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July is a very busy time on the UK airshow circuit with a number of the "Blue Ribbon" events being held within weeks of each other. One of the most famous of these is the Fighter Collection's Flying Legends Airshow held at Duxford and is regarded by many as the premier warbird show in the world. Legends always offers something new to see and 2007 was no exception. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of author.

Tribute to Alex Henshaw 
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American Heavy Iron
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Sound of Freedom
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The War in France 
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Red Stars Rising 
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Mad Swede 
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Finest Hour
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Transport Delights
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Axis Powers 
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Team Guinot 
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The Heritage Flight Hits Legends!

For the first time ever at Flying Legends a jet displayed. This was no ordinary jet being a f-15E Strike Eagle flown by the USAF F-15E Demonstration Team. The team were over for both Flying Legends and the Royal International Air Tattoo. Their inclusion in the line up for Flying Legends reaised more than a few  eyebrows. However, the results certainly silenced the critics with a wonderful tight formation with the P-39Q, P-51D and TF-51D. We hope this won't be the last time we see the Heritage Flight at Legends!

The atmosphere at Flying Legends is very different to other Duxford shows. It is without doubt the most popular event of the year at Duxford with people coming from all over the UK, Europe and the world to see the show. Unlike any other show, the car parks are filling up much earlier in the morning and people camped out along the full length of the crowdline. It was good to see the Spitfire Ltd FW190 new build out in the sunshine on the flightline. If all goes well it may well join the flying display next year!

One of the major attractions of Legends is that it always presents a number of new arrivals or special displays each year. This year the show opening with something very new of Legends - A JET!!! This was a F-15E Strike Eagle from nearby RAF Lakenheath but was flown by the USAF's Strike Eagle Demonstration Team. It performed it's restricted airspace display making plenty of noise for itself and some very aggressive turns. While the European style of displays still seem to have the edge on USAF displays there no doubt the F-15 certainly catches the attention. After it's solo it joined up with three of the Fighter Collection aircraft that were all flown by the american Heritage Flight pilots. In the P-39Q Airacobra was Steve Hinton while the TF-51D was flown by Ed Shipley and the P-51D by Jim Beasley. It was a truly remarkable sight with the three piston warbirds leading the big heavy jet fighter around the Cambridgeshire skies before peeling off in a run-in-and-break. The F-15 had the final word with a spectacular low approach and steep climb departure back to base!

TFC Newcomers - Miss Velma!

In the days leading up to Flying Legends, the Fighter Collection received two new  members to it's fleet. The first was TF-51D Mustang Miss Velma. This isn't one of the Cavalier conversion but a two seater conversion of an original F-51D fighter that is known to have served in South Korea. It's arrived at Duxford having flown across the Atlantic as part of "OPeration Balero II. Unfortunatly, the P-38F that was accompaning it was forced to pull out with engine problems . Operation Balero III is already under discussion.

TFC Newcomers - The Warhawk

Perhaps the most exciting of the arrivals is the P-40B Warhawk that has recently been restored in the US for the Fighter Collection. It is a geniune survivor of the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour having been based in Hawaii at the time. It owes it's survival to a landing accident just before the attack which meant it was in a maintenance hangar at the time of the attack. Sadly it couldn't take part in the display but did perform a couple of testflights around the main displays so the public had a chance to see this wonderful restoration.

After all the pomp of the Heritage Flight, Legends got right back to normal business with the usual massed Spitfires. With the Spits separated out into formations related to their engine type, they put on a graceful yet powerful sequence of tailchasing over the famous airfield. Star of the show was undoubtley the Spitfire Vc (trop) from Spitfire Ltd. The aircraft made it's post restoration flights over the winter and has made a few private appearance but this was it's first appearance in public in the UK. It's easily distinguished from the other Spitfires by the enlarged air intake under the nose. At the end of the Spitfire display Cliff Spink got airbourne in the Me109J Buchon and put on a dogfighting display with Nick Grey in TFC's Spitfire XIV.  Hurricanes took appeared in the line up with Spitfire Ltd's Hurricane XIIc in it's new markings joined by Historic Aircraft Collection's familiar aircraft.

One of the higlights of Sunday's display was the pairing of the Shuttleworth Collection's Hawker Hind with HAC's Hawker Nimrod II which must have been the first time in many years that two RR Kestrel engines had flown together. The Shuttleworth COllection also flew their Gladiator and Lysander together for a Bristol Mercury engined part of the flying display. The Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight only made Sunday's flying programme due to other commitments around the country.

French wartime air power has become a new feature of the Legends line up and once again TFC's Hawk 75A lined up with Daniel Kobet's Morane MS406. American might is always a central part of the show. The Mustang stampede was again a thrilling experieced and included TFC's new TF-51D Mustang Miss Velma. TFC's P-39Q Airacobra flew toegther with the Royal Netherlands Historic Flight's B-25D Mitchell in an eastern front section of the flying display. Mark Mathis once again also flew his Yak-3 representing the famous line of russian fighters.

As ever, Legends boasted a fine selection of Naval air power. The Fighter Collection is home to the collection of Grumman "Cats" with the FM-2 Wildcat, F6F Hellcat and F8F Bearcat performing joint routine. Their larger brother, the Corsair also took a starring role with the TFC and Corsair Warbird's example putting on a close formation pairs routine. British Naval power was also well covered with Kennet Aviation's Seafire XVII joined by the Sea Fury from the Royal Navy Historic Flight. Larger martime aircraft were represented by Plane Sailing's Catalina which was such a graceful sight against the dramatic cloudscape in the backdrop.

The Balbo

One of the pleasing aspects of this year's Legends was the number of larger transport aircraft on display. There were two Junkers Ju-52-3M in the display from Lufthansa and J-B Salis which drifted there way around the sky. Much noisier and more potent was Dakota Norway's lovely bare metal DC-3/C-53D Dakota which was joined by Anna Walker in TFC's Beech Staggerwing. Anna also display her Jungmann with the Ju-52 pair as part of an "Axis" flight.

One of the great things about Legends is the variety it throws up. Returning this year were the Team Guinot wingwalking team showing off the legendary Stearman and the old art of Barnstorming which was a welcome break from the heavy metal.

Biplanes were much in evidence again this year with the annual display by the Polikarpov I-15bis which seems to be permanently based at Duxford just for this show. Another surprising display was that given by Mikael Carlson in his Tummelisa replica that's powered by a genuine Rhone rotary engine.

Perhaps though one of the most poignant parts of the display was a tribute to Alex Henshaw. His Mew Gull was joined by the Arrow Active II and TFC's Spitfire V (Saturday Only) for a tribute to the amazing exploits of this man.

As ever, Flying Legends ended with the traditional "Balbo." It's always an experience to witness the massed take offs for this formation and the amazing "Joker" display by Stephen Grey in the Bearcat as it forms up over East Anglia. Flying Legends 2007 was another outstanding show and surely must counted as one of the highlights of the season even though we are only half way through. Many have commented on the appearance of a modern jet in the line up but I think the Heritage Flight as a whole was one of the major highlights of the day. Well done to all at the Fighter Collection and IWM for putting on such a brilliant show.

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