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2007 sees the 50th Anniversary of a much loved display act and British institution, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. An anniversary like this couldn't simply pass for the new RAF Events Team who put together a superb day of celebration with the help of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of author.

The Chipmunks
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The Dakota
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Exclusive sights and sounds
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The "Standard"
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Synchro Pair
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Back amongst Friends
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Dropping in
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The Flight
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New kid on the block
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Graceful Imposter
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The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight always has a incredibly busy season with around 850 appearances around the UK in 2007. This isn't just the big air displays and state occasions; a highly diverse range of differing events are covered by all manner of displays and flypasts. The winter of 2006 and 2007 has seen a great deal of activity for the engineering teams involved with the flight. The Lancaster has undergone a major service and overhaul and a change of scheme while the flight's two baby Spitfires have also emerged in new schemes for the 2007 season.

The flight traces it's history back to 1957 when the Historic Aircraft Flight was formed at RAF Biggin Hill. when one Hurricane IIc (LF363) and three Spitfire PR XIX (PM631, PS853 and PS915) came together. The flight For a short time, three Spitfire XVI aircraft were operated by the flight  during the late 1950's though these were retired following accidents. Interestingly, another XVI has recently been taken on by the flight and should join the airworthy fleet in late 2008 or early 2009. The next acquisition of the flight in 1965 was Spitfire Vb AB910 which was arrived to the flight in the hands of Geoffery Quill, a test pilot for Supermarine during the war and latterly Vickers Armstrong. For 2007 AB910 wear new markings of Polish pilot and commander of 303 sqn, Sqn Ldr Jan Zumbach. 1968 saw the arrival of Spitfire IIa P7350, the world's oldest airworthy Spitfire. This Spitfire was found amongst scrap and restored taking pride of place in the epic film "Battle of Britain." For 2007 she has retained 603 sqn markings, the squadron she served with during the Battle of Britain, though is now painted to represent XT-L, the aircraft of Gerald 'Stapme' Stapleton who is regular visitor to the flight. In 1972, a second Hurricane IIc joined the flight, this being PZ865, the last Hurricane ever built and used as a chase plane by Hawkers at Dunsfold for projects such as the Harrier! Over the following years, a number of support aircraft joined the flight including two Chipmunks from RAF Manston and Gatow in Germany and a De Havilland Devon. The latter is now in the safe hands of Air Atlantique. 1973 saw the arrival of perhaps the most recognizable aircraft of the flight, the Avro Lancaster B1 PA474. She had been lovingly restored by No 44 Squadron and her arrival marked a change in name to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. 2007 see the now refurbished aircraft appear in the markings of "Phantom of the Ruhr." This aircraft served with two squadrons and both squadron codes are painted on the aircraft. The port side has HW-R representing the markings of 100 sqn while the starboard side has the markings of 550 squadron; BQ-B. The "Phantom" flew 121 operations and survived several incidents; each time being repaired and patched up! The original aircraft, EE139 was scrapped in 1946.

A day to Remember.

The day was certainly one to remember with two unique formations that will certainly leave the RAF in the mind of the people at the event. The first was the incredible demonstration of 70 years of progress with the Spitfire IIa in close formation with a Typhoon. But perhaps the most emotion stirring was the massed formation of the BBMF fleet. While there have been bigger formations of warbirds at Duxford, this was perhaps the most special as it almost certainly won't be repeated.

In 1991, the flight's original Hurricane, LF363 was almost destroyed in a landing accident at RAF Wittering. The aircraft was however salvaged and put on a rebuild program. However, with the end of the cold war and the drawdown in funding the flight was forced to see Spitfire PR19 PS853 was sold to offset the costs of the rebuild. She was first sold the Ewan English was tragically killed just weeks after the purchase. The aircraft then found a new owner in the form of Rolls Royce who keep her to this day. However, the flight still managed to grow. In 1993 the flight acquired the Douglas Dakota ZA947 from Boscombe Down for use as a multi engined trainer, support aircraft as well as a display in it's own right. 1997 saw the introduction of Spitfire IX MK356 to the flight. 1998 saw the return of LF363 to the flight following restoration.

The crews both in the air and ground are mostly volunteers who do the job for the love of it. For instance the pilots except the Officer commanding are all volunteers from the bases all within an hour of RAF Coningsby with the Spitfire and Hurricane pilots coming for the Tornados and Typhoons based at Coningsby itself and the bomber crews coming from the E-3D, Nimrod and Sentinal Squadrons based at RAF Waddington.

Saturday 5th May saw the official public celebration of the Flight's 50th Anniversary. Organised as the first of the RAF Events Team special events of the summer the entire BBMF where on hand to display. Visitors got the chance to meet the pilots, crews and ground crews of the flight as well as some of the veterans who flew the aircraft during the war. The first flying display got underway with a unique fourship of the original four fighters that formed the Historic Aircraft Flight at Biggin Hill in a special formation and tailchase display. This was then followed by one of the new "signature images" devised by the RAF Events Team. The Spitfire IIa got airborne to join up with the RAF's solo Typhoon F2 display for a formation routine. This was following by a solo display by Flt Lt Jim Wallis in the Typhoon which is much more punchier than previous displays. On the ground there were talks on the flight and flying the aircraft operationally as well as performances by the Central Band of the RAF. The finale of the day was another hour of flying. The BBMF's Dakota acted as the drop ship for the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team. The team only got two practices of jumping from the Dakota before the day which is a notably different experience for them. Gerald "Stampme" Stapleford took the salute from the team. The flight's Spitfire IX and one of the PR XIXs then performed the synchro pair display before the rest of the flight's Spitfires and Hurricanes got in to the air with the Lancaster for the massed flypast. This surely will be the abiding memory of the day for anyone who witnessed it. The "standard" display by the other Spitfire PR XIX and Hurricane IIc with the Lancaster then followed. The final acts was the "Sunset Ceremony" as the RAF flag was lowered with the Lancaster flying low over the airfield in salute.

The was an exquisite event making for one of the most memorable days out on the aviation calendar despite the best efforts of the British weather. The RAF Events Team, RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and IWM Duxford should all be congratulated on working so well together to create such a brilliant way to mark 50 Golden Years.

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