After a year of absence we were so glad to be back at our favorite event: Flying Legends! The show has run for 22 years now and it still seems to grow every single year. Since its debut, it has been organized by the fine people of The Fighter Collection and for the second year now, the man in charge is Nick Grey, son of Sir Stephen Grey. The show distinguishes itself by being a unique piston engine aircraft event. This two-day event can without a doubt be called the biggest gathering of World War II aircraft in the continent and maybe even in the entire world.
Nick has certainly lived up to his father's legend: this year the show attracted some of the most beautiful warbird gems around. Over 50 legendary aircraft would take to the skies. Amongst those there were no less than 14 (!) Spitfires, the only airworthy Hawker Fury in the world, the Curtiss P-36C, the airshow debut of the Supermarine Spitfire LFIII, the immaculately restored Bristol Blenheim and, after a very very long absence a Bf-109G-4 “Red Seven”.
One thing's for sure: the aviation enthusiasts gathering from every corner of the globe would not be disappointed! Unlike last year the Saturday of the two-day event was sunny and warm. The Sunday would be the lesser day of the two with an occasional shower or two.
As is the case each year, there's plenty to do on the ground too! There's the Vintage Village with the beautiful Manhattan Dolls straight out of New York performing in Andrews Sister's style, a chance to sit in a Spitfire, Laurel & Hardy providing slapstick comedy and, off-course, the museum itself one can wonder around in for the bigger half of a day. As the American Air Museum is being refurbished it was also a unique occasion to see the aircraft normally displayed there in another setting and from different angles.
On the tarmac, the traditional flightline walk is always a treat. Visitors can get up close and personal with the attending aircraft. Nice addition each year is the number of period dressed re-enactors posing in front of several aircraft to add to the atmosphere. Also nice was the flightline walk cleanup crew before the show would start: Laurel & Hardy would “honk” the crowds away in their vintage car.
The fine people of Classic Wings also provide a different view on Duxford, offering pleasure flights in various classic aircraft such as the Tiger Moth, Harvard or Dragon Rapide.
2015 also celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. RAF Duxford played a central part in that particular piece of history. The RAF Fighter Command was divided into several groups stationed over England: 11 Group was stationed in the South East part and 12 Group covered the area further north, protecting the Midlands and London. Duxford controlled the southernmost corner of 12 Group's area.
If you wish to skip a little British War history, you can click here to take you directly to the beginning of the actual show report.
With the European mainland falling into German hands, Hitler initially hoped in negotiating peace with Britain. Since England would never surrender, on July 11th , 1940, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine (German Navy), told Hitler that an invasion of Britain could only be contemplated as a last resort, and only after full air superiority had been achieved.
The German Navy had been nearly crippled by the Norwegian Campaign, with many of its ships sunk or damaged, while the Royal Navy still had over 50 destroyers, 21 cruisers and eight battleships in the British Home Fleet.
The only option seemed to use the Luftwaffe's dive bombers and torpedo bombers, which required air superiority to operate effectively.
Hermann Göring was also confident that an aerial victory was possible. He was that "The bomber will always get through" and if attacks on military targets failed, the bombing of civilians could force the British government to surrender
The Luftwaffe's primary bombers for the campaign were the Heinkel He-111, Dornier Do-17, Junkers Ju-88 and Junkers Ju-87 Stukas. As far as fighter escort would go, they relied on the Messerschmitt Bf 109E and Bf 110C.
England would fight the Luftwaffe with their trusty workhorse, the Hawker Hurricane Mk I and the less numerous Spitfire Mk I, then only coming into operational service. Operational history of the Spitfire with the RAF started with a limited number of aircraft forming N° 19 Sqn at Duxford on August 4th , 1938.
© IWM (HU 49253)
At the outbreak of the Battle of Britain the Hurricanes outnumbered the Spitfires in RAF Fighter Command by about two to one. Nevertheless, the overall attrition rate of the Spitfire squadrons was lower than that of the Hurricane units and the Spitfire units had a higher victory-to-loss ratio.
