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Duxford Flying Legends 2013

 

 

1993.….this was the first year that The Fighter Collection based at Duxford, brought us the world renowned Flying legends airshow. Over the years, the Boss, Stephen Grey (and owner of TFC ) and his team have brought us some amazing aircraft and some quite spectacular displays.P-47’s, P-51’s, Polikarpov I-16 and B-17’s. Not to mention some particularly rare aircraft to our shores, P-38’s, Hawk 75 and many others. But 2013 was to bring about the end of an era….or the start of a new one. After many years of display flying, Stephen has decided its time to hank up the helmet. Although not retiring from flying completely, Mr Grey senior has decided to call time on his major display flying. I feel privileged to say that I have seen Stephen fly some astonishing displays. He will be missed from the airshow circuit by all. A lasting memory of my own is Stephen Grey and Ray Hanna’s tail chases. Hanna in the Hawker Fury and Grey in the Grumman Bearcat. Never beaten in my opinion….

 
 
 

So this years legends was set on a scorcher of a weekend. The sun was extremely hot for the full weekend. As per norm, Duxford was sent back to the 1940’s with the airfield littered with re-enactors. I love this idea. On the flight line, It was good to see that the re-enactors had finally placed themselves in front of aircraft relating to their uniforms!! ( previous years we had seen Luftwaffe dressed personnel in front of American war birds). Once again the Gorgeous Manhattan Dolls had been flown in from Stateside to bring the glamorous side of 40’s America. Singing in the Andrews sister style, the ‘Gals’ certainly drew big crowds and definitely raised the temperature of a few guys!! Check out their website for more info at www.themanhattandolls.com. This year we saw Heather Doll, AnneMarie Doll and Emily doll. Great job gals!!! Also in the vintage village there was music from the Winslow concert band and also the chance to have your photo taken in Simply Spitfire’s reproduction MKIX Spitfire.

I was also very lucky this year to get a look around Europe’s on airworthy B-17 Sally B. As part of the Sally B supporters Club, I was allowed a peek around the inside of the aforementioned film star. It’s not hard to see how so many crews perished aboard these bombers, it’s tiny inside. Sally B continues to fly as an active memorial to all the USAAF crews that flew from the UK in WW2. Elly Sallingboe and her team do a fantastic job at keeping her airworthy but they still need our help to keep her there. Check out www.sallyb.org.uk to see how you can help.

 
 

To the display…..As a fitting tribute, Stephen Grey kicked off both Saturday and Sundays displays with another master class in war bird flying aboard TFC’s Bearcat. This has long been the aircraft of choice of Stephen to fulfil the role of the ‘Joker’ As the Joker, Grey would normally fill in the gap while the ‘Legends Traditional balbo’ formatted.

With Stephen set down, The Bremont Horseman took to the skies. Usually seen flying P-51’s, the Horseman had decided on a change from their normal mounts. Steve Hinton, Dan Friedkin and Ed Shipley would this year for the first time use Spitfire’s!! 2 MKI’s and Tfc’s MkVb flew in tight formation aerobatics. I must say that they seemed less dynamic without the Mustangs but brought about a more graceful look to the team. Following on from this HAC’s Buchons were chased around the sky by by ensuing Spitfires, an awesome sound!!

A favourite of mine from years past was always B-17 Sally B in formation with TFC’s ex P47 ‘No Guts, No Glory. Sadly That P-47 is no longer with us in the UK but the Fighter Collection now own an earlier P-47G variant named Snafu . Sally B flew her usual display while Snafu seemed to display a bit distant. On their final pass the 2 formatted up. This didn’t quite work out as Snafu didn’t really catch up quick enough (depending on what end of the airfield you were viewing from)but altogether nice to see and enhanced by a live rendition of ‘Sentimental Journey’ by those US beauties, the Manhattan Dolls.

