Air Show Report : Flying Legends 2009
During the weekend of July 11-12th, Flying Legends 2009 took place at Duxford airfield. Ramon van Opdorp delivers his illustrated report on this year's participating legends of Europe's biggest warbird show.
Flying Legends 2009 - Duxford, UK
Every year this airshow is at the top of my list, with also this year being no exception. Europe’s biggest warbird show takes place over the historic airfield of Duxford. Again, a large list of exclusive aircraft were present this year to shine at this great airshow. The show starts each year around 14:00 local time, which appears very late in the day, however from that time on the airspace is filled with aircraft for every second. Each time I visit this airshow, it is getting better and better with a large static flight line of finger licking warbirds and one of the best warbird shows flown. Each year you think what “new” aircraft can they possibly be flying this year, and you will be surprised at what they have achieved again.
Air Show Highlights
There are always many great aircraft present, which of them are the most beautiful aircraft is of course a matter of personal taste. This year a couple of aircraft were of my personal interest. Two A-1 Skyraiders were present, which are always great to see. The Hawker Fury and Sea Fury both in the air were also absolute eye candy. But the dogfight of a FW-190 Replica together with a HA-1112-M1L Buchón against seven Spitfires were the icing on the cake for this already great show. The flying FW-190 was the first one to be seen over the United Kingdom since the end of the second World War.
Last year a B-17 Flying Fortress made the long trip to Duxford from the United States. This year three pilots made the long trip from the United States to the United Kingdom to fly one of the best executed display flights with three P-51 Mustangs. This team is also known as “the Horsemen”, the biblical harbingers, inspired by the song of the rock band “Metallica”.
Duxford distinguishes itself by providing a rollercoaster ride of several hours, which is very demanding on your memory cards and neck muscles. Especially when six or seven P-51 Mustangs or Spitfires go airborne simultaneously, to perform a more than impressive dogfight and tail chase simulation.
The Big Bombers
A great deal of participants were present in the larger bomber category. An exclusive threeship formation of B-25 Mitchell bombers was presented, with the B-25J “Sarinah” from the Netherlands, another B-25J named “Russels Raiders” recently acquired by SDPA in France, and last but not least the B-25D “Grumpy”. This old occupant at Duxford made her last flight during the Flying Legends for now. She has been sold to a new owner in the United States, and recently made the trip via Iceland to her new home.
Always a great shape to see in the sky is the Lancaster B.1 PA747 owned by the “Battle of Britain Memorial Flight” (BBMF). This beautiful aircraft was built in mid 1945 at the Chester facility, United Kingdom, and had been operational in the Middle East, South Africa and of course the United Kingdom. In the UK she performed a long list of operational duties, flown as a Photographic Reconnaissance aircraft, Aeronautics test aircraft and of course as a bomber at the beginning of her career. This beauty is now wearing the colours of the “EE139 Phantom of the Ruhr” . Just one more Lancaster of the 7377 built is still airworthy, being the Lancaster B.X FM213 stationed in Canada.
Another big bomber that is never boring to see, is the B-17 Flying Fortress “Pink Lady”, currently stationed in France. This warbird is a real WWII veteran, as she flew six missions over allied Germany, flying for the 511th Bomb Squadron, 351st Bomb Group from RAF Polebrook, United Kingdom.
The Fighter Aircraft
Newcomers to the Flying Legends were two Hawker Fury fighters. One of them, the Hawker Sea Fury T.20 is actually not completely new for the United Kingdom, as she had flown with the Fleet Air Arm Historic Flight until 1990. She was however sadly involved in a “wheels up” landing at Yeovilton, and skidded into a line of trees damaging the fuselage and breaking off the port side wing. She has since then been repaired and overhauled in the United States, and was seen flying again during this Flying Legends. The other Hawker Fury has a even more remarkable history, as she can be traced back to be flying for the Iraqi Air Force, as one of the 60 Hawker Fury FB.10 ISS (Iraqi Single Seater) aircraft sold to Iraq in November 1949. As part of the “Balbo” at each Flying Legends, she was flown this year by Stephen Grey as the Joker.
In the category “Little friends”, a every year returning participant is the P-40N Warhawk “Little Jeane” from France. This bird is also a true WWII veteran, and has a remarkable history. She was actually built for the “Nationalist Chinese Air Force”, and rolled out the Curtiss facility in Buffalo, New York with Chinese markings in late 1942. However was she diverted to the 49th Fighter Group’s 7th Fighter Squadron in Dobodura, New Guinea in late 1943. From here it was involved in heavy fighting, as she escorted USAAF and RAAF bombers on their way to attack Japanese troops around Lae. And hereby clashed with Japanese Ki-43 “Oscar” and Ki-61 “Tony” fighters throughout this period. In 1944 she was abandoned at the Tadji island, where by coincidence also the TFC Bell P-39-Q6 AiraCobra “Brooklyn Bum” was abandoned.
Back from one year “sabbatical”, the beautiful Westland Lysander was back over the Duxford airfield, followed by a Gloster Gladiator. The Lysander can be traced back to her build in Canada, were she served as a target tug with the Royal Canadian Air Force. The aircraft is known for its ruggedness and short-take-off-and-landing (STOL) capability, and was used as a low-level reconnaissance and observation aircraft.
As with every air show, the Flying Legends also had to put up a few cancellations. First cancellation was the beautiful replica of a Caudron C.460 Rafale, which has become famous to win almost every air race it participated in. Another cancellation was by a true film star, the Lockheed Electra F-AZLL which is featuring in the motion picture “Amelia”. Recapturing the live of Amelia Earhart, staring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere.
And by far, the most missed at their “own” Flying Legends was the large collection of aircraft owned by the “Fighter Collection”. Due to some bureaucratic decisions by the United Kingdom CAA, almost all aircraft in this collection were grounded, except for the Sea Fury and Mustang. Word has it that the CAA was not happy with both some modifications and the use of alternative parts and materials which, in the CAA's words, had not been properly validated. The CAA say they were also concerned by the lack of records detailing how some of the changes were accomplished. Aircraft that date right back into the 1940's can of course have problems with the paperwork. However in my humble opinion one could question the CAA’s functioning, as for many years these planes had previously been allowed to fly.
The stories and tales around this great event and the participating aircraft can go on, and on. However I tried to depict the most interesting aircraft flying at this year’s Flying Legends, and tell you their stories. I will try to keep visiting this great event for many years to come. It is hard to describe the Flying Legends “feeling”. You must have visited this event and seen all the action for yourself. Of course your prime motivation should be that love those big and small historic beauties.
Report and photos by Ramon van Opdorp ( view portfolio )