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Duxford Flying Legends 2018



"...massed gaggle of Supermarine’s finest carried out a number of formation passes..."

As mid July come around again the World’s Warbird enthusiasts descend upon the Imperial War Museum Duxford for the annual Warbird extravaganza that is Flying Legends. With a fantastic line up and a weather forecast showing glorious sunshine, the stage was set for a weekend of highly impressive flying including a stunning appearance of no less than four Hispano Buchons including the sole surviving 2 seat variant built by Hispano Aviacion in Tablada, Seville, in 1954.

As ever, this years show weekend had a plethora of ground attractions to keep the crowds entertained until the flying kicked off at 2pm. New for the 2018 show the ground attractions included two vintage villages with a wide range of nostalgic entertainment. A rather special honour for this years visitors was an exclusive advanced preview of extended footage from the newly completed “Spitfire” Docu-film, a moving tribute to both the magnificent Supermarine Spitfire and the brave aircrew that flew and maintained them. A truly amazing piece of cinematography with interviews with the pilots alongside a beautiful musical score and breath taking aerial footage.

Flying started at 2pm prompt with a fantastic spitfire scramble of 14 individual airframes including a stunning PR XI variant that has recently returned to the air thanks to the skilled workshop at the Aircraft Restoration Company. The massed gaggle of Supermarine’s finest carried out a number of formation passes before breaking up in to two groups to perform tail chases around the Duxford skyline.

This year’s Flying Legends welcomed three separate Corsair airframes with two teaming up to display a Naval tribute along with the Fighter Collection stunning Grumman Bearcat. The three Radials tore up the skies over the airfield, showing off their immense power with a number of high power climbs and low level beat ups along the historic grass strip.

Further air frames from the Fighter Collection hangar came out to play, with a scheduled display from a trio of Curtiss aircraft. Sadly on Sunday only the two P-40 air frames got to display to the adoring crowds, the Hawk 75 was unable to display on the day, one can only assume serviceability issues.

Continuing on the Naval themed displays another pair of mighty Naval aircraft roared into life with the turn of “The Furies”. The 1951 built silver T.20 of the Fighter Collection teamed up with Air Leasing’s FB.11 Fury (marked up as the prototype Sea Fury). The pair gracefully performed the powerful radial air frames, undertaking a number of paired passes before breaking off to perform separate displays. The single seat Fury FB.11 looked fantastic in it’s camouflaged surface and yellow underside, and has become a firm air show favourite since returning back onto the UK Air Scene two years ago.

Over recent years Duxford has become the place to see Battle of Britain display formations with the presence of a number of early war aircraft now firmly on the UK Aviation scene including the World’s only Bristol Blenheim Mk i, several mk i Spitfires and an ever increasing number of Hawker Hurricanes; truly a sign of an extremely “healthy” UK Warbird scene.

The magic sound of Merlins continued with a visit and display from the BBMF with Lancaster PA474, giving a great display, showing off every angle of the beautiful WW2 Bomber, giving the photographers several opportunities for some great topside passes.

One of, if not possibly the biggest highlight of 2018’s Flying Legends appeared in the form of four Hispano Buchons, flying as part of the Battle of Britain and Luftwaffe Tribute. The movie stars from the 1969 name sake motion picture flew along with a number of Spitfires depicting the aerial dogfights seen during 1940. After a brief tail chase display the four German marked Buchons gave a series of truly stunning tight formation passes up and down the crowd line. A rare treat for any true warbird connoisseur, likely not to be seen again any time soon.

Other highlights included a rare UK appearance of the USAF Heritage flight along with F-35 Lightning II, P-51D Mustang and Spitfire, the first time a non US air frame had taken part in the Heritage Flight. A pretty standard affair consisting of a series of rather straight and level flypasts the trio finished the display with a break to crowd centre allowing the warbirds to depart before a brief solo display from the F35. Although generally a tame display compared to other fast jet visitors to Duxford, one has a sneaky feeling that this futuristic looking beast has a few things up it’s sleeve; time will tell.

As the flying display headed towards its end piece, the Flying Bulls took to the air with just a small part of their immaculate collection of aircraft, in the form of B-25 Mitchell, P-38 Lightning, F4U Corsair and beautiful Douglas DC-6. The quartet of classic aircraft performed flawlessly, with the undisputed star, the Douglas DC-6, giving a surprisingly lively display. Clearly a very popular feature on the day, the 1958 built airliner looked magnificent in the sunlight, the chrome bodywork glistening as it flew past the length of the crowd line.

Flying Legends wouldn’t be Flying Legends without its famous Balbo, a massed formation flypast of the majority of the participating aircraft at the show. As the aircraft again took to the skies and slowly formed up over the Cambridge countryside, the crowds were entertained, as ever, by “The Joker”, this year’s choice being The Fighter Collection’s Sea Fury T.20, putting in some awesome flying. The show came to an end with the final flypast that forms the Balbo; quite a sound for the ears to take in!

This years Flying Legends has been called “the best in years” by lots of air show regulars over the last few weeks, and this reviewer can say nothing to the contrary, the show was fantastic seeing a return to form for air shows at Duxford. The only minor points I could personally pick up on would be a shortage of Mustang action, the Mustang’s that participated seemed to form only a brief snippet of action before returning to the ground. The newcomer or new returner to the UK air scene, P-47 “Nellie” still seems to be displaying at quite a distance form the crowd, leaving quite a few disappointed photographers who are still waiting for some roaring displays from the “Jug” at the Duxford based Air Shows.

September will see the final air show of the year at Duxford with the Battle of Britain air show scheduled for the 22nd and 23rd September.


Review by Jonathan Wintle

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