Friday morning dawned cloudy but without rain, and many of us had a chance to see a bit of downtown Inverness from our base at the Mercure Hotel. Promptly at 10:00 AM the rain started and by the time we reached to airport at 12:30 local time the rain was light and steady, much like it was when we arrived. In addition to flight-related airport duties, we filled our two 1-gal coffee containers as we always did and were soon loaded and off for a 2 1/2 hour flight to Duxford at 13:00. Because of the weather and cloud layer we filed an instrument flight plan with a couple of waypoints and flew at 10,000 feet most of the way.
Our mood in the cabin was decidedly mixed. On the one hand we were coming to Duxford as our penultimate destination prior to our final flight to Normandy, and all of our long over-water flight segments were now behind us. On the other hand our long-anticipated flight was nearing an end, so our moods were conflicted. This state of mixed feelings was aggravated by pathetic coffee! We’ll never know how many pounds of coffee the airport used in making our two gallons, but it was as thick as molasses strong enough to remove paint....not much was drunk as you might imagine.
As we approached Duxford and we descended, the green English countryside was a welcoming sight. We landed with ease at about 4:30 and taxied to a white line on the grass part of the field to join a line of the other DC-3’s and C-47’s already there...quite a sight. The airport was literally abuzz with Tiger Moths (a 1930’s era biplane) taking paid passengers up for 15-minute flights ($170), a P-40 making a low pass at speeds near 300 mph and looping high overhead in the bright sky, and a Spitfire roaring off with a passenger for a 30-minute flight ($2500) every hour.
We were greeted at the airport by Bill Hall’s friend, Steele Haughton and his friends, Sue and Richard. Steel will replace Bill on the flight to Normandy so that Bill can make his way by train (Chunnel) to prior commitments in Normandy. Paul Bazeley’s lovely mother, living nearby, also greeted us, smiling in delight at Paul’s many accomplishments in outfitting the plane and his numerous roles in making this Normandy-bound flight possible.
We all had time that afternoon to roam the many historical sites and air museums at Duxford, one of many air bases in WWII Britain. Bob Irvine (USAF Ret.) from our group was invaluable adding commentary about planes in the American air museum: he has 1100 hours flying a B-52, 1500 hours flying the F-15, and even crew training on the SR-71 Blackbird. Wow!
Because of hotel accommodation issues we had to split our crew into two groups: one off to Cambridge and one in Anstey Hall in nearby Trumpington. We all reconvened for dinner at the Trumpington Green Man restaurant, after a snafu with Steele, Sue and Richard, waiting for us at the Green Man in Grantchester....two Green Man’s nearby, who would have guessed? A nice dinner for all with Champagne toasts for the trip and arrival without issue to Duxford!
Contributed by Gordon Hoffman