‘Sally B and Friends’ at the Imperial War Museum’s Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire on July 31st, 2011, was a thunderous success. There was the thunder of heavy piston engines, with several unique formations flying by (B-17, DC-3, Beech 18, Beech Staggerwing, for example) and thunderous applause from the crowd for everything from the aerobatic displays to the period music. I was delighted to be there, and I can confidently state despite the fact that it was billed as ‘not a flying display’, that I have attended flying displays that had less flying (especially warbirds), and much less in the way of ‘ground entertainment’ including period vehicles, re-enactors in uniform and music of the WW2 era.
Here we can see the North American Aviation T-28S of ‘Groupe Fennec’ from Biggin Hill (G-TROY), about to taxy out prior to its display. Originally built as a T-28A Trojan trainer with an Wright R-1300 engine of 800 hp, it received a new Wright R-1820 of 1,425 hp – rather an impressive upgrade! One of the 146 T-28 aircraft sent to France to replace the worn-out T-6G Texans of the Armee de L’Air which were being used as COIN aircraft in Algeria, Fennec Nº142 (’51-7692′) was eventually disposed of to the French civilian market, and registered as F-AZFV. In March, 1998, Mark Hanna of the Old Flying Machine Company brought the aircraft to Duxford Airfield, and it was placed on the British Register as G-TROY; the transfer to its current ownership took place in April, 1999. The Fennec gave a sparkling display on the day, and showed everyone what a capable light strike aircraft it would have been in the period 1960-1962, during the Algerian War.
The ‘Sally B and Friends Day’ was a rousing success, with the normal Sunday attendance at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford being considerably enhanced. Considering the fact that only normal admission to the airfield and museum was charged, it was also one of the best value-for-money events I have ever attended! Let’s hope that the money raised at the event will enable ‘Sally B’, Europe’s only flying B-17, to continue to grace the airshow scene.