Further continuing a catch-up of the year’s airshows, this selection from the Sunday of Flying Legends illustrates the far from ideal weather of the day. The show wasn’t a classic, but few will forget the various Spitfire and Mustang sequences.
This event held in the fields surrounding the small Damyns Hall airstrip near Upminster, Essex, showcases various periods of military history from the earliest days until the very recent and includes battle scenarios, re-enactors, static set-pieces and air displays – the latter taking an increasingly large part in the day’s entertainment. Of the displays illustrated undoubted highlight was Dan Griffith in the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar Spitfire XVI, which thankfully coincided with the best weather of the day.
A memorial service was held at the Civic War Memorial on the Lee-on-the-Solent seafront in the evening of 3 June to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of D-Day – one of many such events each side of the Channel. The Memorial is located just a few hundred yards from HMS Daedalus, an airfield which played a major part in the embarkation of troops for ‘Operation Overlord’. Much of the local area became a launch point for the huge military operation – both airborne and seaborne. A record 435 sorties operated from the airfield on D-Day itself, with aircraft from the RAF, FAA, USAAF, USN, SAAF, RAAF and RCN working around the clock.
The Service was followed by flypasts from a number of aircraft representing some of those air arms, themselves flying out of the same airfield. Additional aircraft had gathered at Lee – including a eight C-47 Dakotas/Skytrains – and would depart the following day for mainland Europe and further commemorations and troop-dropping re-enactments. A number of those crews and ‘troops’ attended the Service, alongside veterans and local dignitaries.
The weather for the service was luckily better than forecast, though the timing of the flypasts coincided with a tall and threatening front moving in from the west which blocked out the light, making photography awkward.
A planned poppy-drop by C-47 ‘Union Jack Dak’ when passing the memorial met with a slight technical difficulty which sadly caused the petals to fall beyond the intended dropping point. This Skytrain is a D-Day veteran, having departed in the early hours of 6 June 1944 heading for Normandy towing a Waco glider.
Those onboard in 1944 – and the tens of thousands of other brave souls airborne at that time – were spearheading the Allied attack on ‘Fortress Europe’, from which they might not return.
‘Lest we Forget’
‘The Revival’ is a unique event, taking the visitor back in time to a world of classic vehicles, vintage aircraft and re-enacted street scenes. Moreover the public are encouraged to join in with the theme and attend wearing period costumes, and do so in such great numbers that the visitor becomes a part of the event, creating an atmosphere unlike any other. The motor racing around the historic track is quite rightly the centre of attention but the Revival also hosts a static aircraft display and a number of flying items – both of which are of the highest quality.
The Freddie March Spirit of Aviation enclosure offered some stunning pre-1966 aircraft, many of which are rarely seen elsewhere. There are no barriers to spoil the views, with the public trusted to behave in keeping with the transition back to simpler times.
With the layout at Goodwood not allowing the necessary safety margins the flying displays are restricted to passes along the ‘A axis’, but the pilots make the most of it by offering close top side passes with extremely tight formations from the multi-aircraft routines. Each day opened with a Dawn Patrol by either or both of the OFMC’s Spitfire IX MH434 and Mustang ‘Ferocious Frankie’, and on the Saturday evening these two aircraft performed a sunset display before taxiing in to greet the specially invited guests to the Ball. The pair also took part in other sequences during the event, along with the Fighter Collection’s P-40B and P-40F.
The BBMF are also regulars, though sadly Lancaster PA474 couldn’t beat the weather to appear as part of the Dambusters 70 commemoration.
Perhaps one of the most anticipated display items of the year was the debut in its new colours of Midair’s Canberra PR9. The classic jet looks stunning in its silver scheme, and will be the star attraction of any event it attends in 2014.
Track action included everything from pedal cars to machinery worth many millions of pounds – with most raced without limits, resulting in some serious repair bills for an unlucky few. The weather contributed to much sideways action, especially on the Sunday afternoon.
