Blenheim Festival of Flight 14 August

Flight International subeditor Simon Rees writes about his experiences at the recent Blenheim Festival of Flight:



Despite the dicey weather, Blenheim Palace was the place to be for fans of classic aircraft and air displays last weekend. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ending of Second World War, the palace and Flight Festivals had put on a big 1940s bash. The slogan for the event was ‘Chocks away! For a rip roaring day’, and it certainly was.




Arriving at noon after waiting in an interminable traffic jam, the weather cleared up just enough for the sun to poke through


 the clouds. Attendance was large and there was definitely a buzz of excitement about the forthcoming display.


Peppering the crowds were re-enactors dressed as soldiers, sailors, airmen, wives in their Sunday best and 40s glamour girls. Even Laurel and Hardy could be seen tootling along in their old banger of a car. Before the flying got underway we went to register at the press tent next to the bandstand. We had arrived as Swing Dance lessons were being given, which my girlfriend, Maria, tried hard to force me into. There was no way with my two left feet and my sense of timing that I was going to get up and have a go. I wriggled out of it by saying my new shoes were hurting.



I was also saved by the bell, as it were, because the flying display had begun in earnest. Kicking off the proceedings was a First World War re-enactment. Being so old, these birds flew more straight and level than up, down and around. I shall have to ask Uncle Roger if that was the way they did things back then.


Sally B 2.jpg

I missed the next two aircraft because I was waiting in line to get two beers, but I was back in time to witness those two goddesses of the sky the Spitfire and the P-51 Mustang get put through their paces. Against the dark clouds in the distance and bathed in glorious sunlight, the silhouetted outlines of these two marvellous creatures were crystal clear.


Sally B the Flying Fortress was having technical delays and was moved down the agenda, so we were treated to some more Spitfire manoeuvres, which didn’t matter a jot as this aircraft is such a joy to watch.


Next up came the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight of a Hurricane, a Lancaster and a Spitfire. It was an amazing sight and one that I’ll always remember. The crowd burst into spontaneous applause on at least three occasions. Over the speakers came patriotic music and voices of those who had experienced the war.


Sally B did eventually arrive and again it was a magnificent sight. It seems so ridiculous that EU regulations almost grounded this grand old dame.


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There were many other wonderful displays put on that day, including an excellent parachute drop, but stealing the show were the Red Arrows. As always their manoeuvres, tricks and stunts – done in time to some gung-ho, testosterone-fuelled rock n’ roll – were spot on and wowed the onlookers. The red, white and blue smoke that they released hung over the palace grounds long after they had departed.


Before I left I could not resist clambering into the cockpit of the static Spitfire. I was surprised both at the complexity of the machine and by its simplicity. The target, for example, was simply a metal stick stuck into a metal hoop.


Maria and I finished the day back at the bandstand, first listening to a Vera Lynn impersonator, who wasn’t my cup of tea, and then the brilliant John Miller (nephew of the late great Glenn) band. It was a fantastic end to a fantastic day.


(Sally B and Red Arrrows photos by Aviation Photographs International)

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