Flying Legends, Duxford 8 July 2017
Where we remember and honor those who participated in the World Wars and celebrate the magnificent flying machines in which they flew.
The day started out early Saturday morning in a hotel near Heathrow Terminal 5, some broken cloud and cool breeze seemed to be a good omen for a great day’s flying. Driving for just over an hour towards Duxford my heart sank as I noticed the low clouds starting to roll in, it looked like it was going to be another rainy day. However my spirits lifted when I thought about the war birds that I would soon have the privilege of witnessing in action.
When I arrived at the airfield a well-organised team of marshals directing the cars to the gate and parking lot greeted me. I grabbed my camera bag and headed towards the flight line. The first aircraft I saw, standing proudly on display was the B-17G “Sally B”, the last remaining airworthy B17 in Europe. This aircraft is maintained by a group of volunteers and stationed at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford. This B-17 is only able to fly due to the charitable donations, sponsors and souvenir sales; a worthy cause to support through the Sally B Supporter’s club.
It was early, just after 08h00, cold and drizzly. I felt like I had stepped back in time as I admired all the examples of old airliners on display. I breathed a sigh of relief as I looked up and noticed that the clouds were starting to clear. Classic wings started their operations, a range of classic aircraft provided a memorable experience for those wanting to experience the magic of flight in a classic aircraft. Their fleet consists of some De Havilland Dragon Rapid’s, a T6 Harvard and a few Tiger Moths. For the ultimate experience, one can also purchase a ticket to fly in the Spitfire T9.
Looking down the flight line I could see a number of Spitfires and Hurricanes lined up and ready to go whilst to the right there were, Douglas C47’s Beech 18’s Curtis Hawks and Grumman Cats.
The excitement was building in anticipation of the air displays that were due to commence 14h00. The flight line walk started at 09h00 and continued until 12h30, for a fee £5 pounds you can walk along the taxiway and see actors dressed in period clothing, standing around the aircraft. This really adds to the experience and is a wonderful photo opportunity. You are allowed to spend as much time as you like close to the aircraft in order to take photos and hopefully get the perfect shot. In the background there were many aircraft arriving and I was amazed to see a classic De Havilland DH 104 Dove on short final.
So much to experience so little time … the flight line was cleared and the excitement continued to build as show time drew nearer. We didn’t have to wait long before nine Spitfires started their engines and taxied towards the holding point. The sound of the Merlin and Griffin engines sent shivers down my spine. Nine aircraft took off and began the display. Spectators stared in awe at the magnificent war birds flying in formation while giving all a sense of how the skies looked during the war.
The Berlin Express took off, this P-51 flew to the UK from the USA retracing the original route it flew in 1942. Many fighter and bomber crews flew this route during WWII, via Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland at total of 5470 miles. The P-51 left the airspace and then returned with an unexpected landing. Unfortunately, on its fly past, the canopy disintegrated and damaged the vertical stabilizer resulting in the aircraft being withdrawn from the rest of the show.
The spitfires continued to circle around providing a magnificent show of force, during which the Seafury, Bearcat and Corsair took to the skies, and as if that wasn’t enough excitement, Curtis Fighters and P51’s soon joined them. It was a display of absolutely amazing formation flying by all the crews, providing an awe inspiring look back into history. Sally B started up and got airborne. We were soon treated to a display of the B17 and P51 Mustang flying in close formation.
The clouds had cleared giving way to a beautiful, blue sky which was perfect for the display by a C47 and two Beech 18’s, with their gleaming bare metal finishes; certainly a super photo opportunity. The Jungmann entertained the spectators whilst the BF109E Buchon got airborne.
The BF109 is painted in the early mottled desert scheme of sand and green dapple, over a light blue underside and is weathered to depict a well-used and weathered aircraft. The purpose of this paintjob is to illustrate the harsh operating conditions in the North African desert; it is a true masterpiece.
What a sight to see the BF109 and the Curtiss Warhawk P40F in a dogfight over Duxford, something I will never forget.
The battle of Brittan flight, which included the Blenheim, Spitfires, Hurricanes and BF109, was a series of formation fly-pasts displaying the capabilities of the aircraft unfortunately the Lancaster was not able to join the display.
The air races, as a first for Flying legends, we got to see four iconic aircraft flying in formation including the reproduction of Travelair Type R, Original de Havilland DH88 Comet racer, Percival Type E Mew Gull and the LeVier Cosmic Wind.
The Comet’s flying history was first participating in the London to Melbourne air race some 11,300 miles and flight time of 71 hours and 18 seconds to claim the Mac Robertson Trophy and prize money. The Comet also participated in many racing events with destinations to Cape Town and Blenheim.
The Mew Gull G-AEXF is the most famous and was initially purchased by Maj A M Miller and registered as ZS-AHM. This aircraft participated in the 1936 Schlesinger race, which started in Portsmouth and ended in South Africa.
The excitement continued as we were entertained by the PYB Catalina and another C-47 doing a series of fly-pasts, whilst the Balbo Finale was getting air borne for the finale. An amazing total of sixteen Aircraft closed off the display for the day.
After the air displays I enjoyed a walk through the various hangers, this was a real treat, however the day was way too short. Another visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford is a must, as there is so much to see. The displays are magnificent and one can spend hours reading all the stories and being totally engrossed in the displays.
For anyone wishing to have a spectacular day or to re-live World War II aviation, Flying Legends is the place to be.
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