hell out of the laws of physics. Supersonic jetfighters are not supposed to be able to (apparently) hover on their tail thrust. I had to put down my camera to pick up my dropped jaw at that point, and by the sound of it I wasn't alone. Actually, it can't quite hover, but it can move forward incredibly slowly at a 60° angle of attack, and that looks like hovering when you're in front of it. What it can do though is corner like you wouldn't believe; it basically flew in a rectangle for a while (everything else had to basically fly round and back again, this thing just turned on its side and popped its nose up, often resulting in a vapour cloud and god knows what G-forces. This was, of course, its flat display (ceiling was probably still only 1200 feet) but it was still stunning.

After the show closed off with the second world war fighters, there was just time to grab a much-needed tea and chocolate crepe before climbing back into the bus to try and defrost.

Lightroom has just told me it's finished importing 825 images (5.45GB) from today. I should probably see if any of them are any good. Photographic conditions were... challenging.

ETA: Uploaded the top 10%ish, as often seems to be the way. Pictures here