Air Show Report : Flying Legends 2008
Ramon van Opdorp delivers his photo report on Duxford's Flying Legends air show of July 12-13th, 2008.
Flying Legends 2008 - Duxford, UK
The sound of smoking and kicking turbo supercharged Cyclone, Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 and Packard Merlin engines, the smell of burned oil and fuel and the view of beautifully shaped aircraft makes your heartbeat go faster. This means that you are at "Flying Legends" at the Duxford Airfield, United Kingdom, a very well coordinated air show with a great and relaxed atmosphere and highly professionally restored warbirds. After last year’s more than impressive visit to Duxford, I got hooked on this great event. The historic atmosphere and nostalgic feeling that is in the air makes you want to return. Arriving in the early morning and looking around on the flight line, where you can distinguish eleven airworthy Spitfires, six P-51 Mustangs, two P-40 Warhawk/Kittyhawk, three B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, two B-25 Mitchell bombers, one A-26 Invader, and much, much more.
Duxford airfield, situated eight miles south-west of Cambridge, England, has had a long and distinguished service career. It was used in the Second World War as a sector airfield during the famous “Battle of Britain”. The Battle of Britain is the name given to the sustained strategic effort by the German Luftwaffe during the summer and autumn of 1940 to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially Fighter Command. The two aircraft that had a leading role in the campaign were the Spitfire and the Hurricane. These two types are always present during the Flying Legends, and have their own place in the show, with this year nine Spitfires and two Hurricanes in the shape of a Hawker Hurricane Mk12A and the always beautiful Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk1B.
Flying Legends Air Show
This year Duxford was again the place to be if your heart is with these nostalgic birds, and also of course again accompanied by a highly interesting list of other participants. Most remarkable and a welcome visitor was the B-17G Flying Fortress "Liberty Belle", which flew all the way from her home base in Georgia, United States, via Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland before she arrived at Duxford. She was accompanied by two other B-17 Flying Fortress bombers; the "Sally B", which was sadly grounded on her home base due to a lot of bad luck with the number one engine, and the "Pink Lady" from France, which is the only one of the three with actual wartime history as she flew six missions over Germany during WWII. This unique and rarely seen "gathering" of B-17s could only be found at Duxford, with the "Pink Lady" and "Liberty Belle" together in the air, accompanied by two P-51Ds "Miss Velma" and "Ferocious Frankie" escorting them through the sky.
Other more personal highlights were the two P-40s, the Curtiss P-40N Kittyhawk "Little Jane" from France, and the locally based Curtiss P-40B Warhawk. The P-40B is the one with the wartime history, as it is the only survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, now beautifully restored, and in airworthy condition at Duxford. Another Curtiss family member in excellent airworthy state was the Curtiss 75 Hawk. This aircraft was shipped in 1939 to the French Air Force, and had seen combat under the Vichy government against British aircraft such as Sunderlands, Hudsons, Fulmars, and Wellingtons over Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, plus USN Wildcats. Furthermore the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair left, as always, a great impression with her powerful engine and slick looking wings. And last but not least was the A-26B Invader "Sugarland Express" of the "Scandinavian Historic Flight" built in 1944, a more than welcome visitor to Flying Legends. This beauty started its career as a USAF trainer version with dual controls, and is now converted to a fast executive transport.
And when you think of the Flying Legends, you immediately imagine large formations of Spitfires and Mustangs, and this was also the case during this Flying Legends. Nine Spitfires took to the sky, and used every inch of available airspace. The five P-51 Mustangs also ripped every cloud over Duxford apart with their powerful and roaring Packard Merlin V-1650 V-12 engines. Flying from side to side, at low level, and in every direction in front of the crowd, it makes quite the impression when you see this with your eyes wide open and jaw dropped to the ground. It is every year a pleasure to witness the "layers" used during the air show, causing the displays to seamlessly flow into one another. Not many air shows around the world have this amount of exclusive and historic aircraft flying around, proving that the Flying Legends is a one of a kind display.
One of a kind
I always like the fact that all these old aircraft up in the sky have different stories to tell. And just to see so many aircraft in one place is remarkable and unique. Besides that, you can see and feel the care and tremendous effort that is put in every aircraft to keep them flying. Most historic aircraft seen during the show are property of the locally based "Fighter Collection". They have a remarkable collection of aircraft, both airworthy or in restoration. And for every interest an aircraft is present, with for example the Beechcraft 17 "Staggerwing", or the Hawker Nimrod. There are also lots of aircraft in restoration, which will hopefully be seen in the air shortly. For example the Bristol Beaufighter, it served as a radar-equipped night fighter, day fighter, coastal and shipping striker with both torpedo and rockets and at the end of its days as a towed target tug. Or the Supermarine Mk.22 Spitfire, it was about as sophisticated as the post-war Spitfires were to get.
My personal interest is with WW II aircraft, flown in Europe or in the Pacific. And at Duxford there are some fine examples located from this era, with as personal highlight the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat. However the various Mustangs, AiraCobra, Bearcat, Wildcat and the Curtiss 75 Hawk were also of special interest to me.
A special display was flown by Team Guinot, performing this year with five Boeing Stearman aircraft, marking the first ever massive formation of this great display team.
American Air Museum
Before the Flying Legends show starts at 14:00Lt, and after you have finished your walk along the static display, you have more than enough time to have a look in the "American Air Museum". This great museum houses the largest collection of American warbirds on display outside the United States, including a vintage B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, P-47 Thunderbolt, and aircraft from the Cold War era such as a B-52 Stratofortress, SR-71 Blackbird and a F-4 Phantom II. Besides all these great static displays, the B-17 Flying Fortress "Sally B" is the official flagship of the American Air Museum in Britain, and is permanently based at the Imperial War Museum Duxford. Built as a Boeing B-17G-105-VE c/n 8693, the future “Sally B” was one of the last to be constructed by the Lockheed-Vega plant in Burbank, California. Accepted by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) as 44-85784 on June 19, 1945, it was too late to see war service, and was flown to Nashville for modifications. Converted for training purposes and re-designated TB-17G, it was based at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson AFB), Ohio, from November that year. At time of writing this article, it is still out of service, awaiting a new engine.
All considered, it was again a great and one of kind air show, and showed that it is really one of the best historic shows in the world. Personal highlights were the three B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, the A-26 Invader, two P-40 Hawks and the FG-1D Corsair. With some of the P-38 and P-47G rumours in mind for Flying Legends 2009, I repeat... rumours, this great event is again marked in my agenda. Special thanks go out to Ivy Young and Tracey Woods for their hospitality, effort and generous help in making this feature possible.
Report and photos by Ramon van Opdorp ( view portfolio )