Duxford Autumn Show 2009
Words and photography Mike Freer, additional photography Stuart Freer
What a fitting way to conclude the UK’s air show season than a day spent at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, at their end of season Autumn Air Show on October 11th. On show were a wide range of aircraft dating from the Second World War to the present day and covering a whole range of types from a motor-glider to today’s current combat types.
The Autumn Air Show witnessed the swan song flights by two leading display pilots. Squadron Leader Al Pinner MBE concluded his seventh and final season with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and his fourth season as Officer Commanding and Flight Leader. What better way to bow out than to fly the recently overhauled Supermarine Spitfire IIa P7350. Having recently been overhauled and re-painted by Duxford based Aircraft Restoration Company; she is now in the markings of 92 Squadron.
In addition, Flight Lieutenant Matt Barker concluded his tenure as display pilot for the BAE Systems Hawk, with a fine display in an aircraft of 208(R) Squadron. Both Spitfire and Hawk flew in formation as a tribute to both old and new technology.
This year’s Autumn Air Show was a tribute to the role played by female pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) during the Second World War. To commemorate this outstanding service, the first simultaneous flight by female Spitfire and Hurricane pilots since 1945 was made by Carolyn Grace and Anna Walker – Carolyn flying in her Supermarine Spitfire TR Mk9 ML407 and Anna in Hawker Hurricane XIIa Z5140 of the Historic Aircraft Collection.
Guests of Honour were Mrs Freydis Sharland and Mrs Molly Rose, veteran ATA First Officers who were given a flight in de Havilland Rapide G-AGJG owned by D & M Miller before the show. This aircraft also flew as a salute to the ATA along with Avro Anson T21 WD413 of the Classic Flight Club.
Because of a shortage of male pilots to ferry aircraft around the UK during the war, the decision was made to use female pilots. A total of 168 female pilots served with the ATA flying 140 different types of aircraft.To avoid enemy interception, ATA pilots were not allowed to fly on instruments or radio communication and were ordered to remain “in sight of the ground and clear of cloud”. Having to fly in all weather conditions and to avoid barrage balloons and being shot down by their own side, called for the highest flying skills. It was a perilous mission that demanded nerves of steel and, sadly, 14 female pilots lost their lives including the illustrious Amy Johnson.