And then there is the atmosphere. Hopefully the following will offer some idea of what makes the Revival so special:
And, if you’ll excuse me, that brings this report to its end:
After the incidents and loss of Big Beautiful Doll in 2011, last year’s Flying Legends was a somewhat quieter year. The 2013 event returned more to the heights of old, though tempered with the news that this would be Stephen Grey’s last appearance at the controls of one of his aircraft at what is The Fighter Collection’s own show – and world renowned for its unique format and content. Although we didn’t know it at the time it would also turn out to be the last chance for most people to see P-47 Thunderbolt ‘SNAFU’ in the air before her surprise return to the USA.
Instead of playing the part of the ‘joker’ before the Balbo finale, Stephen Grey opened the show in his Bearcat to the haunting Pink Floyd classic ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ – apparently a favourite track of the 75 year old TFC boss, and well suited to the powerful yet graceful demonstration. We can only guess at what the future holds for the TFC and Flying Legends, but hopefully son Nick will take the reigns.
The show continued with The Bremont Horsemen flying close formation routines in two Mk I Spitfires and a V, in their style which doesn’t compare with the more dynamic displays that we are familiar with – but is still very easy on the eye as a show of grace rather than power.
Further illustrations of the day’s displays:
Flying Legends in 2014 is scheduled to take place on the 12 and 13 July, and it will be interesting to see how the show shapes up.
Returning as a location for an airshow after a break of almost twenty years, the South East Airshow taking place at the one time RAF Manston – now Kent International Airport – created much interest when first announced. At a time when we are more used to losing shows, gaining a new one was a most welcome change. Although it has its roots in the seafront displays around Margate the content of the show was clearly more akin to a ‘proper’ airshow, with the added bonus of viewing the participants and their movements on the ground. Back in the days of the RAF displays the location of Manston created serious traffic headaches, and this proved to be the case again with many visitors being stuck in the queues for up to five hours whilst others gave up and headed home. The terrible weather on the day also created cancellations to the flying programme and limitations for those that flew, but despite this a highly entertaining and varied afternoon’s display did take place with content of the highest quality. Commentary was provided by George Bacon, recently announced as part of the two-man RIAT team.
Warbirds displaying included the Navy Historic Flight Sea Fury:
Peter Teichman, who opened the show in P-40 ‘Lulu Belle’, returned from North Weald in P-51 ‘Jumpin’ Jacques’:
The ever popular Sally B:
Fittingly the show was closed by ‘The Kent Spitfire’ Mk IX TA805 from Biggin Hill:
Returning to the scene after three and half years of restoration Dutch B-25 Mitchell was flown in a vigorous manner much missed:
Classic jets provided a gratifyingly large proportion of the show opening with perhaps the main cause of the greater than expected crowd numbers, Avro Vulcan XH558:
Last year ex-Red Arrow Ben Murphy filled-in on the occasions that Jonathon Whaley was unable to display stunningly-schemed Hunter ‘Miss Demeanour’, whilst at Manston Patrick Tuit took a turn – this being his display debut in ‘Miss D’. Patrick is the chief pilot and trainer for the Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation.
Another debut display was the long awaited appearance of the Red Star Rebels, although only two of the L-29 Delfins flew at Manston. The intention has been to offer four of the classic jet trainers but the team has been through a long gestation period before making this initial showing. The idea behind the team is to finally turn the ‘Cold War’ into a very heated scenario, with the Eastern Bloc aircraft attacking the West’s airfields – which they accomplished with impressive pyrotechnics:
Though unconnected as far as the story-line of the show progressed, these explosions were soon outclassed by the NATO offering, the British Army’s Apache:
The lighter side of aviation was represented by a couple of aerobatic demonstrations, with Nigel Willson displaying his Yak 52:
and Chris Burkett in the G-Force Extra 300:
A number of aircraft were displayed on the ground, including an RAF Hawk and this Tornado GR4 from Marham:
A number of aircraft could also be seen around the airport in various conditions, such as these two 747s and DC-8 in derelict state:
After the show there was much heated debate around the serious congestion issues with many pointing the finger at the organisers, stating a lack of traffic management and planning as the main causes. The initial statement from organisers AS Enterprises and Heritage Events was: ‘All parties recognise the problems that people faced travelling by vehicle to the South East Airshow and apologise to those who experienced long delays and were unable to attend the event. There will be a full debrief with all parties and once we have collated all the feedback, we will be able to make a more detailed statement. We would ask for people to email their views and their personal experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can respond appropriately to each person individually.’
