Article by Andreas Zeitler
Photos by Andreas Zeitler and Luigino Caliaro
It was a very ‘British experience’ at this year’s Flying Legends air show in the skies over Duxford, England. Even the hard-bitten local enthusiasts complained about the unusual summer weather with its strong winds, drizzling rain and low temperatures. Despite the inclement conditions, this unique air show, now in its 23rd year, once again proved to be well worth attending.
Flying Legends organizers had an unusually hard time preparing this year’s edition of the annual warbird spectacle at Imperial War Museum Duxford. Not only was the Formula 1 British Grand Prix taking place that weekend at nearby Silverstone, but so was the world’s largest military air show, the Royal International Air Tattoo, or RIAT for short, at RAF Fairford just a hundred miles away by air. Having two major competing events scheduled on the same weekend, vying to attract many of the same visitors was tricky enough, but the organizers also had to contend with a barrage of tighter air display safety regulations introduced this season by the Civil Aviation Authority in the aftermath of last year’s major accident at Shoreham. The new rules lead to the closure of the famous ‘tank bank‘ spectator viewing location at the airfield’s west end and a clear adoption of display lines. This did limit, for some, the up-close-and-personal experience during warbird take-offs, especially for the famous ‘Balbo’ at the end of the show, but none of the new regulations prevented Flying Legends from being a stunning show.
Following a long tradition, the iconic Supermarine Spitfire opened the flying display. Six of them were in the air this year, with The Fighter Collection’s Griffon-powered FR XIV MV293 performing a solo aerobatics display for the crowd, while the rest orbited in the famous tail-chase in the background.
One aircraft which really stood out this year was Richard Grace’s former Iraqi Hawker Fury FB.11 G-CBEL, fresh off the boat from Australia. The new owner has repainted the aircraft in a stunning scheme representing the prototype Hawker Sea Fury, SR661 ,from its first flight on February 21st, 1945. That Fury was equipped with an arrestor hook for carrier trials, but retained the fixed wings of its Tempest predecessor, but the 1953-built imposter made for a magnificent comparison. Richard Grace’s display routine included gorgeous topside passes, presenting this powerful beast at its best!
The same goes for Shaun Patrick’s sharkmouth-painted P-51D Mustang 44-73877. The livery represents an RAF Mustang IV, KH774, which flew from Italy with 112 Squadron on ground attack missions over the Balkans and along the Adriatic coast during 1945. Both of these warbirds added a nice British touch to the show, further enhanced later in the day with a formation of the Blenheim Mk.I together with a Spitfire, Hurricane and two Gladiators. This fighter force represented the RAF during the early days of WWII.
Shortly afterwards two Hispano Buchons, masquerading as Bf 109s, met the Gloster Gladiators – recalling the early dark days of WWII when antiquated biplanes were all that stood between the Third Reich and British defeat in Malta. Despite the obvious disparity in performance, the Gladiator could out-turn a ‘109 and in the right hands, it did best the Messerschmitt on occasion.
For the first time in a while, jet sound was heard above Duxford during Flying Legends. Whereas the event is usually the domain of piston-engined warbirds, the USAF Heritage Flight made an appearance featuring a P-51D Mustang in formation with an F-22 Raptor, a first for Flying Legends. The Raptor was England to attend RIAT, and Duxford being a short hop away made some fly-bys possible.
Formations were the order of the day at ‘Legends: the Curtiss formation featured the bare metal P-40C and P-36 together with the French H-75. The ‘Classic Formation’ arrived from Switzerland with two Beechcraft Model 18’s and a Douglas DC-3, and last but not least the Flying Bulls of Salzburg, Austria flew their B-25J Mitchell, P-38L Lightning and F4U-4 Corsair.
Despite Saturday’s grey skies, which lingered into Sunday a gorgeous blue sky with puffy clouds showed up with the sun on the last afternoon, just in time for the start of the flying display. The sights and sounds made bearing the previous whims of the weather gods to be worthwhile, and Flying Legends 2016 proved to be a unique warbird experience!
WarbirdsNews wishes to thank Dr.Andreas Zeitler and Luigino Caliaro for their terrific work on this article. Please do check out their photography at the following links.
Visit www.flying-wings.com to check Andread Zeitler’s work.
Visit www.aerophoto.it to check Luigino Caliaro’s work.
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