Displays from a trio of P40’s and TFC’s Hawk 75 followed. On the Saturday The French owned P-40N Flew an absolute stonker of a display keeping it low and amazingly fast, but Sunday seemed far more subdued?? Axis air power was also in evidence with a delightful aerobatic display by Anna Walker in Bucker Jungmann G-BSAJ. At the same time the Lufthansa owned Junkers JU-52 showed off her careful shape against the blue skies.

With displays from the Flying Bulls F4U Corsair and a French owned Sea Fury, the action was almost as hot as the sun!!! A bit of an oddity appeared in the form of the 6 Yak 50’s owned by the Aerostars. Flying Legends has always been about piston engined war birds and it seemed strange to see their display. As good as it was, I did hear a few grumbles from the crowd and a surge in toilet breaks!!

A highlight for myself and a fair few other enthusiasts was the sight and sound of 2.…yes 2 Gloster Gladiators. TFC’s recently restored and the Shuttleworth collections examples made a very welcomed formation to this years Legends. Pete Kynsey and Keith Dennison did an amazing display together in the Gloster pair. Another highlight was the 4 P51 Mustangs in a tail chase. Where else but Legends would you see this??? It was great to see another Mustang, not seen before at Duxford. French owned P-51D Moonbeam Mcswine was definitely a great addition to this years show. Unfortunately a 5th and 6th pair of Mustangs, Ferocious Frankie and Miss Helen could not make the show. This is a shame as it would have made a great 3 ship, blue nosed trio. I don’t think I have ever seen Mustangs ‘beat up’ Duxford as fast as these guys did!!!

Another unique formation to Duxford was 3 Hawker biplanes. 2 Hawker Nimrods and a Hawker Demon flew formation passes while the newly acquired Hawker Hurricane from Jan Friso Roozen flew a solo. This Hurricane is now reputed to be THE best Hurricane flying in the world. More Merlin power came from the RAF’s BBMF, although only the Spitfire and Hurricane on Saturday and on Sunday , the Hurricane and Lancaster. Unfortunately the Spitfire suffered a brake failure.
With a trio of Yak aircraft (3,9 and 11) finished, we were treated to a great show of skilful flying by 3 Piper L3 Cubs. I often think the Cub displays are often overlooked. It was nice to see The Fighter Collection adding them to the Legends show.
For me though, Star of the show was Charlie’s Heavies , TBM Avenger. Its been quite a few years since we have had an Avenger at a UK display. This ex Tony Haig Thomas machine now resides in Switzerland. Since the change of ownership the Avenger has had a Ball turret fitted which I think looks amazing. The display on Saturday was a bit short, and at the M11 end I didn’t see the bomb bay doors open pass. However Sunday was much better as I viewed from the tank bank end. Hopefully we’ll see her at a few more legends in the future.
With the Shuttleworth collections Lysander and Fieseler Storch giving us a very slow display (not in a bad way!!) and finally the sight of TFC’s magnificent Grumman Wildcat back in the air after a long absence, this years Flying Legends airshow was coming to a climax. Dakota Norway’s DC3 was the last aircraft to display. She looked absolutely stunning against the blue sky and was flown with a tremendous grace and spirit. I say the last aircraft to display but there was actually quite a special flight coming up. At this point in any Flying Legends show, Stephen Grey would normally throw the Bearcat around like a mad man. But as I said earlier, he has passed the mantle on to those younger. So as a fitting replacement, Stephens son Nick Grey has taken over. Using the newly restored Gloster Gladiator, Nick kept the crowds entertained with what I can only say as the best Gladiator display I’ve ever witnessed (Saturday, Sunday with a little less gusto)
The Balbo is a Legends tradition and this year was no different. Although the aircraft no.s were down slightly on previous years, it was no less impressive. My only criticism of this years show was that some of the aircraft were displayed to one part of the crowd whilst others in the formation were displayed to the other. It would have been nice to switch half way through the display. On the whole though another top class Flying Legends Airshow!!!!
 

Review by Neil Darby

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