This led to the RAF tactic to use Spitfires to counter the German escort fighters, particularly the Bf 109s, while the Hurricane squadrons concentrated on the enemy bombers.
German fighters also bumped into the same restrictions as the allied air arms would have later in the war: the lack of range. Without the benefit of long-range drop tanks (which were introduced in limited numbers in the late stages of the battle), the Bf-109s had an endurance of just over an hour and, for the 109E, a 600 km (370 mi) range. Once over Britain, a 109 pilot had to keep an eye on a red "low fuel" light on the instrument panel. Once that light came on he was forced to turn back and head back for France. The longer range Focke-Wulf 190A was only flying in prototype phase during that time.
On the other hand, in the late 1930s RAF Fighter Command expected to face only bombers over Britain, not single-engined fighters. This led to an inadequate tactic and left them vulnerable to the Luftwaffe fighters in the early stages of the war. They would learn the hard way that they needed to change their tactics fast.
The weight of the battle fell upon 11 Group. Keith Park's tactics were to dispatch individual squadrons to intercept raids. The intention was to subject incoming bombers to continual attacks by relatively small numbers of fighters and try to break up the tight German formations. Once formations had fallen apart, stragglers could be picked off one by one.
During the battle, some commanders, notably Leigh-Mallory, proposed squadrons be formed into "Big Wings," consisting of at least three squadrons, to attack the enemy en masse, a method pioneered by Douglas Bader who commanded N° 242 Squadron from Duxford during the battle and would later lead the Duxford Big Wing.
© IWM (Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, with the pilots of No. 242 Squadron, in front of his Hawker Hurricane at Duxford, September 1940 CH 1413)
The tactic of Big Wings was subject to much debate and often caused intense friction between Park and Leigh-Mallory, as 12 Group was tasked with protecting 11 Group's airfields whilst Park's squadrons intercepted incoming raids. The largest criticism being that it took far too long to form the Big Wings.
The Luftwaffe started the attacks on July 10th and concentrated attacks to the Channel area for over three weeks. The Channel Battles comprised a series of running fights over convoys in the English Channel and was launched because it gave German aircrews some training and a chance to probe the British defences.
The main assault, dubbed Adlerangriff (Eagle Attack) by the Germans concentrated against coastal airfields and started on August 12th . The Luftwaffe would concentrate on taking out the British coastal radar installations, but failed to follow up on their attacks, leaving those installations in operation during the remainder of the conflict.
Starting August 24th , the Luftwaffe would concentrate its efforts at the British airfields That evening an attack was mounted on a tyre factory in Birmingham. Raids on airfields continued through August 24th, and Portsmouth was hit by a major attack. That night, several areas of London were bombed; the East End was set ablaze and bombs landed on central London. Some historians believe that these bombs were dropped accidentally by a group of Heinkel He 111s which had failed to find their target; this account has been contested.
In retaliation, the RAF bombed Berlin on the night of August 25th , and continued bombing raids on Berlin. Göring's pride was hurt, as he had previously claimed the British would never be able to bomb the city. The attacks enraged Hitler, who ordered retaliatory attacks on London.
IWM (Pilots of No. 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF and their British flight commanders at Duxford, September 1940 CH 1299)
The RAF had the advantage of fighting over home territory. Pilots who bailed out of their downed aircraft could be back at their airfields within hours, while if low on fuel and/or ammunition they could be immediately rearmed. One RAF pilot interviewed in late 1940 had been shot down five times during the Battle of Britain, but was able to crash land in Britain or bail out each time.
For Luftwaffe pilots and crews, a bailout over England obviously meant at least capture (in the critical August period, almost exactly as many Luftwaffe pilots were taken prisoner as were killed).
German morale began to suffer and combat fatigue kicked in. The German pilot replacement problem was even worse than the British.
