A day out at Duxford Imperial War Museum

It’s the Battle of Britain Anniversary Airshow at Duxford Imperial War Museum in Cambridgeshire this weekend, commemorating the 75th anniversary of this pivotal WWII aerial battle. We can’t make it to the airshow itself, but Lee knows from experience that the pilots practise their displays at Duxford the day before, so we decided that today would be the perfect day to fly over for a trip that we’ve been planning to do for years but never got round to. Even better, a friend of Lee’s offered us the use of his aircraft for the day – a DR400 or ‘Robin’, which is faster than ours – so our first stop of the day was Croft Farm, where the Robin has been based for the last few months.

The weather was glorious, so we couldn’t have chosen a better day. This was the view on our flight into Croft Farm in the Dimona. The Malvern Hills looked a lot bigger in real life!

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We parked Gwenn the Dimona up in our usual spot, with a dramatic Malvern backdrop…

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…and transferred all our stuff to the Robin, which has just had a major engine overhaul and needed running in on a decent length of flight (hence why we got to take it to Duxford!). Lee used to fly this aircraft a lot (he used to aerotow gliders with it), so he’s very familiar with it; I’ve also flown it before, though it was long before I started training for my PPL.

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We needed to refuel before going to Duxford, so we went into Wellesbourne for that, as there’s nowhere to refuel at Croft Farm. It was nice to fly into the airfield where I did most of my training.

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We made it to Duxford just as a light shower of rain was falling over the airfield, which lead to the formation of a lovely rainbow on our wingtip. You can just see Duxford ‘over the rainbow’ in the background.

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We had to park on the south side of the airfield, the other side of the runway from the museum, presumably because there’s loads going on with setting up for the airshow tomorrow. We parked up and awaited a friendly airfield fireman to come and give us a lift to the other side.

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While we were waiting, there was time for a mandatory photo of me standing on the wing of the Robin!

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This is Memphis Belle, a very famous bomber and one of the first aircraft we saw as we made our way to the main visitor centre to pay our landing fee. The landing fee was £13.95, which included two hours in the museum for both of us. A bargain, I thought, as there was loads to see!

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After a spot of lunch (we’d brought our own), we started our exploration of the huge hangars that form the museum. They are MASSIVE and there are loads of interesting and important aircraft packed into them. Here’s a Vulcan just tucked away among all the others!

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And, next to a Lancaster Bomber, a Concorde! This is one of the early test prototypes, and apparently they regularly demonstrate the lowering of its nose, so it does still work to some extent.

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You can go inside, but this was the closest we could get to the cockpit!

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Mandatory ‘self-portrait’ of us with Concorde.

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Only with panoramic photos is it possible to get even close to conveying how huge and packed these hangars are.

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Mid-hangars, we couldn’t resist a Mr Whippy. It is, without a doubt, the best kind of ice cream.

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In another hangar, we found a Eurofighter Typhoon. This too is a test aircraft from before they went into production.

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Easy to miss is this fascinating 1940s Operations Room, which is where the Battle of Britain pilots from Duxford were directed into combat. It was very evocative, and actually quite emotional.

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After that it was time to head back to the Robin, as the skies were looking quite brooding.

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Just to round off a brilliant day, we watched these two Spitfires practise their display. We had the best view, as they were performing right over the top of where we were parked! You just can’t beat the sound of those Merlin engines. {click the play button to see/hear them}

And Lee found a good spot for taking photos…

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On the way home, I got to be ‘Pilot in Command’. Lee’s friend had said it was fine for him to check me out on the Robin, as I now have the right licence, so I did the whole flight home, which was great. I really enjoyed flying it and I even managed to do an excellent landing at Croft Farm, which isn’t the easiest of strips to get into!

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We tucked the Robin up in its pyjamas and made our way back to Gwenn, who was waiting to take us home in the lovely evening light.

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On the way back, we flew over Bredon Hill and admired its hillfort.

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We both agreed that it had been a splendid day, and there’s easily enough to see to occupy several more future visits, so we’ll be back!

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