Duxford has several good air shows and events throughout the year, but the most popular has to be the 'Flying Legends' air show which is usually held over 2 days in July. 'Flying Legends' is unlike any other UK air show as it consists entirely of warbirds, mainly WWII aircraft which are based at 'IWM Duxford' and also brought in from other countries making this one of the finest warbird air shows in the world. Duxford airfield itself is steeped in history, as it was originally constructed in WWI to train airmen for the Royal Flying Corps, and during the Battle of Britain in WWII, its aircraft were frequently scrambled against the Luftwaffe.
The flying display starts at 2pm and usually runs to about 5.30pm which gives you ample time to look around the extensive museum, hangars, stalls, and walk along the flight-line which allows you to get a close look at the many and varied warbirds, complete with re-enactors in period RAF uniform. This was a two day event held over the weekend and Sunday certainly saw the better weather.
Flying Legends which is run by 'IWM Duxford' usually includes an impressive display of aircraft with something special each year, which keeps the enthusiasts happy. This year was no exception with the debut of 'The Horsemen', a P-51 Mustang flight demonstration team, which consisted of three P-51D Mustangs, 'Ferocious Frankie', 'Big Beautiful Doll', and 'Miss Velma', flown by three highly skilled warbird pilots, Dan Friedkin, Jim Beasley, and Ed Shipley.
Focke Wolf Fw-190
Another special visitor was the Lockheed Electra 'Hazy Lily' which is identical to the aircraft flown by Amelia Earhart on her ill-fated flight in 1937 where she and her aircraft disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. This aircraft is star of the new film 'Amelia' starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Virginia Madsen, and Christopher Eccleston which should be released in the Autumn of 2009.
Mikael Carlson brought along one of his two Thulin A/Bleriot XI aircraft. The Bleriot XI was originally built by Louis Bleriot and he was the first to cross the English Channel in a heavier-than-air aircraft in 1909. The Bleriot was also the first aeroplane to cross the Alps, be used for military service, and the first aeroplane to loop-the-loop in 1913 piloted by Adolphe Pegoud, a French aviator who became the first fighter ace. Both Thulin A/Bleriot XI aircraft are equipped with original 7 cylinder Gnôme-Omega 50 hp rotary engines 1908 model, engines and restored by Mikael himself.
One of the main attractions of the show, especially for the enthusiasts, was the Focke Wolf FW-190A-8/N, 'F-AZZJ', which is owned by Christophe Jacquard and which made its maiden flight on May 7, 2009 at Dijon-Darois airfield in France. It was certainly an impressive sight and sound of both the powerful Fw-190 and the Messerschmitt Bf-109 up in the air alongside several Spitfires.
Making a welcome appearance in the flying display along with the other Spitfires was Kennet Aviation's Seafire Mk.XVII (SX336) which is the only airworthy Seafire on the UK register and the only other airworthy Seafire in the world is Jim Smith's FR.47 (VP441) based in the USA. After a long term restoration Kennet Aviation's Seafire was painted in the current Fleet Air Arm colour scheme and flew on 3rd May 2006 at North Weald.
Despite most of 'The Fighter Collection' aircraft being grounded due to some unforseen paperwork, the display was still very impressive with no fewer than three North American B-25 Mitchells, B-25D-30 (43-3318/KL161) from 'Vulcan Warbirds', B-25J-20 (44-29507) from 'RNAF Historical Flight', and B-25J-35 (45-8811) from 'SDPA', which all took off together to entertain the crowds. Although 'Sally B' is temporarily grounded again with more engine problems, we still had a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress in the air with a display by the French bomber, 'Pink Lady'.
The amazing thing about Flying Legends is the amount of warbirds they get in the air displaying at the same time, with several Spitfires, Mustangs, and Hurricanes, which make photographing these aircraft very challenging but also a lot of fun. There were also three Yak fighters displaying including Yak-3UA (0470107), Yak-3U (170101), and Yak-9UM (0470406). Two Skyraiders from Kennet Aviation (126933), and Jean Salis (124143) also displayed together. Also two Hawker Fury aircraft displayed, a Sea Fury T20 from the USA, and Frederic Akary's Fury ISS (37514). The P-40N Warhawk (42-105915) owned by Christian Amara also took part in the display.
No warbird display would be complete without the Avro Lancaster which arrived straight after B-17 'Pink Lady' displayed on the Sunday. This is one of only two Lancasters flying in the world today. The RAF operate this aircraft as part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) which also includes several Spitfires, and Hurricanes. The other airworthy Lancaster is based in Ontario, Canada and owned by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.
There is the usual debate from enthusiasts, particularly at a warbird event, where many would rather listen to the sound of the aircraft than have the commentator talking non-stop throughout the show. However, it must be difficult for a commentator to get the right balance of keeping the audience well-informed, giving them advance knowledge of what's displaying next, telling interesting stories to keep everyone amused, and knowing when to keep quiet.
Two more German aircraft displaying were the Bf-108 (D-EBEI), and the Junkers Ju-52 owned by Lufthansa Traditionsflug. Also displaying were two Piper J-3C Cubs (G-AKAZ, and G-RRSR), which put on a very impressive show, virtually hovering in the air at one point against the wind. The Shuttleworth Gladiator I (L8032) and Lysander IIIA (V9552) also made an appearance at the show. 'Foundation Dakota Norway' displayed their C-53D Dakota (42-68823), and the Aerostars Team brought their Yaks along. Anna Walker displayed in her Bucker Jungmann to the music of Maurice Ravel's Bolero and towards the end of the show we had a display from three Fokker Dr I replicas and Nieuport 17/23 replica.
At the end of the show, Flying Legends is well known for its 'Balbo' where it puts many of the warbirds in the air to form up into a large formation. 'Balbo' is named after Count Italo Balbo who flew a mass of Italian military aircraft across the Atlantic in 1933 in a demonstration of Italian air power. While the 'Balbo' forms up it is left to the 'joker', Stephen Grey, owner of 'The Fighter Collection', to entertain the crowds, this year, in the Sea Fury T.20 (WG655).
Thanks to 'The Fighter Collection' and the 'Imperial War Museum Duxford' for putting on yet another fantastic and thrilling air show this year and don't forget to make a note in your diary for next year's show which is expected to take place on the 10th and 11th of July 2010.
Duxford will be hosting two more major air shows this year, with the main Duxford air show on 5th and 6th of September 2009 and the Autumn air show on 11th October 2009. Smaller events include 'Spitfire Day' on the 9th August 2009, and 'American Air Day'on the 21st August 2009. Please visit the Imperial War Museum, Duxford website at www.iwm.org.uk/duxford for more details.