MILAVIA > Air Shows > Flying Legends 2012 Last updated: 12 July 2012

Air Show Report : Flying Legends 2012


On June 30th and July 1st, 2012, the Imperial War Museum Duxford hosted its annual Flying Legends air show. Ramon van Opdorp reports.

IWM Duxford Air Show : Flying Legends 2012

Flying Legends is the one event on my calendar that I always book time off for. For many reasons is Legends special, it seems to never let me down on many aspects, and therefore again my sixth visit to this exquisite show was made. Petty details aside, there is no such thing as a "bad" Legends. Name one show on this planet, some US shows not considered, that can sport a P-47 Thunderbolt, P-38 Lightning, Curtiss P-40s, Hawker Nimrods, Sea Furies, Sikorsky S-38, Swordfish, three Spitfire Mk.I's. and the list can go on.

The weather gods proved to be "humble" for the enthusiast public, as they managed to drain the clouds mostly in the morning. High winds however caused issues for some of the aircraft. The cloud "spectacle" during the show was great for my preferred way of photographing aircraft: big white puffy clouds or a very dark sky as background.

Rare top-view P-51 Mustang formation

2012 Highlights

1) Republic P-47G Thunderbolt

This rare brutal "razorback" machine is one of only two remaining airworthy Curtiss built Thunderbolts in the world. Rolled from the assembly line in 1944, and in that same year accepted by the USAF. It has never seen any war action and, designated as TG-47, was flown for training within multiple squadrons. From 1945 till 2006 she was used by several owners in various guises. From 2006 a full restoration program was started by TFC to get this beauty again flying. The scheme on the P-47G is that of the 84th FS P-47D 42-74742 'Snafu', the mount of Lt Severino B. Calderon in late 1944.

P-47G Thunderbolt with D-Day markings
P-47G Thunderbolt 'Snafu' with kill markings
P-47G Thunderbolt fly-by
P-47G Thunderbolt inbound with B-17G Flying Fortress

2) Curtiss P-40F Warhawk

This P-40F Warhawk already made her show debut during Legends 2011, however had arrived only one week before the show of 2011. The aircraft had to be made airworthy in just three days, with engine runs and test flights included. Before this year's show the people at TFC had a year to "dot their i's and cross their t's", part of which was the added artwork on the aircraft. The flying scull emblem of the 85th FS was now sported on both sides of the nose, as was a pin-up girl on the rudder.

P-40F Warhawk with new pin-up on the rudder
The TFC formation of the Curtiss Hawks
Top view fly-by of the P-40F Warhawk
Incoming P-40F Warhawk on final
The TFC P-40F Warhawk fly-by

3) Sikorsky S-38

This twin engine rarity made her first UK air show debut at Legends. Sporting a black and white "Zebra" color scheme, the rare twin tailed boom with numerous cables and rods and the funny looking fuselage makes it a interesting bird to look at. Original S-38s were built for the U.S. armed forces and early airlines, such as Pan American Airways, but were also owned by some famous people. For example Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh owned one of these. This particular aircraft is a replica of the zebra-striped S-38 Osa's Ark, with which filmmakers Martin and Osa Johnson explored Africa extensively.

Sikorsky S-38 with zebra stripes
Sikorsky S-38 Osa's Ark fly-by

4) Goodyear Corsair FG-1D

After several years of painstaking paperwork, this aircraft could finally shine again during Legends. Built and delivered in 1945, it was immediately send to Guam in the Pacific. From here it was found at a repair station in the Philippines and spent a number of years being allocated to various US Naval reserve squadrons as well as varying periods of storage. She is one of the few aircraft still flying with fabric wings. Painted in the colors of a British Fleet Air Arm aircraft, KD345 of the 1850th Squadron on the HMS Vengeance, she performed a thrilling display.

Rearview of the massive FG-1D Corsair powerplant
Great top side view of the FG-1D Corsair
FG-1D Corsair with wings folded

5) Lockheed P-38L-5 Lightning

Earned her stripes as "white Lightning" during several Reno air races from 1977 till 2001, and was now again back in her striking bare metal appearance. Owned by Red Bull, it made the trip from Austria for the second year, and used every inch of the airspace. With the two impressive 1600 Hp Allison engines she was put through her passes, and climbed into the empty sky like a homesick angel.