This was followed by a more detailed response:
We planned this event for months and took the advice of all the experts but could never have dreamed that so many people would want to attend without having bought a ticket in advance. We pre-sold 15,000 tickets and expected about another 5,000 more. In reality we had almost 30,000 people get through the gate and enjoy a great day out. We had a car park which had enough spaces for 16,000 cars and even at the busiest time we had 5000 spaces, We had three entrances, 2 of which flowed smoothly all day and three exits as well as 10 car parking teams working flat out all day. Also on the same day was the final of the Amateur Golf Championships in Sandwich, the Jazz Festival in Margate, a luxury boat sale in Ramsgate and Canterbury College’s Open Day in Broadstairs so there was lots of other things going on too. I can’t apologise enough for the fact that one particular road became totally gridlocked and we will do better for any future events’.
It must be hoped that improvements can be made and that future shows of this calibre can continue at Manston, although it has to be accepted that the road layout approaching the airport will always create problems – as they always did.
Duxford’s first show of 2013 commemorated the 70th anniversary of the arrival at the wartime Cambridgeshire airfield of the 78th Fighter Group of the US Army Air Force. Initially equipped with P-47 Thunderbolts and arriving in April 1943, the Group traded them for P-51 Mustangs in December 1944, and both types played a significant part in the commemorations – not just at the show but also as part of the following day’s flypasts over other significant airfields with links to the USAAF and also the Cambridge American Cemetery at Madingley – see Madingley flypast .
As part of the ‘Eagle Squadron’ P-47 ‘Snafu’ and P-51 ‘Princess Elizabeth’ were joined by a Hurricane and Spitfire representing aircraft flown by volunteer US pilots at a time before their home country had joined the battle, and these squadrons flew under that title. Flying as a four-ship, with B-17 ‘Sally B’, with the Red Arrows and in pairs, the ‘Eagle Squadron’ was one of the most eagerly anticipated display acts of recent years – and they didn’t fail to deliver. Led by British pilot Paul Bonhomme in the Hurricane, the remaining members of the quartet were the three pilots that make up the ‘Bremont Horsemen Flight Team’ – Dan Friedkin (Spitfire), Ed Shipley (Mustang) and Steve Hinton (Thunderbolt). The trio normally fly Mustangs and have been seen before at Duxford doing so in a mix of UK-based P-51s and specially imported US-based airframes.
The US theme ran through the whole show both in the air and on the ground. ‘The Three Belles’ delighted the crowds on the ground:
whilst Golden Apple Operation’s F-86A Sabre made a welcome return after its engine issues:
US warbirds included a couple of P-40s (Pearl Harbor survivor P-40B illustrated), TF-51D Mustang ‘Miss Velma’ (a two-seater which took ‘Bud’ Anderson aloft before the display started and again on the Monday commemorations) two DC-3s, a Harvard pair and two L-4 Cubs.
Other warbird content included the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane, Westland Lysander and the pairs display of the ‘Grace Spitfire’ with ARCo’s Buchon.
Civilian teams gave added colour to the show with the Trig Aerobatic Team, RV8tors and the solo Breitling Stearman wingwalker making good use of the sunny conditions.
The focus of the event was quite rightly aimed at the historics, but the RAF did send the display Tucano in its homage scheme:
Due to delays the Tucano pilot hadn’t received his display authorisation in time to take part in the show. The RAF did though make an impact in closing the show with the Red Arrows making their UK 2013 debut, and flying nine Hawks for the first time since the tragedies of 2011.
Duxford’s first show of 2013 was an all-round success and heavily attended. Hopefully setting a trend for the rest of the year.
The next airshow at Duxford is the Flying Legends event over the weekend of 13 and 14 July.
With thanks to Esther Blaine and the IWM staff.