Duxford Flying Legends 2015 Review

It was now time for my second trip to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, this time for the epic gathering of warbirds that is Duxford Flying Legends with one its best line-ups yet. This year featured nearly fifty individual aircraft as well as several UK debuts. I attended the show on the Sunday where the weather was generally very good but had a large scattering of showers and harsher conditions at various times of the day which did prevent some aircraft from displaying.

One the day of the show it was very unfortunate that Christophe Jacquard’s Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 and Jan Friso Roozen’s Hawker Fury FB.11 couldn’t performed due to technical issues although the latter was able to participate in the Balbo at the end of the show. Other types that were unable to perform including a trio of Piper J-3C Cubs and a three elegant biplanes featuring the Fighter Collection’s Hawker Nimrod I and the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Nimrod II and Hawker Fury Mk. I.

The show was kicked off in spectacular fashion with the traditional gathering of Supermarine Spitfires, with a total of eleven aircraft taking off together. The formation was split into three sections with the first consisting of the Fighter Collection’s FR. XIVE, Spitfire Ltd.’s FR. XVIIIE and a pair of PR. XIXs from Roll Royce and Christophe Jacquard. The second segment featured Air Leasing’s Seafire LF. III making its UK airshow debut alongside the Mk. IXT and a pair of LF. VBs from the Fighter Collection and the Historic Aircraft Collection. The third part of the formation included the Old Flying Machine Company’s LF. IXB, Max Alpha Aviation’s HF. VIIIC and another UK debutant in the form of the Seattle based Historic Flight Foundation’s LF. IXE. After a series of incredible flypasts, the formation broke up to perform one of the best tail chase sequences I have ever seen with constant action and intense passes by all eleven fighters.

We then turned to some American aviation icons for next selection of displays which started with a trio of warbirds once used by the United States Navy. The Fighter Collection’s Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat and Goodyear FG-1D Corsair were joined by Max Alpha Aviation’s Vought F4U-7 Corsair for a single flypast before we saw a great pairs display by the Corsairs which was followed by an equally impressive solo by the Bearcat.

Next up was one of the major highlights of the show in the form of a quartet of Curtiss fighters from the Fighter Collection, including their latest acquisition, the Curtiss P-36C Hawk which was the last of its type to be built and was recently restored in Chino before being shipped to Duxford to debut at Flying Legends. This aircraft flew in formation alongside the Collection’s Curtiss Hawk 75A-1, Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk IIB and Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk Mk. II before the two P-36s performed some low and fast passes whilst the P-40s put on some aerobatics overhead.

Examples of the most famous fighters of World War Two, the North American P-51 Mustang took to the skies next and featured two TF-51Ds, Max Alpha Aviation’s “Dream Girl” and the Fighter Collection’s “Miss Velma” alongside a pair of P-51Ds, Frederick Akary’s “Moonbeam McSwine” and the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation’s “Sharkmouth”. The roar of the four Merlins was truly phenomenal during their highly energetic tail chase among some impressive solo flying by the blue-nosed fighter. Once the other Mustangs had landed, “Sharkmouth” performed a series of formation flypasts with the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” before the famous bomber put on a great if a tad short display.

Moving on to aircraft used by Germany in the Second World War, we were treated to a trio of fighters led by the visiting Messerschmitt Bf-109G-4 from Germany which was making its first appearance at Legends and was joined by the regular pairing of Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchons from Spitfire Ltd and Aircraft Restoration Company. They flew together for several passes before the Messerschmitt performed a great solo routine whilst the pair of Buchons flew in formation overhead.

Some other famous aircraft used by the German forces appeared next with the brightly schemed CASA 352L from the Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis which is a Spanish licence built version of the Junkers Ju-52. Swiftly following the large three-engine transport was another license built aircraft in the form of the CASA 1-131E Jungmann which was put through a series of aerobatics by Anna Walker.

British aviation then took centre stage with the unique pairing of the only flying Gloster Gladiators in the world. The two vintage biplane fighters flew several formation passes before the Shuttleworth Collection’s Mk. I flew some fast passes whilst the Fighter Collection’s Mk. II performed some aerobatic manoeuvres.

