Our aim is very simple; we want to create a flying programme which features the greatest pilots and best aircraft possible, whilst always being accessible and entertaining to everyone, from aviation experts through to first time visitors.
We waited for ten long years to be able to bring a four engined bomber back to Old Buckenham. The predictable result was that the extraordinary “Sally B” completely stole the show in 2016 and again in 2017, as she does wherever she appears. Small wonder then that she played the lead role in a Hollywood Blockbuster; Sally’s stage name may be familiar to you: ‘Memphis Belle’.
It was particularly poignant to have a four engined bomber back at a place created for an American four engined bomb group. Whilst Old Buckenham was home to B-24’s, the B-17 would have been a familiar sight in the skies during the war. Only one four engined WWII US Bomber flies in Europe; the time, effort and money to keep a “Castle in the Sky” flying is a feat which anyone would find impossible.
Impossible is a word which is seemingly unfamiliar to Elly Sallingboe. For four decades Elly (for whom Sally is named) and her small team have managed to keep this icon flying. Keeping a 25 tonne, 4,800 horsepower, four engined, 287mph fortress in the air is impossible, yet Elly and her Duxford based team have kept Sally in the air and stealing the show for over 40 years.
We urge you to play a part in helping Elly and the team keep achieving the impossible and support the Sally B appeal. Go to sally.org.uk to find out more about Sally, Elly and an incredibly important piece of history, brought to life thanks to a woman for whom ‘impossible’ simply doesn’t exist.
We're very lucky we didn't have to wait another ten years. Sally B will appear for a record third consecutive time ON BOTH AIRSHOW DAYS
The Airshow would not be complete without MH434, arguably the most famous aircraft in existence. Built in 1943 this is one of very few Spitfires to have never been fully restored. She was test flown by an aviation legend, Alex Henshaw, and then became a legend herself with an extraordinary film career following a successful war record.
Perhaps most tellingly, this Mk 9 Spitfire was the personal favourite of her former owner, the late great Ray Hanna. The former Red Arrows leader's Old Flying Machine Company still operate MH434 from their Duxford base. Today the small roster of pilots who fly this icon boast careers as storied as those, like Hanna and Henshaw, who have been lucky enough to strap themselves into a truly unique war hero & film star. You might think that those who fly her today take it easy on the 70 year old. You'll therefore be astonished to see the very best pilots in aviation winding back the clock 70 years and putting her through her paces just as Henshaw did in 1943.
Matt's first ever display was at Old Buckenham in 2012. Back then he drew the admiration of seasoned display pilots with a display worthy of far more experienced aviators . Over the last few years he's become the talk of the airshow circuit, performing a thrilling routine in the extraordinary Vans RV8. This American machine is only available in kit form, meaning that G-PL was built at home and is maintained by Matt and his Father, Brian. Despite not being a factory machine, this all aluminium aircraft boasts capabilities that can only be beaten by far more expensive, carbon fibre models, built in a boring factory.
One of the remarkable things about Matt is his versatility. Shortly after touchdown in the RV8, he can immediately get into a 70 year old Bucker Jungmann and perform a totally different display, faultlessly.
This, then, is an opportunity to see a future legend of the airshow circuit at the start of his career. It all started at Old Buck.
Meet Nigel, probably the greatest multi tasker in the air. Not only can he fly just about anything; his party piece is rendering our splendid commentator, Ken, redundant. Not satisfied with 'just' completing a flawless execution of the most demanding aerobatic manouvres, Nigel will take the microphone (via radio) and talk you through what he's doing whilst he's upside down. His trademark phrase "and it's as simple as that" can usually be heard whilst he's falling backwards from several thousand feet. He's able to be this calm for two reasons; 1. he's really very good and 2. he flies a Yak 52.
When the Russian Air Force wanted to train pilots for its legendary Migs, it needed an incredibly capable aircraft to teach the art of aerobatics and high speed manoeuvres. The answer, in 1976, was the Yak (short for Yakovlev) 52. This exceptionally strong aircraft was so good, it's still in use today as a trainer for military and civilian pilots. 360hp, 223 mph top speed and 340 mile range make it a very capable machine for flying into short airfields, but its aerobatic abilities are the stuff of legend.
Jimmy Stewart and Walter Matthau would be very familiar with this All American icon. Hollywood’s elite were transported more often than not in Beechcraft’s masterpiece, the Staggerwing. Named for its unique configuration, with the upper wings further back than the lower set, the Staggerwing is one of the most advanced aircraft for its time ever made.
Boasting a set of performance figures which only a handful of modern single engined aircraft can match, the Staggerwing can take off from tiny grass landing strips, climb to 30,000 ft, fly at 200mph for a thousand miles and then land on another tiny grass strip.
Only 99 are still flying, just three of which are in the UK. This one, High Maintenance, has a very suitable name. Six fuel tanks are required to feed the absurdly powerful Pratt and Witney engine and you’ll hear the unmistakable sound of money being turned into noise as the Staggerwing powers down the runway. Not only does it sound good, it also looks good. Only one aircraft apart from the Spitfire is consistently voted the most beautiful of all time; the truly iconic Beechcraft Staggerwing.
Another aviation icon will be making a very welcome return to the Airshow, in the form of one of the most respected and experienced pilots there has ever been; Rod Dean.
21 years in the RAF saw Rod become an expert on an array of the most potent fighter and bomber jets. Since 1984 Rod has displayed just about every type of aircraft, including the Spitfire, Mustang and Hurricane.
He’s so good that he wrote an acclaimed book about his “Fifty years of Flying Fun” and along the way became a highly respected aviation journalist. Rod will be appearing on both days aboard a remarkable, British, Slingsby Firefly.