Red Bull P-38L-5 Lightning getting ready for action
P-38L-5 Lightning cockpit close-up
P-38L-5 close-up of the unique fuselage section
P-38L-5 Lightning high speed fly-by
P-38 Lightning climbing away into the clouds

6) Sea Fury FB.II

For many years I have seen this awesome aircraft at Legends, every year the show routine seems to be different in a very positive way. For the first time used during Legends were two wingtip mounted smoke pods, which emphasized the display routine. With Frédéric Akary at the controls, there is really never a dull moment, especially when you hear that massive Wright R-3350-26WD engine with a whopping 2500 Hp. Besides this screaming engine, the shape of the aircraft for me is also yaw dropping: It looks like a streamlined butterfly.

Pre flight check for the Sea Fury FB.II
Sea Fury FB.II dynamic display
Sea Fury FB.II with wingtip smoke pods
Sea Fury FB.II high speed pass
Sea Fury FB.II performing a steep loop

7) Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I's

Not one, not two, but three rare Spitfire Mk.I's performed several formation flights over Duxford. Not only a rare and exclusive sight to behold, it is also an impressive sound to hear with the "purrrr" of those beautiful Merlin engines.

The unique Spitfire Mk I formation over Duxford
Incoming Spitfire Mk I for landing
The World's oldest Spitfire, the MK I P9374

8) Static Photography

Due to high winds torturing the pilots, aircraft and public during the entire Legends' weekend, all aircraft had been parked with their nose into the wind to avoid any turning and movement of the aircraft by the wing, or worst case scenario, damage to the aircraft. From a photography point of view this worked out just perfectly. As almost all aircraft are tail-wheeled aircraft, the angle was different compared to previous years. In my opinion this is a very good angle, because you get a more complete overview "picture" of the aircraft.

Carrier configuartion on this AD-4NA Skyraider
Hispano Aviación HA-1112-M1L Buchón
The massive Yak-11, former Russian trainer
The robust and fast Yak-3

9) German Quartet

The display by the Junkers Ju-52 owned by Lufthansa is always great to see and to photograph. It never gets boring, looks nice and shiny in the sun, and is accurately flown by the pilots. Two smaller examples of German aviation appeared in the shape of a Bucker Jungmeister and Bucker Jungman. Both flew a high and low display with smoke-on for a more interesting view of the routine. The fourth German type was the UK-based Fieseler Storch with the display making it look like a humming bird flying around.

The always beautiful Junkers 52, owned by Lufthansa
Ju 52 close-up view from the back
The pretty fast Bucker Jungmeister
Bucker Jungmeister coming in for landing
Bucker Jungmeister and Jungman in fromation
Close-up view on the Bucker Jungman
Bucker Jungman fly-by with smoke on
The light Fieseler Storch, with Lysander on background

10) Hawker Nimrod duo

The Hawker Nimrods performed a nicely executed tail chase as part of their duo display. Being bi-planes, it took me by surprise to see the amount of speed and power of these "little" birds. Which other air show can sport two Nimrods in its flying display?

A beautiful top view on the Hawker Nimrod II
Hawker Nimrod inbound for landing
Hawker Nimrod perform a close tail chase


The rarity and variety of aircraft participating in the airshow are not the only important factor for Flying Legends, I regard the flown routines and displays as another factor that's equally important. For example the routine by the three P-51 Mustangs featured not only a chase as in previous years, but also a couple of close formation flights with top side view. The French Sea Fury was another example: with the two smoke pods a completely new style and routine was flown. Different display routines are also needed to get variety in the overall show.

Previous years, I spend one day at the left side and one day at the right side of the runway. After last year I found the close fly-by's/top views better on the left side, and therefore I spend both days on the left side this year. But guess what, they even flew over the crowd on the right side this year. So at the next Legends, I will go again to both sides.

