Fitting finale to Imperial War Museum Duxford air show season

Autumn Air Show celebrates the 70th anniversary of the mighty Mustang
Autumn Air Show celebrates the 70th anniversary of the mighty Mustang

The Autumn Air Show on October 14 closes Imperial War Museum (IWM) Duxford’s air show season in relaxed styl

One of the highlights of the Autumn Air Show will be a display by P-51Mustang Ferocious Frankie alongside Spitfire IX from the Old Flying Machine Company, presenting the might of the Merlin engine in these legendary American and British fighter aircraft.

Also flying will be North American TF-51 Mustang Miss Velma from The Fighter Collection.

These thrilling displays commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the Merlin-engine Mustang, a pivotal moment in aviation history which was initiated by events at RAF Duxford.

During the World War II, the Air Fighting Development Unit (AFDU) was based at RAF Duxford. The AFDU provided technical intelligence to the RAF, developing operational tactics and testing captured enemy aircraft.

It was a phone call from Wing Commander Ian Campbell-Orde, Commanding Officer of the AFDU at RAF Duxford, to Ronnie Harker, Rolls-Royce service-liaison pilot, which started the sequence of events which would result in the matchless combination of the Mustang aircraft and the Rolls-Royce engine.

Harker was offered the opportunity to fly one of the new Allison-engine Mustangs that had recently arrived at RAF Duxford. He flew the aircraft on 30 April 1942 and was clearly impressed with its manoeuvrability, speed and agility. In his report, he commented: “The point that strikes me is that with a powerful and good engine like the Merlin 61, its performance should be outstanding, as it is 35mph faster than a Spitfire V at roughly the same power.”

A subsequent visit to RAF Duxford by Willoughby Lappin, Personal Assistant to E W Hives, director and general works manager at Rolls-Royce, ensured that the proposal was taken seriously and soon thereafter a meeting about the Mustang took place between Rolls-Royce and the Air Ministry.

After much backroom research, performance investigation testing and correspondence between Rolls- Royce, the American Embassy, North American Aviation (the aircraft manufacturer responsible for the Mustang) and the Air Ministry, the first aircraft was assigned for conversion. This, together with subsequent developments in the aircraft’s propeller and fuel injection, resulted in the definitive American long-range single-seat fighter and an enduringly iconic aircraft that continues to amaze spectators with its aerial dexterity.

IWM Duxford air show favourites displaying at the Autumn Air Show include the Black Cats Lynx Pair from 702 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton, the Apache helicopter from the Army Air Corps at RAF Wattisham, BAE Systems Hawk from 208 Squadron at RAF Valley, Shorts Tucano from the Central Flying School Flight at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, Beechcraft King Air from 45 Squadron at RAF Cranwell and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Douglas DC-3 Dakota.

Showcasing historic aircraft based at IWM Duxford, there will be displays by B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B, North American F-86 Sabre, two Spitfires, two Curtiss P-40 Warhawks and a Goodyear Corsair.

Call 01223 499353 or visit for tickets.

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (October 11) Echo.