Duxford American Air Day 2009 Title Image

Duxford American Air Day 2009 Review

Friday 21st August

The third annual American Air Day was held at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford on Friday August 21st. The event is aimed at families of US service personnel based in the UK. The day also allows the USAFE units based in the UK the chance to engage with the general public. The day offered a glimpse of front line aircraft from the USAFE units based in this country as well as chance to see some of the less well known support units, classic American aircraft and much more.

Stuart Norris reports for UK Airshow Review, with additional photography by Trev Collins.

On arrival at Duxford I was greeted with a friendly smile from a US service woman - a good start to the day! The Great British public have always had a certain fascination with all things American and the queue to get in to Duxford suggested that this is still the case.

The first flying of the day saw Master Sergeant John Carter taken for a flight in the back of two seat Spitfire PV202. American forces, like our own, are heavily committed to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 5,125 American soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice. There have also been countless acts of individual bravery and heroism.

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Master Sergeant Carter was recently selected as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2009 for acts of bravery in Iraq. In addition to this he recently met US vice president Joe Biden. An eventful few months for Sgt Carter culminated with his flight in the Spitfire. The smile from ear to ear on his face when the Spitfire taxied in at the end of his flight said it all.

There was plenty on the ground to keep you occupied between the flypasts. As well as the usual Duxford exhibits there were military working dog demonstrations, which proved very popular, a bird of prey demonstration, security forces display, a weather display and a munitions display. There was also the chance to meet Col. Rich Graham (Retired), a former pilot of the Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird", in the American Air Museum.

Classic American cars and motorbikes had also gathered for the event and USAFE's own rock band, Touch 'n' Go played sets throughout the day.

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Back to the flying and the first USAFE aircraft of the day to appear was the MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 352nd Special Operations Group. Two parachutists jumped from the aircraft before it landed and taxied in for static display.

The next flying demonstration was a combat search and rescue scenario. A HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 56th Rescue Squadron arrived at the airfield to rescue a downed pilot. A pair of F-15E Strike Eagles from the 492nd Fighter Squadron acted as fighter cover. They made two passes of the airfield demonstrating attack tactics used in combat. Being critical, the passes were too high and too far from the crowd and could have used more power to add a bit of noise to the scenario. That coupled with the weather - it had become a typical British summers day at this point, with blustery winds ,rain and even a bit of hail thrown into the mix - made it very difficult to photograph the Strike Eagles.

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Troops then abseiled out of the Pave Hawk to rescue the 'downed pilot' and then winched him to safety. With the pilot recovered the Pave Hawk took its place on static display, offering a rare chance to view this helicopter at close quarters. Fortunately the weather at this stage didn't dampen the crowd's enthusiasm. The rain and hail quickly blew through, giving way to blue skies and sunshine.

The third USAFE flypast of the day saw four F-15E's, again from the 492nd Fighter Squadron, fly in formation with a KC-135R Stratotanker from the 351st Aerial Refueling Squadron. The KC-135 also made a couple of solo passes with the boom down.

It was then time for the classic American aircraft to take to the skies. A Piper Cub and then a Stearman put on spirited displays, followed by P-51D Mustang 'Ferocious Frankie'. Alistair Kay was at the controls and he put on his usual superb routine. The Mustang formated on the wing of B-17G 'Sally B' for a single pass before landing, allowing 'Sally B' to make her solo display. Mark Linney finished this section of flying with a fine display in the resident F-86A Sabre.

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There was a chance for a final look around before the Combat Shadow and Pave Hawk departed. They made a single formation fly past before heading back to their respective bases. Touch 'n' Go brought the day to a close with their final set.

In conclusion the American Air Day was a good day out. There were plenty of attractions on the ground, as well as in the air, to keep everyone occupied for the entire day. This year's event attracted over 6,000 visitors, making it by far the best-attended American Air Day to date.