I had the opportunity to travel to Germany for business and planned a side excursion to London. My wife flew directly to England while I worked in Cologne and then we were going to meet up for five days of vacation. Well, things did not go as planned. Within 3 days of arriving in Germany I tested positive for COVID which torpedoed the series of work meetings (and saw three other colleagues fall to COVID). The result is I skipped over to London a couple days earlier than planned where I recovered from cold symptoms and fever but regained enough strength to be a tourist. I have long dreamed of visiting Imperial War Museum (IWM) Duxford so I took National Rail to Cambridge and taxi’ed to Duxford. The weather was windy but temperatures were amazing. Made for a wonderful time.
The Battle of Britain took place from 10 July – 31 October 1940. Duxford was a Sector Station which meant it was responsible for directing squadrons into battle. The RAF organized the defense of Britain into four geographical areas, called ‘Groups’, which were further divided into sectors. The main fighter airfield in each sector – the ‘Sector Station’ – was equipped with an operations room from which the fighters were directed into combat. Duxford was one such Sector Station.
For me, it was all about the Spitfire. My first RC warbird kit was the TopFlite Spitfire Mk IX with a YS .91 on it. It was heavy and became more of a brick as I broke and repaired it repeatedly. Eventually, negligence led to a tail-heavy scenario and I snapped her into the ground to end its life. I will own another Spit…giant scale this time.
Duxford did not disappoint. I saw around ten Spitfires (starting with the Mk.I), most of which where in flying condition. In fact there are approximately 70 flying Spitfires to this day. A total of 20,351 Spitfires were built and was the only British fighter aircraft to be in production before, during, and after the war; with the last Spitfire to roll off the line February 1948.
There were two active Spitfires on the ramp; including a two-seater giving rides…if you had the money. This was ride was not measured in hundreds-of-dollars as a 30-minute excursion would set you back 2,970 British pounds! That is $3,534 American! That is a lot of RC funds. No way I could justify that kind of spend. But, oh did I want to ride in that bird.
There is nothing as iconically American as the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. A product of the Skunkworks and the brainchild of Clarence “Kelly” Johnson; who also contributed to the designs of the U-2, P-38 Lightning, Constellation, F-80 Shooting Star, F-104 Starfighter, and F117A Nighthawk stealth fighter. Along with scores of other credits. The SR-71 just LOOKS fast sitting still. It remains an amazing piece of engineering.
If you scoot over to the Spirits YouTube channel you will see a few additional videos; including the interior of Concorde #3. Only a test bed for British Airways but considered to be the fastest of them all. It amazing how small the aircraft cabin is. I am less than 6′ tall but my head was skirting along the cabin roof.
Duxford had two large “hangars” housing British and American aircraft respectively. There were additional hangars housing personal aircraft and restoration projects. I snapped a lot of photos and hope you enjoy the amazing aircraft…