Paolo Franzini Reports:
With exceptionally warm and sunny weather one does not normally associate with England, the 21st annual Flying Legends Air Show, staged by The Fighter Collection at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, UK saw huge crowds show up for Europe’s premiere historic military aviation event with an intense aerial display that ran nearly four hours and included nearly 60 flying warbird aircraft.
The air show started on an emotional note, with a solo display by The Fighter Collection’s Grumman Bearcat. The bearcat was piloted by Stephen Grey, founder of the Fighter Collection and the Flying legends Air Show who announced that this would be his last year piloting a craft at the show as he is retiring. The show got fully underway with the worldwide debut of The Bremont Horsemen in three Supermarine Spitfires who put on a thrilling aerobatic performance. The next display featured a Battle of Britain-style dogfight with four Supermarine Spitfires, two of which were rare ‘Mark I” variants who were up against two Luftwaffe-liveried Hispano Aviación HA-1112s (Spanish license-built Messerschmitt Bf 109s).
The Fighter Collection’s P-47 Thunderbolt “Snafu” then took to the air, followed by an Europe’s only airworthy Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, “Sally B,” the massive bomber proving to be a crowd favorite. In a salute to Curtiss aircraft, the Fighter Collection’s Curtiss P-40F Warhawk and P-40B Warhawk flew together with their Curtiss P-36 Hawk and SNC SDPA’s P-40N Warhawk.
Luftwaffe aircraft were represented by a Junkers Ju-52 and a Bücker Bü 131 Jungmann, followed by a Hawker Sea Fury and The Flying Bulls’ Vought F4U Corsair, representing Naval Aviation. Next up was a stunning display of precision flying prowess by the Aerostars in their six Yakovlev YAK-50s whose routine was truly breathtaking.
In what was described by the show announcers as an air show first, two rare Gloster Gladiator biplanes did an aerial display over the IWM Show field. The next aerial display was performed by four North American P-51 Mustangs, and included two rare blue-nosed P-51s, “Princess Elizabeth” and the recently acquired from the United States, “Moonbeam McSwine.”
A quartet of Hawker bi-planes performed next, two Nimrods, a Demon and a Hind was joined late in their performance by another Hawker, the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight‘s Hawker Hurricane, which in turn was joined by the BBMF’s Spitfire amounting to an aerial representation of the passing of the torch from the biplanes that were in use during the early days of World War Two to the more modern monoplanes that would carry on for the remainder of the conflict.
Next was a display by three Piper L-4 Cubs, three Yakolevs and an aerial display by Naval carrier aircraft, including a Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, Avenger and the Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Hawker Sea Fury and Fairey Swordfish. The Shuttleworth Collection’s Westland Lysander and Fieseler Fi 156 Storch performed, followed by a Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 and Douglas C-47 Skytrain (Dakota). For the grand finale of the aerial performances, a fly-over reminiscent of those staged by famed Italian aviatior, Italo Balbo, a huge number of the planes that had performed all formed up and passed over the field in one massive formation for a truly stunning finish to an amazing show.
In addition to the aerial festivities overhead and the opportunity to admire the planes on static display on the flight line, there was the “Vintage Village,” with recreations of wartime shops, bomb damaged buildings and the “Home Front Bus” where visitors could visit a reconstruction of a 1940s living room. Entertainment was provided by New York-based Andrews Sisters-style entertainers, The Manhattan Dolls and big band sound from the Wilmslow Concert Band.
Members of living history groups representing Second World War RAF pilots from the Battle of Britain, US Army medical personnel and US Parachute Infantry chatted to visitors and furthered the forties atmosphere, the “Americans” going so far as have an impromptu baseball game, much like their real counterparts would have during their downtime during the war. The 2013 Duxford Flying Legends Air Show truly lived up to its reputation as one of the best air shows in the world. Next year’s event will be held on July 12-13, 2014 and you can be sure we’ll be there!