The Beech Staggerwing duo
TFC owned Beech Staggerwing coming in for landing
One of two Stearmans of the Breitling Wingwalkers
Beautiful executed split by the Breitling Wingwalkers
Pair of Buchóns on the runway ready for action
The Spanisch build Buchón on final
The Norwegian C-53D Skytrain, better known as Dakota
Nice top view fly-by of the C-53D Skytrain
C-53D Skytrain going to the pre-flight list
The unique Curtiss Hawk 75 on final
The brutal engine power released on this AD-4NA Skyraider
F8F Bearcat close-up view
A rare close-up F8F Bearcat fly-by
Pre-flight engine runs of this F8F Bearcat
High bank angle on this Lysander
A 'high speed' fly-by of this Lysander
Pearl Harbor survivor P-40N Warhawk
The TF-51 Mustang which came from Germany for the show
High speed pass of this P-51D Mustang
P-51D Mustang 'Ferocious Frankie'
Mustangs lining up for action
The Aerostars Yak-52 formationt team
PBY Catalina close-up engine run
Nice contrast on the PBY Catalina and clouds
PBY Catalina fly-over
PBY Catalina pin-up girl 'Miss Pick Up'
Rolling in of the RNHF Sea Fury
Carrier based Sea Fury close-up
Sea Fury folding wings
The slow but agile Fairey Swordfish II
High Speed' Swordfish fly-by
Spitfire Mk V 'City of Winnipeg' close-up
Incoming B-17G Flying Fortress 'Sally-B'
The obvious clipped wings on this Spitfire FR.XIVE
Bouncy take-off roll of theSpitfire FR.XIVE
A rare two-seat Spitfire Mk IXT
The impressive Spitfire tail chase
Friend and Foe, joining up for the tail chase
Sopwith Camel and Nieuport 17 inbound for landing
WWI dogfight between Nieuport 17 and Fokker DR.I
Top view fly-by of the fast Yakovlev Yak-3
Side view on the massive Yakovlev Yak-11
B-17G Flying Fortress meets 'little friend' P-47G Thunderbolt
B-17G Flying Fortress 'Sally-B' start-up
Top view fly-by of the B-17G Flying Fortress
B-17G Flying Fortress last checks before run-up
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight fly-by
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster
Flying Legends air show would not be possible without the mechanics


As stated in the intro Flying Legends is for me personally a show I hope to attend till eternity. There is no such thing as a "bad" Legends. Take in account and consideration the hard work and efforts of all people involved. This is a war bird show, these old birds do have sometimes a "off day" like real people, which can mean a cancellation. The amount of war birds present on static and in the air is by far the largest you can see every consecutive year on this planet. No show in the world can surprise you like Flying Legends. Even sometimes on the show day itself the boys and girls of TFC and IWM may take you by surprise with what they have pulled out of their high hats. Upon arrival at Duxford, you see all those beautiful old ladies on the ramp waiting to get airborne. I do not know what else will make a warbird enthusiast's heart beat faster. Featuring the sleek P-38, the legendary P-47, new Sea Fury display, and many other warbirds and classics, Flying Legends 2012 showed again why it still is among the top airshows around the globe.

I would like to thank the engineers, staff, pilots, volunteers and in special Esther Blaine for their hard work, hospitality and generous efforts in making this event again one not to forget, as they sometimes largely go unnoticed.

Next Show

I hope for sure to be present again for another great weekend out on 13th and 14th of July 2013. What aircraft will be present is always a big surprise, and honestly that doesn't bother me at all. Maybe the TFC Beaufighter will be in such state it can be showed on static. Or maybe the Hellcat and Wildcat will be released from their "paper weight", and can make their first flying appearance after many years. Hopes and wishes are very personal, and I can make a "wishlist" that will go on for pages. Looking at the number of historic aircraft that finish their long and costly restoration every year around the globe, I'm convinced that we will see a few surprises in the coming years over historic airfield Duxford.

Our previous Flying Legends reports: Flying Legends 2011 Flying Legends 2010 Flying Legends 2009 Flying Legends 2008

The always impressive Balbo mass formation

Report and photos by Ramon van Opdorp ( view portfolio )

First Published: 13 July 2012