The Biggin Hill Festival of Flight only appeared on the airshow calendar last year and was back for 2015 with many improvements although the traffic management still needs some work. The Festival was one of the major events that would be commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain which is highly appropriate as Biggin Hill is probably the best know British airfield associated with the battle. The show featured two big set pieces as tribute to all those who fought during the Battle of Britain. The weather was unfortunately very cloudy throughout out the UK and forced the cancellation of multiple flying displays including the Breitling Wingwalkers, Chris Burkett’s Extra EA-300S and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I and Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchon. Technical problems also plagued the show with the Royal Air Force’s Boeing Chinook HC.2 and Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” being unable to leave nearby Northolt. Despite these shortcomings, the show was a great success with some very memorable displays.
The static display was also vastly improved in both quality and quantity featuring the locally based Shipping and Airlines entire fleet including a Cessna 195A, a Civilian Coupe 02, a Curtiss-Wright CW-12Q Sport Trainer, a De Havilland DH.87B Hornet Moth, a De Havilland DH.90A Dragonfly, a Miles M.38 Messenger 4B, a Piper J-3C-65 Cub and a Rearwin 8500 Sportster.
Other types on display were aircraft that often frequent the airfield for pilot training and passenger flights such as a Cessna 152, a Liberty XL-2, a pair of Piper PA-34-200 Senecas and a Cessna 500 Citation.
The Metropolitan Police Flying Club provided a Grumman-American AA-5B Tiger for the static display among the other attractions whilst the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Noorduyn AT-16 Harvard IIB was also out in the open. There was also a pair of rotary types among the other aircraft including a Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm Bo 105 and a rare Westland Wessex HC Mk. 2.
Before the show got underway, we were treated to selection of remote control models including an impressive performance from an Extra EA-300 controlled by Mike Williams which was due to perform with Chris Burkett’s full sized example who was unable to make it to the show.
The flying display was opened by an energetic aerobatic routine by one of the XtremeAir XA41s from The Matadors which was wonderfully entertaining even without the other half of the team.
Modern naval aviation was then presented in the form of the Royal Navy Helicopter Display Team, The Black Cats which now fly a pair of the Agusta-Westland AW159 Wildcat HMA.2s due to the Lynx being close to being withdrawn from active service. The team put on a dynamic and surprisingly nimble display in one of their first appearances of the season.
More exciting aerobatics came courtesy of The Yakovlevs who fly a trio of Yakovlev Yak 50s and a solo Yakovlev Yak 52. After performing some very graceful formation maneuvers, the team split into a variety of separate components and put on some more impressive aerobatics as solos, pairs and trios in complete synchronization.
We then came to the first of the two set pieces which would commemorate the Battle of Britain itself. First up was a brief display by the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. X. Taking off next was one of the stars of the show in the form of the Daimler-Benz powered Messerschmitt Bf-109G-4 from Germany which put on its own great display in its first appearance since its UK debut in 2010. At this point, the scenario truly got underway with the take-off of three Supermarine Spitfires from the Biggin Hill Heritage Hanger with a LF. IXC, a HF. IXE and a LF. XVIE followed by a spectacular pyrotechnic explosion as part of an attack on an airfield. The Spitfires put on a small tail chase sequence before the Messerschmitt got into a dogfight with one of the Spitfires. The scenario was concluded with a single formation flypast with all five fighters before they broke to land.
The second scenario to commemorate the Battle of Britain involved a mixture of aircraft from the Royal Air Force from both the past and the present. This segment of flying was opened by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows who performed a spectacular display of aerobatic prowess before departing the area. The team then returned as part of a special formation which saw the nine BAe Hawk T.1As leading five of the fighters from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight for a single flypast. Once the jets had landed, the fighters returned for a sedate formation display and featured the two Hawker Hurricane Mk. IICs and a trio of the flight’s Supermarine Spitfires including the Mk. IIA, the LF. VB and the LF. XVIE. The last part of this sequence of displays saw the incredible “Synchro Pair” consisting of the Royal Air Force’s specially painted Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIA which actually flew during the Battle.
Taking a break from the Battle of Britain, we turned to Peter Teichman who displayed in his Curtiss P-40M Kittyhawk Mk. III from the Hangar 11 Collection.
The finale for this commemorate show was a fantastic duet by a pair of Supermarine Spitfires from the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, with the HF. IXE leading the LF. IXC and bringing the day’s proceedings to a close.
Even with all the cancellations and murky weather, the Festival of Flight was great success with the spectacular set pieces being the standout highlights of the day. It was also great to see the pair of Supermarine Spitfires closing the show, much like the Biggin Hill shows of yesteryear. This new event is only in its second year and hopefully will remain for years to come and look forward to what the organizers bring to the table in 2016.
You can also follow me on Twitter