Air Show Report : Flying Legends 2010
Every year, the Duxford Imperial War Museum organises Flying Legends, Europe's biggest warbirds air show. Ramon van Opdorp provides this article on Flying Legends 2010, having spent the July 10-11 weekend at Duxford to witness and capture the displays for us.
Flying Legends 2010 - Duxford, UK
For the fourth consecutive year I made the trip to London, my home base for two awesome days at the Flying Legends show 2010. If you like historic aircraft as much as I do, Flying Legends is the crème de la crème of the historic air show scene in Europe, and maybe in the whole world. With large amounts of piston powered heavy metal in the sky, it never really matters what kind of aircraft will participate. Each year they gather the most beautiful historic birds from all over Europe and even beyond. There will always be a surprise, which was a bit harder to predict this year, as a lot of participants were reported to be on their way to Duxford, for example the ME-262 replica, the Red Bull P-38 Lightning and two EADS Buchons. However all this “information” was sadly just rumour.
The sound of puffing and kicking piston engines, the very relaxed atmosphere and in my humble opinion the best coordinated 3 to 4 hours flying display on this planet. There is never one “boring” moment during the show, memory cards and batteries are making overtime and your arm and neck muscles are overstrained at the end of the day. Aircraft are coming by at close range from all directions, so you have to make some quick selections, which aircraft you want to photograph.
All of the aircraft that show up each year are entertaining in my opinion. However aircraft never seen before at the show are always the icing on the cake. My personal highlight of the show was the French registered Vought F4U-7 Corsair. This beautiful aircraft started her career for the US Navy in the late 40s actually as a Vought F4U-5 Corsair, and was later sold to the Armada Argentina. In 1969 the end of this aircraft was almost in sight, as she was posted on a pole in Buenos Aires. However she was soon rescued by the French foundation Association Française d'Avions Historique, and took to the sky again on March 9, 2010. Today she is owned by the German Meier Motors company, which already had an excellent collection of war birds in their possession.
Furthermore, a rare Polikarpov I-16 ‘Rata’, with Jurgis Kairys at the controls, was the absolute “red” star of the show. This compact beast, built in 1941, is powered by a massive Shvetsov ASh-62 nine-cylinder, air-cooled, radial aircraft engine produced in the Soviet Union. The sound of the aircraft flying by at full speed gives you the goose bumps, with approximately 1000 horsepower running the small two blade propeller. Flying like a streamlined butterfly, the awesome looking aircraft used every inch of the Duxford skies.
The dark blue Hawker Fury ISS we had already seen in the air last year, but this year it flew a display that blew me off my feet. The history of this aircraft dates back to 1948, when it was flying over Baghdad, Iraq, operated by the Iraqi Air Force. This Fury has seen many places and countries after that, as she also flew from the United States and South Africa, owned by private collectors.
The F8F Bearcat of The Fighter Collection was back from the stable after some CAA license issues. An absolute brutal display was flown at her home base with Pete Kynsey at the controls, hopefully all other TFC aircraft are soon released by the CAA to participate in next year’s Flying Legends.
Certainly a sight you don’t see every day was the three-ship Skyraider formation, consisting of two AD-4N Skyraiders from France, and one UK-based AD-4NA Skyraider. Last but not least the B-17 Flying Fortress “Sally B” was back in the sky after some engine issues to show her gorgeous curves again. She had to fill the void left by her sister B-17 “Pink Lady”, some B-25 Mitchells and the A-26 Invader, none of which attended the show due to various reasons.
Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary
The Battle of Britain, the German Luftwaffe air campaign during the autumn of 1940, is now seventy years ago. With German air superiority over the United Kingdom, the UK could be invaded by sea, as all sea ports and strategic military points were attacked by Luftwaffe. However the Royal Air Force was underestimated by the Luftwaffe as it now seems. Tactics, good equipment (Hurricane & Spitfire) and the attitude of a pit-bull, returning much stronger after each punch, made the RAF into an air force that was not easy to defeat. By dividing the airspace into sectors, assigning one or several fighter squadrons to each sector, a far more effective defence could be coordinated against the incoming Luftwaffe than anticipated. Also, a large role in the success of holding the Germans off the UK coastlines was the RDF (Radio Direction Finder) system, a first generation air surveillance radar.
