This year’s Flying Legends show at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford appeared to have one of the best line-ups in recent years. Unfortunately, bad weather across Europe prevented a large amount of these aircraft to make the transit to the UK. Despite this big setback the organisers still managed to put on a very entertaining warbird spectacle with big support from locally based aircraft. It was a shame that when I attended on the Sunday, the Fighter Collection’s newly restored Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk IIB and the worlds only flying Boeing P-26A Peashooter from the Planes of Fame Museum couldn’t display due to technical issues and strong winds respectively. The Fighter Collection’s Gloster Gladiator Mk. II and Hawker Nimrod I were also hindered by the windy conditions. The show as always was an incredible success and all the aircraft performed brilliantly in spite of the wind and the mostly cloudy conditions throughout the day.
The show was opened by the traditional gathering of Supermarine Spitfires which included a total of eleven of these iconic British fighters. The Spitfires joined up for a single formation pass before a fourship of Mk. IAs put on a very graceful and sublime formation display. The remaining seven fighters then performed an exciting and dynamic tail chase routine and featured a pair of LF. VBs from the Fighter Collection and Historic Aircraft Collection, the Old Flying Machine Company’s LF. IXB, the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s LF. IXC, Air Leasing’s Mk. IXT and Spitfire Ltd.’s LF. XVIE and the recently restored FR. XVIIIE.
A rare visitor to the UK airshow scene then took off for a short display in the form of the Lockheed L-1049F Super Constellation courtesy of the Super Constellation Flyers Association. The display consisted of two passes due to the wide turning circle of this vintage airliner but was nonetheless an interesting aircraft to witness
More sedate flying was performed by a trio of Piper J-3C Cubs in a routine of gentle sweeping turns. Three different variants of the aircraft were demonstrated including Jeanne Frazer’s J-3C-65, Paul Acres’ J-3C-90 and the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s L-4H Grasshopper.
Next up was a homage to the aircraft used by the United States Navy during World War Two featuring four powerful warbirds from the Fighter Collection. They were the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, the Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat, the Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair. After flying together for a single pass, the fourship split up to perform separate routines with the Hellcat and Wildcat putting on a formation display followed by the Corsair and Bearcat performing solo displays which were all very entertaining to watch.
The Fighter Collection took centre stage again with their unique Curtiss Hawk 75A-1 and rare Merlin powered Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk Mk. II. The Curtiss fighters performed an impressive tail chase that clearly showing the manoeuvrability these aircraft possess.
German representatives took to skies next with a graceful synchronized display by a pair of Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchons from the Aircraft Restoration Company and Spitfire Ltd. After their display the pair played the role of enemy aircraft and were chased down by the next display items.
Taking off and in hot pursuit of the enemy was a trio of North American P-51D Mustangs including the Duxford based “Ferocious Frankie” from the Old Flying Machine Company and “Miss Velma” of the Fighter Collection as well as Frederick Akary’s visiting “Moonbeam McSwine” which debuted at Flying Legends last year. The three American icons chased off the Buchons before performing a tail chase that preceded a duo routine by the Duxford residents and an epic solo display by the blue-nosed example.
Duxford’s most famous resident, the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” took off earlier and returned for its performance alongside the Duxford based Mustangs, “Ferocious Frankie” and “Miss Velma”. The classic bomber then performed the usual impressive display of this flying war memorial.
The American themed flying sequences were concluded by the Flying Bulls’ North American B-25J Mitchell making its Legends debut resplendent in its polished bare metal in a surprisingly dynamic routine for such a large aircraft.
On now to British aviation with another visiting aircraft with the Jan Friso Roozen’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIA from France which made its UK debut at the show last year. This iconic fighter put on one of the best displays of the day including a very loss flypast near the end of the routine.
Some lesser appreciated warbirds that were used by British Force’s during wartime also performed some great routines came courtesy of the Shuttleworth Collection with their Gloster Gladiator Mk. I and Westland Lysander Mk. IIIA.
Vintage aerobatics were also part of the show with regular performer, Anna Walker, displaying fantastically in murky conditions in her CASA 1-131E Jungmann.
The Royal Navy Historic Flight were fortunately able to participate in the show after having a very rough season with none of their aircraft able to display. The Hawker Sea Fury T.20 was finally ready to perform its energetic and powerful routine at Legends and was a great site to see the Royal Navy’s historic aviation represented once again. Unfortunately, this aircraft suffered a landing accident due to a hydraulic failure when attempting to land after an engine problem at the end of the RNAS Culdrose Air Day. No one was injured during the incident and the pilot was also unhurt. Hopefully the damage is reparable and this aircraft will soon grace the UK skies again.
Historic aircraft of the Royal Air Force were represented by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight which provided the Avro Lancaster B.I which was also joined by the Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC and the Supermarine Spitfire LF. IXE. After several formation passes, the trio separated for their own solo displays before reforming back together for a final pass before heading back to their home, RAF Coningsby.
The last display of the main programme was left to own of the regular visitors to the show which has attended year after year. This was the Douglas DC-3C Dakota from Dakota Norway and performed a fantastic and amazingly energetic display.
It was now time for the spectacular finale of Flying Legends, the Balbo Formation which began with the mass take-off of the various warbirds that have performed at the show. Whilst they form up in the big formation a solo warbird played the part of the “Joker” and entertains the crowd with some great flying. This year, the role was performed by the Fighter Collection’s Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat which has returned to the UK circuit again after several year’s absence. The formation of nineteen warbirds soon came into view and the astonishing sound radiated through the air as they made their first pass. Leading the Balbo in the First section was the Fighter Collection’s Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat which was flanked by the North American TF-51D Mustang “Miss Velma” and the Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Hawker Sea Fury T.20. The second section was composed of the Fighter Collection’s Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, Curtiss Hawk 75A-1 and Grumman FM-2 Wildcat. The Third section consisted of the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchon and the pair of North American P-51D Mustangs “Ferocious Frankie” and “Moonbeam McSwine”. The Fourth section featured the three aircraft from Spitfire Ltd including the Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchon and the pair of Supermarine Spitfires, the LF. XVIE and FR. XVIIIE. The Fifth section included a trio of Supermarine Spitfires featuring the Old Flying Machine Company’s LF. IXB, the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s LF. IXC and Air Leasing’s Mk. IXT. The Sixth and final segment of the Balbo had a pair of Supermarine Spitfire LF. VBs from the Historic Aircraft Collection and the Fighter Collection alongside the Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk Mk. II and following at the rear was Jan Friso Roozen’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIA. The formation came round a second time before splitting into two groups where they each made passes before each segment ran in to break and land. Once the last aircraft touched down onto the runway, it signalled the end of this year’s Flying Legends.
The show was absolutely brilliant and despite many aircraft being unable to attend the Balbo formation finale was still as excellent as always. Other major highlights included the opening display by the Supermarine Spitfires and the epic tail chase of the North American P-51D Mustangs as well as the short display by the incredible Lockheed L-1049F Super Constellation. I hope next year’s show is even better as I shall definitely be there, and I certainly hope the weather is better too.
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