Photographers' Blog

At Duxford Airfield, Spitfires still rule the skies

Duxford, England

By Neil Hall

Propellers whirring, a group of Spitfire aircraft zooms in formation across the sky over Duxford Airfield, one of the first stations of Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF).

It could be a scene straight from the 1940 Battle of Britain, when British and German fighter planes vied for control of the skies in one of the key clashes of the Second World War. But this is 2013, and the shapes streaking over the landscape are models that have been worked on by the Aircraft Restoration Company, a firm dedicated to repairing historic planes, mostly for private owners.

Since there are no longer any factory parts available for the old crafts, this involves building the new elements by hand.

“It reminds me of a simpler time when engineers knew each part of an aircraft – this engineering is like a locked time capsule from an era that I grew up in,” said 74-year-old John “Smudge” Smith, who previously worked for the RAF and has been with the company for over 30 years.

The firm works on a wide variety of models including Spitfires, one of the most iconic planes of World War II. Restoring a single craft typically costs over £2 million ($3.2 million), and takes around three years of painstaking work.

High-impact, high-altitude

By Pascal Lauener

Covering the big annual air show of the Swiss Air Force on the Axalp in the Bernese Oberland starts with me checking the weather radar for the next day, hoping for a big blue sky.

SLIDESHOW: SUPERSONIC JETS

As a photographer you know there will be great pictures full of action, because you are at the same altitude where the fighter jets pass you at full speed. This is a very rare situation.

This year’s Airshow on the Axalp attracted more then 7,000 spectators. Most of who hiked up to the 2200 meters above sea level high Swiss Air force training ground on the Axalp. The photographers with their equipment, and other selected guests, were offered a lift from the Air Base in Meiringen (in the valley) up to the Axalp by a Swiss Air Force Super Puma. The five minute ride was the first part of this extraordinary assignment. We could see all the spectators hiking up the steep mountain or those who had already been waiting a long time for the big show, shortly before having to get out of the helicopter on a small ridge on the Axalp near the control tower.

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