Flying Legends 2009, IWM Duxford
 

 

The Aerostars
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The Spitfires and FW190
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Luftwaffe Eagles
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The MS406
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The Bombers
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Naval Air Power
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The Horsemen Cometh
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Flying Legends is an annual pilgrimage for enthusiasts and warbirds owners and operators alike. Nowhere else ' the world has an airshow like Flying Legends. Many places may have "warbird" shows, but nothing like the extravaganza at Duxford. Each year the very best warbirds from across Europe and often beyond converge on the Fighter Collections "Flying Legends" airshow. Simon Fenwick reports for Flightline UK. Photography copyright of the Author.

In the lead up to this year's Flying Legends held at Duxford in Cambridgeshire, there were some worries that due to 'paperwork' problems at The Fighter Collection which had grounded their whole fleet, the show would be a shadow of it's former self. However, we needn't have worried. The show was a true classic and an outstanding event from beginning to end.

The highlights were many with much pre-publicity given to the only European performance by The Horsemen comprising Jim Beasley, Dan Friedkin and Ed Shipley flying the world's only close formation aerobatic routine in P-51 Mustangs. There was one big surprise though which wasn't even mentioned in the programme. We are now used to seeing the Flugwerk FW190, owned by Spitfire Ltd and maintained by the Aircraft Restoration Company, on the Flightline at Duxford. However, this has not yet been seen in the air in public and there are some doubts that it ever will. Therefore, when it was announced only days beforehand that Christophe Jacquard's example was to attend, excitement grew and it most certainly didn't disappoint.

The British weather was its usual fickle self with gusty winds all weekend, which meant that some of the lighter and more precious (not to say that all these wonderful aircraft aren't in themselves precious) machines cancelled. These included the Shuttleworth Trust's Hind and Bristol Fighter, HAC's Nimrod II which was stuck at Yeovilton and on Sunday Mikael Carlson's Thulin A (Bleriot XI), though he did fly his usual amazing routine on the Saturday. Thankfully rain held off, though it tried to put everyone off by giving everything a good soaking overnight before each day and leaving a legacy of low morning clag.

For anyone who has never been to Flying Legends, the first hour or so is a total assault on the senses and it is difficult to know where to look next, let alone point a camera. There is something happening constantly and from every direction, seemingly at once! The show started with the now traditional Spitfire tailchase, comprising Mk.IXs from OFMC and Spitfire Ltd (Lee Proudfoot and Cliff Spink), Mk.Vb from HAC (Charlie Brown), Christophe Jacquard's Mk.XIX (now reconfigured with a single prop rather than the previous contra-rotating version and painted in SEAC markings and looking all the better for it), Alan Walker in the T.IX, 'Rats' in the MkXVIe and Rod Dean flying the Mk.XVIII which was formerly based at Duxford and making a return visit from its new home in Sweden.

Whilst the Spits were doing their chase, which was back to its absolute best, Brian Smith gave one of the best displays yet seen from the Hispano Buchon (Spanish Bf109) and Marc Mathis buzzed the airfield, fast and low in the FW190. Though sounding different to the whistle of the original, the thumping radial of the new version of the 'Butcher Bird' certainly made its impression felt and the crowd loved it.

Then came The Horsemen with their immaculate close flying with Jim Beasley flying lead in 'Ferocious Frankie', Dan Friedkin on the right wing in 'Miss Velma' and Ed Shipley on the left wing in Rob Davies' immaculate 'Big Beautiful Doll'. This was formation flying of the highest quality and it was good that on Friday and Sunday at least there was some sunshine to show it off to its absolute best. The Horsemen, originally named after a song by rock band Metallica, have become renowned throughout the USA for their precision and it was a real treat to have them at Duxford.

From the whistling of the Mustangs to a much more meaty sound altogether as three B-25 Mitchells took to the air accompanied by their escort of Christian Amara's P-40N Warhawk 'Little Jeanne' in the hands of George Perez. The Mitchells comprised the much loved 'Grumpy' (in the capable hands of John Romain), formerly owned by The Fighter Collection and now by Vulcan Warbirds in the US and making one of its last appearances on this side of the Atlantic, 'Sarinah' (with Peter Kuypers in the left seat) which until early this year was operated by the Dukes Of Brabant but is now under the safe wing of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight and 'Russell's Raiders' which is now part of SDPA and based at La Ferte-Alais. Beginning with a close formation pass with the P-40N tucked in the box, the B-25s provided a good display of how nimble these large aircraft in fact are, while 'Little Jeanne' provided low cover.

The next section began with an invasion of Russians with, first off, Christian Vogelgsang in his pale blue Yak 3UA and Paul Boschung in his Yak 9UM providing the speed while Pete Kynsey went through an aerobatic routine in a similar aircraft belonging to The Air Fighter Academy. They were followed by the always excellent Aerostars. However, there was one difference to this team on the first day of the show when the 'solo' was not a Yak 52 but an imposter in the form of a Sukhoi!

With 2009 being the Centenary of Naval Aviation, this just had to be celebrated at Legends. First we had the unusual formation of two Skyraiders with Kennet Aviation's Seafire Mk.XVII which showed just how small the Seafire was when side by side with the immense (for a single engine aircraft) Skyraider. With John Beattie in Kennet Aviation's example and Christophe Bailly flying the one from the Salis Collection, the Skyraiders chased each other along the crowdline whilst Dave Mackay in the Seafire aero'd above.

