We are just days away from the annual Flying Legends airshow, one of the absolute highlights of the vintage aviation calendar held this year over the weekend of 14-15 July at IWM Duxford. This year the airshow celebrates its 25th anniversary with a fighter-heavy flying programme featuring several debuting warbirds and a raft of highlights. Renowned for showcasing the cream of Europe’s vintage aircraft population in exhilarating set pieces, Flying Legends is simply the place to go to see the most dynamic warbird flying in the world.
The Spitfire sequence that ritually fires the display into life will feature four Mk.V Spitfires this year, with two newcomers joining TFC’s own EP120 and BM597 of the Historic Aircraft Collection (HAC). Making its ‘Legends debut will be Anglia Aircraft Restorations’ Mk.Vc EE602, wearing its original wartime 129 Squadron markings. Returning to the UK 11 years after leaving these shores for Texas is Comanche Fighters’ Mk.Vc JG891, resplendent in striking desert camouflage once more, albeit sans Volkes filter. Combined with three Mk.I Spitfires (three quarters of the world’s airworthy Mk.I population), it will be quite a spectacle to see so many early variants in one place.
Spitfires aren’t the only type seeing a relative boom in newcomers – the Mustang contingent has the UK debut of Trusty Rusty, an airframe with Reno pedigree having raced as Miss Ashley #38, alluded to by the smoothed over gun ports. It now resides with the Early Bird Foundation in Holland, and its scheme is that of Captain Robert P. ‘Bob’ Winks’ mount, as stationed with the 364th Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group at Leiston, Suffolk during the Second World War
Following a forced landing last year, Anglia Aircraft Restorations’ TF-51D Mustang will be returning in a new scheme having been rebuilt by a joint effort from Fighter Rebuilders (fuselage) and Pacific Fighters (wings). A welcome return to the UK circuit, and Duxford especially, is a 78th FG scheme and that of Lt Col Roy B Caviness’ Contrary Mary, as stationed at Duxford with the 84th FS, 78th FG in 1945.
Returning this year is the USAF Heritage Flight, and with that comes a specially imported Mustang. Previously brought across in 2011, February has been repainted into the scheme of The Hun Hunter \ Texas, the mount of Henry W. Brown who was the highest scoring ace of the 355th FG and its second most decorated pilot. He joined the 355th in November 1943 and became an ace in April 1944. Although forced down by flak and captured in October of the same year, Brown would have an illustrious postwar career, heading the F-111 program at Nellis Air Force Base in 1967 and later commanding the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing. In Vietnam he was appointed deputy Director of Operations for the 7th Air Force. He retired as Colonel in 1972.
A type that somewhat dwindled with the sale of Richard Lake’s desert-schemed Hispano Buchón G-AWHE in 2016 is enjoying a resurgence following the sale of several of Connie Edwards’ Buchóns from the Battle of Britain film stash in the same year. Air Leasing have become specialists in the type’s restoration, having turned out no less than three examples to airworthy condition in the space of nine months, of which White 9 will be making its airshow debut joined by Yellow 7 and twin-stick Red 11. Joining those airframes is the ‘Legends stalwart Yellow 10, operated by the Aircraft Restoration Company (ARCo).
Yet another type making a much-anticipated return to the UK airshow scene is that of P-47D Nellie, formerly No Guts – No Glory! as operated by TFC for two decades before sale to the US in spring 2007. In early 2018 Fighter Aviation Engineering Ltd purchased the P-47D, which was re-registered as G-THUN, shipped to the UK and unpacked from its shipping container at Sywell on 14 April. Reassembly commenced and just 12 days later [on 26 April] the Thunderbolt re-emerged from the Air Leasing hangar resplendent in a new paint scheme representing F4-J Nellie of the 492nd FS, 48th FG, 9th Air Force.
Following its 11-year restoration the F4U-5N Corsair operated by AJBS – Les Casques de Cuir, the French museum based at La Ferté-Alais, will be making its first ‘Legends appearance in its new VC-3 night fighter guise, having last attended the event in 2002. The Corsair made its post-restoration debut display at the Museum’s own airshow in May, with a punchy routine from Baptiste Salis. The airframe was originally constructed in 1951 and delivered to the US Navy in September of that year. In 1952, it was assigned to VC-3 and went on to operate from USS Valley Forge and USS Boxer before returning to the US in 1953. In 1956 the Corsair was delivered to Honduras and saw action in the “Soccer War” with El Salvador, operating with Fuerza Area Hondurena as FAH 600. The French-based Corsair will join TFC’s own Goodyear example.
Other notable participants include Jan Roozen’s Mk.IIa Hurricane P3351, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster (Sunday only), ARCo’s newly restored Spitfire PrXI PL983 (making its post-restoration display debut) and TFC’s now re-engined Sea Fury T.20 WG655. The Flying Bulls, staunch supporters of the show, will be attending en masse with their P-38 Lightning (the only flying example in Europe), F4U-4 Corsair, B-25 Mitchell and, in its Flying Legends debut, the DC-6.
Finally, in an exciting announcement, TFC have confirmed their very rare Fiat CR.42 Falco will be on static display in their hangar, having returned from Vintage Fabrics at Audley End only this week. Having left the Duxford hangar in 2012, it has returned in the scheme of a CR.42 marked 85-16, 85 Squadriglia, 18 Gruppo, 56 Stormo, Sergente A.Lazzari which force landed near Corton Railway station, Lowestoft 11 November 1940. It will be an absolute delight to see this aircraft complete and painted, sat alongside its contemporary, the Gloster Gladiator. Also on static display in Hangar 3 will be the Historic Aircraft Collection’s restored (and as yet still-to-fly) Airco DH.9.
Flying Legends is ADVANCED TICKET ONLY and you can buy tickets via the Flying Legends website.