magical feeling that Duxford based air shows have that we all
know and love has not gone"
hails the midpoint of the UK air show calendar, with what some
may say is the World’s premier War bird event; Flying
Legends. Based at the IWM Duxford in Cambridge, The Fighter
Collection brings together piston powered aircraft from across
the Globe to display to the adoring crowds, some of which them
selves have travelled half way across the World to see the yearly
spectacle. This specialist event displays all the grace, majesty
and power these wonderful flying machines have to offer. Usually
a strictly Piston Power only affair, this year was slightly
different, with the inclusion of a Jet aircraft, but more on
that revelation later.
is a special kind of event, with the show ground taking you
back to the 1940’s with re-enactors attired in period
dress, the 1940’s Swing Style Vocals of the Manhattan
Dolls, a Vintage Village with deck chair seating and Pimms Bar,
and to top it off the mad cap antics of Laurel and Hardy with
their Model T Ford.
offers show goers various viewing options to compliment their
day including a Gold Pass giving access to a hospitality marquee
with special viewing area, and if you have deeper pockets there
is the Bremont Flight Lounge which is unique to Flying Legends,
offering VIP Parking, luxury marquee and garden enclosure located
opposite the flight line. The Bremont Lounge includes refreshments
throughout the day such as a Pimms & Canapé reception
on arrival and a gourmet buffet lunch and afternoon tea as the
line up for 2016’s Flying Legends show holds an impressive
collection of vintage aircraft, including an impressive grouping
of 12 Supermarine Spitfires including three Mk.I airframes.
Other notable mentions included a clutch of North American P-51
Mustangs, the Flying Bulls Collection, a selection of Curtiss
aircraft, the newly painted Hawker Fury Mk. II and a very special
pairing of P-51D Mustang “Miss Helen” and USAF F-22A
chatting to members of the Fighter Collection it was apparent
that the flight line had been altered to meet the new CAA guidelines
as mentioned in my review of the American Air show back in May,
which highlighted additional struggles air show organisers face.
The crowd line for this year’s Flying Legends differed
in that the length of crowd line had been cut down and stopped
short at the entrance to the Land Warafare Museum. Regular visitors
to Duxford will know the line usually extends past the entrance
to the end of the museum to what is affectionately known as
“The Tank Bank”. In addition to this the crowd line
was actually set further forward towards the airfield. Given
that the length of the crowd line had been cut back, it was
not noticeable in regards to viewers being cramped up, if anything
it brought a more intimate feel to the show as static and taxiing
aircraft were closer.
is the norm at Duxford based air shows the flying was programmed
to commence at 2pm prompt. Early indications were that weather
was going to be against everyone, with low cloud, grey skies,
strong winds and drizzle. As time moved forward and 2pm arrived
the skies miraculously cleared revealing lovely blue skies,
sun and fluffy clouds; an aviation photographers dream.
before 2pm the rousing sound of Rolls Royce Merlin and Griffon
engines could be heard along the crowd line as they began
to taxi out down towards the end of the grass landing strip
and ran up to full power to allow the oil in those V12 engines
to warm up and circulate around the arterial passages around
the famous pulsating heart of the Spitfire. Once cleared the
Spitfires roared off down the grass airfield and took to the
air to form up, an evocative sight arcing back to Duxford’s
days as an active airfield during the Second World War. Once
formed up and all systems checked the Spitfires launched into
their flying display with a sweep in from the left of the
crowd line to begin their tail chase.
the gaggle of Supermarine’s finest entertained the crowds
the next stage of the flying programme began with engine start
ups on two big Radials followed by the taxi out to hold of the
Grumman F8F Bearcat and Goodyear FG-1D Corsair both of the Fighter
Collection. Once clear to do so the mighty Naval aircraft thundered
down airfield and quickly gained height to put on their trademark
high power displays with some aggressive airfield beat ups by
the Bearcat followed by tremendous power climbs completed by
loop overs into dives before levelling out. The Bearcat and
Corsair have become standard items at Duxford air shows and
continue to impress.
completed the next phase of the flying programme was queued
up with the trio of Curtiss Hawks. The display began with some
lovely formation flying showing the three airframes, two of
which having polished silver bodies which glistened stunningly
in the afternoon sun that blessed the show. Once formation display
complete there was time for some solo displays and fast passes
before it was time to return back into land.
time had come for a very rare and special display, not just
for Flying Legends, but for the UK as a whole. With a brief
pause the silence was broken by the appearance of the USAF’s
Air Superiority and Air Dominance fighter, the F-22 Raptor flying
in tandem with the P-51D Mustang “Miss Helen” to
form the USAF Heritage flight, giving the adoring crowds several
passes before a break to crowd centre, allowing the Raptor Pilot
to position to begin a brief solo display. Not only is this
special due to the rarity of such a visitor to the UK, but the
presence of a jet powered aircraft at such a Warbird Mecca as
Flying Legends is, as far as I can remember, unheard of.
in position, the Raptor entered in from the left to perform
some high power turns and sudden vertical climbs before a level
pass of two prior to completing with a high speed pass from
left to right along the crowd line to depart away from Duxford.
was now time for something a little more sedate and classical
in the form of The Classic Formation, consisting of two Beech
18 airframes and a DC-3, all in a highly polished chrome finish.