We then saw a special segment of flying displays that commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, beginning with a special formation consisting off the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I, a trio of Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IAs and the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. XIIA. The aircraft then separated for an immaculate display by the Blenheim making its second appearance at Duxford this year followed by a solo and formation display by the Hurricane and Spitfires respectively.

Naval aircraft then came into focus just as the heavens opened with the Fighter Collection’s Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and a Grumman TBM-3R Avenger from Switzerland where both flew some very impressive circuits simultaneously despite the heavy rain.

After a short break in the flying due to the weather conditions we were back on track with the striking Morane-Saulnier D-3801 in Swiss colours which performed a single flypast with the Fighter Collection’s Curtiss Hawk 75A-1 before putting on its own immaculate routine.

The Flying Bulls made yet another welcome return to Legends this year with the North American B-25J Mitchell and Lockheed P-38L Lightning which put on some great formation flypasts before separating. The Mitchell displayed the usual great display whilst the Lightning flew one of the finest warbird displays I have ever seen with some fantastic sweeping passes followed by some aerobatic manoeuvres which were enhanced further by its smoke generators.

The last display of the main flying programme was a rather sedate routine by a Douglas DC-3A Dakota courtesy of the Super Constellation Flyers Association sponsored by Breitling.

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Douglas DC-3A Dakota

The grand finale of Legends was the traditional Balbo Formation which consisted of twenty four individual aircraft this year. One the aircraft had departed, the Joker, being played by the Fighter Collection’s Gloster Gladiator Mk. II put on some impressive aerial manoeuvres to entertain the crowds whilst we waited for the Balbo to form up.

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Gloster Gladiator Mk. II

The sound of the mass of warbirds soon filled the air as the formation made its approach. The first section of the formation was led by the Fighter Collection’s Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat alongside the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and Max Alpha Aviation’s Vought F4U-7 Corsair. The second part consisted of the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation’s North American P-51D Mustang “Sharkmouth” and Jan Friso Roozen’s Hawker Fury FB.11. The third formation segment featured the Fighter Collection’s Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and a pair of North American P-51D Mustangs with Max Alpha Aviation’s “Dream Girl” and Frederick Akary’s “Moonbeam McSwine”. The fourth part of the Balbo included the Messerschmitt Bf-109G-4 and the pair of Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchons from the Aircraft Restoration Company and Spitfire Ltd. The next three sections consisted of a variety of Supermarine Spitfires. The fifth section was led by the Fighter Collection’s FR. XIVE which was flanked by the LF. VB and Rolls Royce’s PR. XIX. The sixth part of being led by Air Leasing’s Seafire LF. III alongside the Mk. IXT and Spitfire Ltd.’s FR. XVIIIE. The seventh segment included the Old Flying Machine Company’s LF. IXB, the Historic Aircraft Collection’s LF. VB and Christophe Jacquard’s PR. XIX. The last section featured the Fighter Collection’s Curtiss Hawk 75A-1 and Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk Mk. II. The Flying Bulls’ North American B-25J Mitchell and Lockheed P-38L Lightning followed the formation before landing after the first pass. 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.

Flying Legends 2015 had one of the most diverse line-up in recent years with some spectacular debuts including the Fighter Collection’s unique Curtiss P-36C Hawk flying alongside the Curtiss Hawk 75A-1 for the first time. Other new aircraft to Legends were also impressive to witness, such as the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I which made a very big impact with a formation with three Spitfires and a Hurricane. Also deserving a mention was the fantastic solo display by the Flying Bulls’ Lockheed P-38L Lightning and the truly phenomenal opening with eleven Supermarine Spitfires which also featured the debuts of the Historic Flight Foundation’s LF. IXE and Air Leasing’s Seafire LF. III. I hope the show continues to attract more unique aircraft and I look forward to attending the show in 2016.   

For more photos from this show check out the entire Duxford Flying Legends 2015 – Sunday album on Flickr

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