Vintage aviation aficionados from across the globe made the annual pilgrimage to Duxford for the world-renowned Flying Legends airshow on 13-14 July 2019.
Heading the bill were the debuting Ultimate Fighters team, comprised of P-47 Thunderbolt Nellie B, TF-51D Mustang Contrary Mary, Spitfire Mk.V EE602 and Buchón ‘White 9’. Jon Gowdy led close formation box-four vertical and oblique loops in the Thunderbolt before the quartet split on-crowd, the Spitfire and Buchón then entering into a tight, wheeling mock-dogfight in the hands of Richard Grace and Dave Puleston respectively. The Thunderbolt then returned, leading Andy Durston in the TF-51 for a series of close formation aerobatic figures before all four reformed for some final passes and a smooth break to land. Anglia Aircraft Restorations pilot Mark Levy added another layer to the routine with his excellently delivered, insightful commentary during Sunday’s display.
The well-received sequence was an instant highlight, marking the arrival onto the UK circuit of an exciting, must-see historic display team – something sorely missing since the winding up of the Breitling Fighters and, latterly, the Old Flying Machine Company’s Spitfire and Mustang pair.
Earlier in the programme, all five of the UK’s airworthy Hispano Aviacion HA-1112 Buchóns flew together for the first time. The quintet are Battle of Britain film veterans, four of the number having been restored to flight by Sywell-based Air Leasing Ltd within the last two years and the other coming from the Aircraft Restoration Company stable. The latest of the Buchón cache to return to the skies is ‘Chevron 5’, a distinctively marked four-bladed example of the type which flew again earlier in the summer. Sunday saw the Buchóns conclude their excellent display sequence with a close formation vic-five formation pass and echelon break.
Sunday also marked the long awaited public flying display debut of the Historic Aircraft Collection’s DH-9 E8894, restored to flight by Retrotec Ltd and flown at Flying Legends by ‘Dodge’ Bailey. The DH-9 is the sole airworthy example of the type, powered by the world’s only serviceable Puma engine, and put on a lovely display in gusty conditions.
Concluding the programme on each day was the traditional ‘Balbo’ formation, Saturday’s massed flypast comprising 25 warbirds. Entertaining the crowd during the formation’s assembly to the south was a Flying Legends first – a double ‘Joker’ sequence, flown by Nick Grey in The Fighter Collection’s Grumman Bearcat and Richard Grace in Anglia Aircraft Restorations’ Hawker Fury. This was a positively awesome routine that harked back to the legendary ‘ultimate big pistons’ Bearcat and Fury pairings of the mid-1990s. Those of a certain vintage will remember fondly the similarly powerful duo displays put on by Messrs Grey and Hanna in the mid-1990s.
It seems somewhat fitting that in its 26th year, Flying Legends mirrored that classic pairing of old – representative, perhaps, of the cyclical nature of the historic aircraft scene and the rich abundance of treasures we still enjoy, decades after ‘Legends revolutionised warbird airshow flying.