The second part of the naval celebration comprised what was known in advance to be one of the highlights. The appearance of two examples of Hawker's mighty naval fighter in the air together had not been seen in this country for many years so to see Frederic Akary's former Iraqi Fury (which has been re-engined with a Pratt & Whitney R3350 and four-bladed prop) and a Royal Navy Sea Fury T.20 was a sight to behold. Which T.20 was this? It was in fact the return of the former RNHF WG655 from the US and flown by Steve Hinton. To see this aircraft back in UK skies after so many years was a delight (it would appear again later on each day as well...).

Up next were the Americans. It had been thought that 2008 would be the last time that we would see 'Pink Lady' the B-17 Flying Fortress from France, but she was back again gracing the skies over Duxford. (Unfortunately, our own 'Sally B' was yet again grounded with engine problems but as these words are written, it should not be long before she is back in the air where she belongs - very trying times for Elly Sallingboe and all the team who devote everything to the flying tribute to American airmen based in Britain during WWII). 'Pink Lady' was followed by the Mustang tailchase with 'Ferocious Frankie' from OFMC (Alister Key), 'Miss Velma' from TFC, Christian Amara's 'Nooky Booky IV', Rob Davies in 'Big Beautiful Doll' and Bertil Gerdhert in Biltema's Cavalier F-51D. They were followed by the well known antics of the two Piper Cubs, one of which is owned by Duxford's Director of Flying, Jeanne Frazer, with their incredible tight turns.

The Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight have always been good supporters of events at Duxford and at Legends it was no different with Hurricane IIc PZ865 and Spitfire PR.XIX PM631 on Saturday and Avro Lancaster PA474 on Sunday. As mentioned above, Mikael Carlson took his Thulin A (Bleriot XI) into the air on the Saturday afternoon but unfortunately the wind was just too strong on the Sunday even for this intrepid flyer. Lufthansa Traditionsflug returned once again with the Junkers Ju52 and Messerschmitt Bf108, with the 'Tante Ju' really catching the sunlight on her silver wings in a very graceful display. Carrying on the Luftwaffe theme, Anna Walker giving another of her incredible aerobatic displays in her Bucker Jungmann. This made for some interesting photographs on the Sunday as she pulled up into a loop with the Ju52 in the same shot.

It had been a very long time since this reviewer had seen a formation of three Hurricanes, but this did happen on Saturday with Peter Vacher's Mk.I leading the way with Trevor Roche in the Shuttleworth Sea Hurricane and Dave Harvey in the HAC Mk.XII. Following a couple of formation passes, there followed that real rarity, a Hurricane tailchase. Unfortunately, those visiting on Sunday only missed out on the three-ship formation as the Mk.XII suffered technical problems whilst warming up.

Jumping back a few decades, Legends next celebrated the WWI aces with a 'dogfight' between a Nieuport 17/23 and three Fokker Dr.1 triplanes from the Great War Team. In spite of the three to one ratio, the Nieuport came off best!

The final formation display featured two very different types of transport aircraft. These were the immaculate C-53D (Dakota) from Foundation Dakota Norway flying with Edwin Boschoff in the Beech Staggerwing, the 'Learjet' of the thirties. The main flying display was rounded with a spirited routine by the Morane-Saulnier MS.406 from the Association Morane Charlie-Fox in Switzerland, with some fast passes combined with aerobatic loops and rolls.

Flying Legends has always had a traditional finale to the event in the form of the 'Balbo', named after Italian Count Italo Balbo who flew a massed formation of military aircraft across the Atlantic in 1933as a show of Italian air power. This year we were treated to a mass take off of Spitfires, Mustangs, Skyraiders, Yaks and Mitchells along with the FW190, Bf109, Seafire, and P40 totalling 21 aircraft who all left to take a wide circuit to form up into the formation.

To fill the gap we had 'The Joker'. This is The Fighter Collection's supremo, Stephen Grey without whom Flying Legends would never have happened all those years ago. Over the years, Stephen has flown various aircraft in this slot varying from Spitfire Mks V, IX and XIV, the Curtiss Hawk 75 and most recently by the imposing Grumman Bearcat which he describes as almost the ideal aircraft for the role due to its sound, size and speed. This year of course, the Bearcat was unavailable so Stephen stepped into Sea Fury T.20 WG655, which was perfect against the blue sky that appeared above the airfield at this time.

Then The Balbo came rumbling through and what a mixture of sounds it was with Allisons, Merlins, Griffons and the rumbling rasps of the radials. The three B-25s peeled off after the first pass leaving the stage to the single seaters for one final big formation prior to the run and breaks for landing.

So ended Flying Legends 2009. A truly outstanding show made all the more varied due to the fact that so many of the participants were visitors from elsewhere. Yes, it was unusual not to see The Fighter Collection's machines, but the aircraft that were there were truly in the spirit of the title 'Flying Legends'.

A massive debt of thanks is due to Stephen Grey, Jane Larcombe and all the guys at TFC for pulling it all together, but a special word must be given to all the pilots, without whose dedication to their craft of flying these wonderful machines no airshow, let alone Flying Legends, would happen. Thank you to you all.

Transports
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The Flight Line
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Step back in time
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Spotters
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The Mercurys
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Aces High
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The Russian Front
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The Hurricanes
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The Mustangs
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Lest We Forget
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The Finale
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