The Classic Formation is Europe’s only multi engined veteran
aircraft display team, which made it’s Legends debut this
weekend. The Switzerland based display team performed some lovely
formation flying including passes in ‘T’, ‘echelon’,
‘delta’ and ‘colonna’ formations, each
with expert flying skills to transition between the formations.
up, the Flying Bulls team which had previously taken off to
held out of view. This Austrian based team, sponsored by the
famous energy drink, consist of three fantastic Warbirds including
highly polished B-25J Mitchell, Lockheed P-38L Lighting and
the distinctively gull winged Vought F-4U Corsair. The team
provided photographers with some lovely topside passes in formation
along the crowd line before breaking up for a B-25 Solo and
a synchronised display from the Lightning and Corsair including
‘smoke on’ for added display effect.
the trio came in to land the next acts were rolling out to hold
on the pan before taxiing out onto the air field. The roar of
Merlins from Mustangs “Moonbeam McSwine” and “Shark
Mouth” filled the air along with the distinctive drone
of four Pratt & Whitney radials belonging to Duxford’s
resident B-17G “Sally B” of the B17 Preservation
Society. Once airborne the Mustang pair put on their duo display
before breaking off to allow the “Shark Mouth” to
form up with the bomber before performing flypasts as fighter
escort. As usual with Sally – B’s displays there
was a pass with smoke on shortly before landing to remember
the 79,000 US airmen who paid the ultimate price over the skies
of Europe during the Second World War.
the allied aircraft completed their displays it was the axis
forces turn to thunder through the skies in the form of two
Hispano Buchons representing Me-109 fighters of the Luftwaffe.
The pair performed some outstanding formation flying including
some power climbs before looping over at the top, all whilst
in perfect formation; a truly fantastic sight to behold.
this there was an early war display depicting the both the Battle
of Malta and the Battle of Britain with a 4 ship formation of
Bristol Blenheim Mk.I, Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I, Hawker Hurricane
XIIA and Gloster Gladiator Mk. II of The Fighter Collection.
The formation provided quite an evocative site, as the distinctive
shapes of classic British design swept in from the left of the
crowd line on an attractive fluffy cloud and blue sky back drop.
on from the early air war in Europe we received Pacific Naval
themed display from The Fighter Collections Grumman FM-2 Wildcat
and regular Flying Legends visitor, the Grumman TBM-3R Avenger
“Charlie’s Heavy”. Some great flying from
both pilots, displaying the airframes off to their full, with
the Avenger looking particularly appealing against the glorious
sky in its bright Pacific Ocean blue livery.
this display wrapped up with some solo work from individual
airframes, this reviewer became very excited at what could be
seen (and heard) working it’s way down the pan to the
hold area. What many could herald as the pinnacle of piston
power, the Hawker Fury FB.10, only very recently returning back
to the UK from Australia before being re-assembled and re-painted
by Air Leasing. A late addition to the flying schedule, this,
for a lot of people (including myself) was to be the star of
the show. Flown by Richard Grace, this gloriously painted 50’s
powerhouse of piston prowess wowed the crowds with some fantastic
topside passes, thunderous low pass beat ups of the air field
and several fantastic climbs to height before returning back
down to display height along the crowd line. What makes this
particular airframe rare is the fact that it retains its Bristol
Centaurus Sleeve Valve radial engine, thrashing out in the region
of 2,500 bhp to help it effortlessly rip through the sky. A
truly magnificent machine and a truly magnificent display. Here’s
hoping we see much more of this on the air show scene in the
months to come.
the display routine had completed and come into to land the
end of the day was in sight with only a handful of display items
left, including an aerobatic display from the Bucker Jungmann,
a DC-3 solo and of course the ever famous Flying Legends Balbo
where a large number of the aircraft take to the skies together
and form up to perform massed flypasts, providing a wonderful
site and sound for any aviation enthusiast. This year’s
Balbo was by no means the biggest I have witnessed, with 17
aircraft performing the flypast, but never the less an enthralling
sight to see.
this year’s Flying Legends show came to an end, any feelings
of concern from air show regulars that may have been felt after
the May air show have been well and truly squashed. The flying
was fantastic, the line up was great and the weather nearly
played ball completely, with only the early WWI era aircraft
not being able to display due to the high winds the show experienced.
It is difficult to choose one particular act that stood out
as all the acts put on a great performance. That being said,
two particular items from the programme did bring an increase
to heart rates everywhere, these being the USAF heritage flight
with the cloud making and fire belching F-22, and the recently
repatriated Hawker Fury II, which tore up the skies with those
five chunky propellers strapped to that monstrous Radial engine.
was clear that the magical feeling that Duxford based air
shows have that we all know and love has not gone anywhere.
Long may it continue.
by Jonathan Wintle