2nd Duxford Visit since last year...

 Some images from my visit today....

The unexpected arrival of G-SHWN "Warhorse" was timed well as I was just off to grab my lunch from the car - hadn't seen this aircraft in the 'flesh' since her new scheme was applied last year...


Biggin Hill's Heaven Hangar

I spent a good part of today on a very enjoyable visit to Biggin Hill Heaven Heritage Hangar. Quite busy with SSAC flights in Hurricane T.IIB BE505 "Pegs" & Spitfire T9 MJ627

The 'Star & Bar' Spitfire LF MkXVIE RW382 took off as I arrived, returning a while later.

Spitfire T9 MJ772 was also on the ramp.

Desert scheme MkIX LZ842 was in and out of the hangar for fuel before weighing. 

BHHH is a very busy operation with some interesting aircraft on view and lots more in the 'pipeline'.
Many thanks to BHHH and Greg Davis for arranging my visit.

Image TSSP
Image: Two-Seat Spitfire Page



How about a 'patch'?....

Crayons out this morning over a mug of steaming Joe ☕....



"Cadillac Of The Skies!!!"...

 For many years, to fly in an iconic WW2 warbird was something reserved for those with the right connections or deep pockets. Top of most wish lists would be the Spitfire (in the guise of the T9 two seat trainer) and probably the one that helped many achieve this dream was (and still is) the Grace Spitfire, ML407, by way of it’s Supporters Club at the time and now through Ultimate Warbird Flights at Sywell.

A more achievable warbird to get a ‘ride’ in was the North American P-51 Mustang, with many getting a chance to experience the “Cadillac Of The Skies” during Stateside holidays. Several Mustangs operate across the US and allow passenger flights at a reasonable price (with a favourable £$ exchange rate!) sometimes just as a passenger and some, like those at “Stallion 51” in Florida, are full dual control versions.

Until the recent regulation easing and the introduction of the Safety Standards Acknowledgement and Consent (SSAC) policy by the CAA the route to warbird flights wasn’t easy but the scene in the UK has now changed. 

Many people have fulfilled their dream and flown in one of the nine Spitfire T9 trainers operating in the UK. I have been fortunate to fly in both MJ627 and ML407 but there was still the desire to add a Mustang to my tally.

I have always had a soft spot for the Mustang - the birth (and development) of the P-51 Mustang is intertwined with British involvement - without the British need for more fighters, North American Aviation might not have been approached by the British Purchasing Commission to build the Curtiss P-40 fighter under licence but NAA thought they could design a better aircraft and so had the chance to design and build the P-51 in record time (102 days). 

The first operational Mustangs were in RAF service with 26 Sqn. With the British suggestion to replace the Allison with a Merlin, due to poor high altitude performance, the Mustang was transformed into the fighter legend it became.  

So, back in 2007, I watched a certain P-51D Mustang 44-84847 (a TF-51D to be precise) named “Miss Velma” cross the Atlantic as part of the Operation Bolero II mission to bring a P-38 Lightning “Glacier Girl” to the Flying Legends airshow at Duxford. Sadly the P-38 had to remain in the US due to technical issues but “Miss Velma” carried on. 

She landed in Wick as her first UK port of call and was fogged in for a couple of days at Wick Airport. I was brought up in Caithness and lived in Wick for a good part of my youth but never had anything as exotic as a Mustang visit!

Once the weather cleared “Miss Velma” made her way to Duxford and by a stroke of good luck she flew right over the top of my house on the final part of the trip on the 4th of July. I felt a bit like Jamie Graham in “Empire Of The Sun” as the Mustang passed overhead!

I was beginning to feel a link with this aircraft.

A few days later at Flying Legends I was in a group of members of the Airshowbuzz online community to meet up with Ed Shipley who flew “Miss Velma” over ‘the pond’ and we were granted closeup access to her out on the flight line pre show.

Since then I’d often catch “Miss Velma” during my lunch break saunters around the site and have probably more photos of this particular Mustang than any. 

Now repainted as “Contrary Mary” a P-51D of 78th FG, 84th FS which was based at Duxford, “Contrary Mary” is currently operated by Ultimate Warbird Flights at Sywell and is the only dual control Mustang operating in the UK at this time. 

Back in 2019 as I walked away from ML407 after my flight, I looked over at “Contrary Mary” sitting in the sunshine, and announced that would be my next trip.

So here we are…….

Today, I fulfilled the wish of flying in TF-51D “Contrary Mary”. Once again the weather was a factor in a possible cancellation but with no phone call from Sywell to say it’s off, we left home and an hour later we arrived at Sywell. The aerodrome is still closed to the public due to the Covid restrictions but UWF are still managing to fly Spitfire and Mustang flights. After a short wait we were ushered into the Blister for my kit issue and then out to the aircraft for the safety brief. 

My pilot, Jon Gowdy, answered any questions I had and soon it was time to strap on the ‘chute and get in. Easier to clamber into with the ‘chute on than ML407 and straight away the spaciousness of the rear cockpit became apparent when compared to the Spitfire T9.

Harness done up, bone-dome on and comms plugged in, Jon ran through his checklist and kept me informed of the various systems he was running through. Canopy rolled forward before long the Packard Merlin V-1650-7 roared into life.  A different beast to the Spitfire Merlin with pops and bangs but less of the spanners in a washing machine sound I recall from the Spitfire. Taxiing out with a backtrack along the runway, power run up and then it was lined up for take-off. Power on and we were off! The acceleration of the Mustang seemed faster than the Spitfire and we were off the ground and soon we were heading north to look for some less cloudy sky. 

Jon demonstrated the ‘feel’ of the aircraft with me following him with the rear stick, then it was my turn. Not quite the index finger and thumb tips on the spade grip of the Spitfire but more of a 'handful' of stick to change direction but that extra ‘force’ needed seemed to make it easier to fly. As I made turns left and right and slight changes in height to keep under the cloud-base, Jon mentioned the 'stability' of the aircraft in flight as one of the things that made them ideal for the long escort missions over occupied Europe, flying cover for hours with the bombers en route to Berlin. 

After a short time Jon regained control and we did some aerobatics - rolls, wingovers and loops and a half-cuban thrown into the mix. The view from that teardrop canopy was fabulous - with just the short depth of the rear instrument panel separating front and rear seats I could have probably tapped Jon on the head. The view forward was good too. Some more time flying “Mary” followed with turns and level flight and I was feeling more confident with my control inputs but before long Sywell came back into view and with Jon back in control we made a run and break to land. Flaps down a notch, gear down, RPM reduced and the rumble of the tyres on tarmac heralded our return to terra firma. 

Back to the hangar and the experience was over. But what an experience. After the Spitfire, the Mustang is as much of an icon, and I am glad I flew in her… 

Splash and dash...

 TF-51 getting topped up for my flight...


Not long now...

 Two weeks to go to my Mustang flight - fingers crossed for decent weather...

G-TFSI/TF-51D previously known as Miss Velma, now Contrary Mary and operated by Ultimate Warbird Flights at Sywell Aerodrome.