The Battle of Britain can roughly be divided into four major phases. From 10 July till 11 August the Luftwaffe performed so called “KanalKampf” or Channel Battles. With Stuka dive bombers attacking the UK convoys in the channel. From 12 August till 23 August the “AdleranGrif” or Eagle Attack took place, by attacking the coastal military airfields. 24 August till 6 September the Luftwaffe started the attack on almost every military airfield around the UK. And from 7 September till the end of the war, all key cities like London were targeted by the Luftwaffe too. With on 07 September a major attack by almost 400 bombers and 600 fighter aircraft attacking the East end of London day and night.
Admittedly, there’s a lot more to the Battle of Britain than described above. The whole history and complete analysis would make this Flying Legends 2010 report too long.
The 70th Battle of Britain anniversary was celebrated with the take-off by eight Spitfires on Saturday, closely chasing the tail of a Hispano HA-112-MIL Buchon, a Spanish licensed version of the Spitfire’s prime opponent, the Messerschmitt 109. Of course, the Spitfire Mk.IIa, Hurricane and the Lancaster of the RAF “Battle of Britain Memorial Flight” were also flying as part of the Battle of Britain anniversary display. I thought that this year the FW-190, which participated in last year’s show, would again assist the Buchon in fighting the Spitfires. However the aircraft sadly crash-landed into the sea in the bay of Hyères off the coast in France, fortunately the pilot escaped without injury.
New Kids on the Block
This year some new aircraft for me participated in the show. Starting with the two lovely Ryan PT-22 Recruits, which made it to Duxford with a the short flight from Old Warden. Some heavier metal came from Germany in the shape of a TF-51D Mustang, recently acquired by MaxAlpha Aviation GmbH, sporting a bare metal “colour scheme”. This Mustang has seen many countries since she was first delivered to the U.S. Air Force in 1950, later given in 1951 to the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) and in 1959 sold to Israel. After military service, she was flown by private owners in several places in the United States, before coming to the United Kingdom in 1991. She found her current owner in 2009 at the Meier Motors Yard. Not really a new kid on the block, the Breitling Wingwalkers this year were flying with two Boeing Stearmans in a new catchy orange/white colour scheme. The wing-walking is always a great display to see.
Personally, I had a new perspective on the show. On Saturday I took the decision to stand on the famous “Tanker Hill”. This spot is the best position to catch a low diving Spitfire or Mustang, I had used this spot both days for the past three years. This year I wanted to get another perspective on things, and positioned myself on the left side of the runway on Sunday. This proved to be an awesome spot to catch for example the SeaFury and I-16 ‘Rata’ starting a steep climb or barrel roll over our heads. I don’t have to explain what it’s like to see and hear the “Whistling Death” sound of the large oil coolers on the F4U Corsair while diving towards you. And as a bonus you can make some great close-up shots of almost all participating aircraft when they are waiting to be released into the arena.
As this is my fourth Flying Legends report, I really hope it doesn’t start to sound like a Flying Legends advert, because this is my honest opinion. As I have stated also in previous “Legends” reports, I can talk on and on when it concerns the Flying Legends show. I think that all readers of this article, provided you are interested in warbirds, have to see this show with your own eyes, smell the fumes, and hear the rattles and clatters of the smoking piston engines. I can guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed.
It is in my humble opinion the best air show on this planet, with a rollercoaster ride of a display and aircraft you simply won’t see elsewhere in such large numbers. As this year’s rumours had started to live their own lives, I do not want to try and predict what aircraft will be participating in next year’s Flying Legends. Regardless of the line-up, I will certainly go again in 2011 if possible.
Also this year at Duxford, the Battle of Britain Air Show on September 4 and 5 will remember the pilots and aircraft of the aerial battle 70 years ago, with a particular focus on the pilots then stationed at RAF Duxford.
Special thanks goes to Esther Blaine and the Imperial War Museum Duxford, for their hospitality, effort and generous help in making this feature possible.
Report and photos by Ramon van Opdorp ( view portfolio )