Plan B….or is it C part 3

By | 12/09/2021

Day 3 of our holiday and we are heading north of Southend for one of those places we just love to visit, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) Duxford. To be perfectly honest museum cast the wrong image of Duxford, when you mention museum you think old dusty relic that sit behind sheets of glass. But Duxford is different, lets start with the fact that there are 5 large hangers and 3 of those are second world war vintage and a the 6th hall dedicated to the land war. Planes still fly in and out of Duxford but many of those that do are second world war vintage. It has regular visit from planes from local airfields like Lakenheath and Milldenhall that do impromptu flybys (not quite Topgun style) but still damm good if it is a pair of A10 Warthogs low level flying across the airfield or a Chinnook helicopter doing a touch and go landing (drops in, puts rear wheel on the ground and then just take off and continues on to where ever it was going) like nothing had happened. On top of all of that you have planes stored there (you can not keep your spitfire on the drive can you?), planes being restored and planes in for repair.

Having said all that, you can not guarantee what extra’s you will see at Duxford, the planes that fly in or out or do a fly past those, those that are parked or in for repair, those are the extra’s. We have been to Duxford when nothing of note has flown in or out while we were there but I think it was fair to say that this visit was probably the best for extras and this was my 4th or 5th visit.

We had booked out tickets online so upon arrival it was a simple case of going to the ticket counter showed our acknowledgement and we were in. It worth pointing out that next to the ticket hall and shop is one of two cafe that is open on the airfield, the other is a long walk up the other end of the airfield in the USAF hanger (hanger 5). There is a bus service that runs between the hangers which anybody can use. We headed to to Hanger 1 and got our first surprise, the BBMF Lancaster, City of Lincoln was housed in one half of the hanger, apparently in for repair (and missed the Bournemouth Airshow). The other half of the hanger had Sunderland flying boat, another Lancaster, a Vulcan bomber and Concorde all on static display (although you could walk through Concorde) along with host of other smaller planes. The planes can be viewed from ground level and from a first flow walkway to look down on the planes and display area with lots of old films to watch.

The second Hanger which is one of the old original hanger, housed a variety of second world war aircraft, several under going restoration. The second extra of the day was a Catalina Flying boat which was in for repair on the apron at the far end of Hanger 2. There was no barrier around this plane so you were able to get up close and personal to the plane. As were were leaving later in the afternoon the Catalina had been towed out onto the airfield and was under going an engine test.

Half of hanger three housed the restoration of a Hadley Page Victor, if you are not sure what one of those are think of something that looked very similar to and same size as the Vulcan bomber.

Click this link to find out more about the restoration

More Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Messerschmidt 109 were also house in hanger three.

Now this is the only bad word I have for Duxford, there is normally a small cafe in one of the old airfiled out building between Hanger 3 and 4 but it was closed (probably Covid related). There are two carvans (think large chrome shiney things), one selling burgers and hot dog, one selling drinks, they are a rip off £8 for a burger and for that you got a bread roll one burger a square of processed cheese and some onions, nothing else very poor and very expensive. If we have known that the cafe in hanger 5 was open I would of willingly waited, you live and learn

Hanger 4 was something new that the IWM was trying, hanger 2 and 3 are like car parks except for planes, they are just parked in there not like displayed as they are in hanger 1 and 5 just planes stored and parked at Duxford. The IWM had laid out Hanger 4 as a display hanger, a crashed Messerschmidt 109, an early 1960 Bloodhound Missile, some old army vehicles

Hanger 5 is the newest Aircraft Hanger and is dedicated to the American Airforce and to that extend that it has a B52 Strata Fortress, SR71 Blackbird, Phantom jet, F15, A10 Worthog Cruise missile and launch trailer. In the hanger some of the planes are hung from the ceiling of the hanger, just like you did as a kid with your airfix model in your bedroom (well at least I did). Only difference being that instead of some of mums sewing cotton and a drawing pin, the aircraft are hung from the ceiling with large steel cables.

There is a first floor walkway which is accessed by a long ramp on either side of the hanger with the cafe and all about the men of the US Airforce plus being able to look down on the planes on the gorund floor and eye to cockpit and the planes suspended from the roof. I will point out that there is a large glass memorial outside at the rear of hanger 5 in tribute to the men of the US Airforce.

On this trip we never made it up to building 6 which is called the Land Warfare Hall, not because it is not very good, just simply there was more going on that you don’t normally see, the extra’s. So far I have mentioned the Lancaster and the Catalina Flying boat, well if you wanted you could of had a flight in a Tiger Moth Bi Plane, Chipmonk trainer aircraft, De Haviland Dragonfly passenger bi plane from the 1930 or if your pockets were deep enough a flight in a twin seat Spitfire. These were planes were take people out for a flight from before we got there and were still going 6 hrs later.

The Sally B, B25 Flying Fortress was also on the airfield, when we arrived, we saw them preparing it ready for flight we watched it taxi out and take off, about 90 minutes later we saw do a low level pass down the run way, bank away and come back into to land. When we arrived there was already a Spitfire parked on the airfield by the control tower, couple of hours later they wheel another Spitfire from Hanger 3 out to join the other Spitfire. About an hour later both Spitfire took off together, but strangely there engine sound never seemed to go away and they soon reappeared overflying the airfield where they then continue to put on a flying display for 30 minutes, I can not vouch that everybody was outside the hangers watching the two Spitfires but everywhere you looked people were just stood there watching and listening to the glorious sound of two Merlin powered Spitfire doing low level pass down the runway, it was an amazing sight. We later learnt that they were practising a flying display later in the September at Duxford. The Spitfire from Hanger 3 was pushed back to hanger three, and the other Spitfire flew out from Duxford. As we walked back to ward the gift shop the thud thud sound of a Chinook helicopter was heard, it flew down along the line off the runway stopped opposite the control tower, dropped its rear wheel onto the ground and then just took off to continue it journey to where ever it was going.

As I said earlier, these are the extra, you do not pay extra for, you just have to be in the right place at the right time. There is a second hand book shop with all kinds of military books, photo’s and poster for sale. Other places to visit on site are the War rooms, behind many of the hangers are smaller buildings, peering in the windows or open doors and you may catch a glimpse of other plane’s or parts there of under going restoration.

Click this link to find out more about the Imperial War Museum, Duxford
Catalina Flying boat having work done on its port engine (notice the engine cover open)