I have heard a lot of comments within the airshow community about Duxford as a venue and it is a topic that seems to divide opinion and create debate. As the forecast was good for the second Bank Holiday running, I thought I would visit the Duxford Air Festival event to make up my own mind.
The last time I went to Imperial War Museum Duxford was as a child on a family day out. Having lived in the area for several years it was somewhere I always intended to revisit- especially with some of the new museum spaces, but never seemed to get around to. I visited without a car so had to travel light and carry everything I needed including food, drinks and seating. Camera-wise, my Sony A7iii and 16-35f/4 was included for the museums and my Nikon D850 with Tamron 100-400 f/4.5:6.3 would serve for the airshow itself.
The admission price was on the expensive side at £34 but given the standard entry to the museum on non-flying days is £17 that is only an extra £17 for an afternoon of flying. If you have been to the museum many times then obviously this is not as good value though.
So first off, thoughts on the museum? Top notch and a great way to introduce a younger audience to the world of aviation.
The 'Airspace' hangar is filled with a mixture of aircraft from the Spitfire to Concorde and you can get up close and personal to a lot of the exhibits (even inside of some). The 'American Air Museum' is another modern exhibition space focusing naturally on US-centric aircraft from WW2 to present day and filled to the brim with exhibits. Duxford is also made up of working hangars and other historic buildings that you would easily spend a few hours wandering around.
The flightline is a long one so there was still plenty of room despite the show just starting. The sun is in your face earlier in the day and this meant very challenging, harsh, back-lit conditions for photography. The first few acts needed a lot of post production in Lightroom to bring out any details in what would otherwise be silhouettes.
One of the stars of the show was on early, the French Rafale display which was fairly enjoyable but lacking the closer experience seen at RAF Fairford's Air Tattoo. The line-up comprised several aerobatic/team displays to suit the family theme of the show and I actually enjoyed these too as they 'filled the sky' better than the solo warbirds who appeared a bit distant at times. Photographic opportunities improved as the day wore on and the light moved around to the side but reach was still an issue with the 100-400mm lens and I needed all of the D850's high resolution to crop down to something useable and frame-filling. Highlights of the display included 8 Harvards flying in three elements as well as the Great War Display team who put on an entertaining show complete with pyrotechnics.
The French Airforce were also well represented by their two other teams, the aerobatic Extra display and the Patrouille de France display team who were attending their one and only UK show this year. I really enjoyed the PdF and although they were not the final act, it finished the show nicely for me.
Of the individual acts, I enjoyed seeing the Corsair being put through its paces as this was a first for me. Hopefully I'll get to see it again in the more intimate surroundings of Old Warden at some point. Something new on the scene was the Farner Werke Schlepp, gracefully swooping around the sky in an effortless manner.
For me the aspect of the airshow that was most enjoyable was the fact that the aircraft taxi right past the flightline which gives a unique chance to see, smell and feel these machines up close and alive. It's like doing a flightline walk in reverse!
The content of the show may not have excited some of the airshow purists but for the majority of the audience attending, it seemed to be a good mixture of acts combining to create a good family show with plenty of content. Throw in a world-class museum and some good weather and it made for a great day out, even without the most unique acts or best photographic opportunities.