Still in use by air forces all over the world, this two seat training aircraft is as much at home touring as it is upside down as Rod uses all of it's 160hp to defy the laws of physics and show the (only slightly) younger display pilots what being the Grand Master of Aviation entails.
Last time he was here aboard a Bulldog, Adam Duffield of AeroResource wrote "The Bulldog's display, flown by Rod Dean, was superb, showing what can be done with a small light trainer aircraft on a display line." Expect more of the same; a few minutes of master class from an aviator who all other aviators look up to.
Very occasionally mankind gets something so right at the first attempt that it really can't be improved upon. Over the Airshow weekend you won't be able to miss aviation's finest example of this instant perfection. Should you need a clue, it's the only airliner you'll see on the ground at the Airshow and probably the most significant transport aircraft in history; the Douglas DC3.
The DC3 first flew in 1936 and hasn't stopped. It's the aircraft which started the airline industry and still flies passenger services every day. No other commercial aircraft, ever, has been in commercial service for 82 years. Today DC3's are moving animals, people and things all over the globe, usually using runways made of gravel, mud, ice and water. They started by saving the lives of troops in WWII and still save lives every day. The most remote communities on earth still rely on them to bring in medicine, food and water and evacuate the sick as the most versatile air ambulance there is.
Even after 81 years the end is not even remotely in sight. So versatile (and tough) is the airframe that every year DC 3's are restored and fitted with the latest technology, including the absurdly powerful Pratt and Whitney PT6 turbine engine. This enables the 7 tonne aircraft to land and takeoff in even shorter distances, challenging the laws of physics even more than the original version.
2,000 DC3's are still in use. For the first time since WWII a DC3 will come back to Old Buckenham. The last visit in 1945 evacuated casualties from the Front Line, a typical DC3 role. This visit will be far happier and take place with a third of the runway length available in the war. No other 12 tonne aircraft can do this. There is a famous quote that explains quite why, in it's 83rd year, the DC3 remains supreme; "the only replacement for a DC3 is another DC3"
Forget 'back by popular demand'; if we hadn't booked the Extra (flown by Chris Burkett) and the model (a 41% scale remote controlled replica, flown by Mike Williams from the ground) we'd have faced a backlash from the Airshow crowd.
Chris, an aerobatic master, will fly his cutting edge carbon fibre Extra aircraft through one of the most demanding sequence of aerobatic manoeuvres imaginable. This alone is a remarkable sight, made all the more extraordinary by the fact that he'll be chased around the sky by Mike piloting a 41% remote controlled scale model of the 'real' aircraft. Voted as the 'Airshow moment of the year' when first performed, both days will see the duo complete a truly unmissable airborne feat, guaranteed to be the talk of the Airshow crowd once again.
The Spitfire is the greatest WWII fighter of them all. If you are American, however, the Spitfire is a close second to this, the equally legendary P-51 Mustang.
The two aircraft share the same engine, the 21 litre Rolls Royce Merlin (in the Mustang this was built under licence by Packard). The Mustang, however, has two intercooled superchargers increasing power, just slightly, to an extraordinary maximum of 1,720hp.
Thanks to some clever extra fuel tanks, the aircraft can cover a larger range than the Spitfire and was able to escort bombers for greater distances.
This particular machine, 'the Shark' wears extremely distinctive and rare RAF markings. You'll hear it coming; P-51's produce a unique whine from their superchargers when being put through their paces, as the Shark will be on both days.
Airshow Saturday will see the return, for the first time in ten years, of a daredevil wing walker. Your eyes do not deceive; the wing walkers are a very rare breed ; they prefer to travel by air but dislike the 'boredom' of being stuck in the cockpit. So, unbelievably, they stand on the top wing instead.
From their lofty perch they have the space to stretch out, wave, dance, and do more or less whatever they want without being encumbered by a pesky seat.
As you may imagine, they really are a rare breed. The Aerobatic Tactics Team who you'll see are the ONLY people in the UK who do this and Sarah, who you'll see literally ON the Boeing Stearman (a WWII icon, modified for passengers who like to be on top of the World) is unique amongst the small band who make up the wing walkers; she's scared of heights.
Pictures: Andrew Scrutton.
Most people, when they think of a World War II fighter probably picture a Spitfire. In the Battle of Britain, however, more often than not those on the ground would have seen Hawker’s Hurricane in battle.
In fact the Hurricane is reponsible for 60% of the R.A.F.’s victories in battle. Today, flying Spitfires outnumber airworthy examples of the Hurricane and we’re very fortunate to have this one in the skies above Old Buck on both Airshow days.
It’s also got more in common that you think with the Spitfire; both have the Rolls Royce Merlin, with 27 litres and a mere
Saturday will see some airborne antics, guaranteed to be a winner with every member of the family, courtesy of the Turbulent Team. This four aircraft display team fly the remarkable and tiny Turbulent, a single seat low powered machine; the only aircraft type during the weekend to fly under a limbo.
The Turbulents seem to be happiest flying a few feet off the ground. In fact, they never go above 700 ft during a display. This is mainly because the optimum height for their favourite pastimes, such as balloon popping and flour bombing is rather close to the ground. They’ll also need to be close to the ground in order to get under the limbo. The approach that the incredibly skilled pilots of the four aircraft take mainly centres around fun. To neatly illustrate this point they describe themselves as flying “in the colours of the Early Learning Centre”
Two centenaries are being marked this weekend. 2018 marks 100 years since the founding of the R.A.F., and the end of the conflict which created it; the Great War.
The bravery and skill of the original military pilots will be brought back to life on Sunday with the return of the unique Great War Display Team.
100 year old aircraft are a very rare sight; usually the preserve of museums. At Old Buck, however, you’ll not only see a mix of Triplanes and Biplanes; but you also might see some century-old dogfighting if conditions allow.
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