The British aircraft production was more than capable of replacing destroyed aircraft, but more importantly replacement pilots were almost keeping pace with losses. Furthermore, the RAF Squadrons were assisted by several foreign airmen such as the Polish (145 pilots), New Zealand (127 pilots), Canadian (112 pilots), Czechoslovaks (88 pilots), Australians (32 pilots), Belgians (28 pilots), US volunteer pilots, etc.
Hitler asked his staff on a meeting on September 14th if they should call off the attacks on England. The Luftwaffe sustained another large defeat the following day and turned to night bombing in the following weeks of the conflict. As a result, that day is since then commemorated as Battle of Britain Day.
Hitler postponed the idea of an invasion of Britain on October 13th , 1940. October would be regarded as the month in which regular bombing of Britain finally ended.
Is there a better way to start an airshow then with eleven Spitfires? I guess that one's hard to surpass…
Once again, Flying Legends provided a couple of “firsts” in the UK: how about the immaculately restored Supermarine Seafire LF III? In fact, it was the aircraft's worldwide debut, following an intensive restoration of over two decades. PP972 arrived with 809 Sqn of the Fleet Air Arm in 1945, serving on HMS Stalker and HMS Attacker. Once in theater, it became part of the East Indies Fleet, where she performed in a series of operations. She was disbanded in 1946 and later flew with the French Aéronavale in 1948, assigned to Flotille 1. After the war, she was put into storage and was privately acquired in 1970 and moved to an airfield in France where she was restored to static condition and exhibited in the Resistance Museum at St. Marcel from 1982.
It moved back to the UK to Air Leasing Ltd in 1987 and was reregistered PP972. Following an extensive restoration to airworthy conditions, it made its first test flight on June 15th , 2015, so she's only just literally back in the air!
The Seafire came about when the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) desperately needed a modern carrier-borne fighter in the late 1930s, using obsolete aircraft at that time on its ships. An idea came about to convert Spitfires to a folding wing example and equip them with tailhooks. However, Winston Churchill himself turned down the idea due to an increasing need for land based Spitfires for RAF Fighter Command following the imminent threat of the War.
As a result, the FAA used Grumman Marlets (UK name for Grumman Wildcat) instead as an alternative. The concept of a folding wing Spitfire was not abandoned though and in late 1941 some 48 Mk VBs were converted to hooked Spitfires and designated Seafire Mk IB.
After some further modifications such as strengthening the airframe, upgraded versions of the type were operated by 810 Naval Sqn at HMS Furious in late 1942. As with the land based variant, further development was executed on the Seafires, leading to the Seafire Mk III during the war. The Seafire F Mk III was the first true carrier adaptation of the Spitfire design. It was developed from the Seafire Mk IIC, but incorporated manually folding wings allowing more of these aircraft to be spotted on deck or in the hangars below. Supermarine devised a system of two straight chordwise folds; a break was introduced immediately outboard of the wheel-wells from which the wing hinged upwards and slightly angled towards the fuselage. A second hinge at each wingtip join allowed the tips to fold down (when the wings were folded the wingtips were folded outwards). This version used the more powerful Merlin 55 (F Mk III and FR Mk III) or Merlin 55M (L Mk III), driving the same four-bladed propeller unit used by the IIC series; the Merlin 55M was another version of the Merlin for maximum performance at low altitude.
All Spitfires made three passes after which they broke up into 3 separate close formation elements: 4 Griffon engined Spitfires and 2 flights of Merlin engined examples.
The 4 Griffon Spits departed from the hardened runway and flew together during the display sequence. The Griffon engined examples were:
- Supermarine Spitfire MK. FR XIV MV268 G-SPIT JEJ owned and operated by The Fighter Collection and flown by Carl Schofield. This Spitfire wears tributary color scheme to honor WWII RAF Flying ace James Edgar “Johnnie” Johnson
- Richard Lakes' (Spitfire Ltd) Supermarine Spitfire MK. XVIII G-BUOS SM845 flown by Ian Smith
- Supermarine Spitfire MK. XIX G-RRGN PS853 owned and operated by Rolls-Royce Heritage and flown by Mark Lewis
- Supermarine Spitfire PR MK. XIX F-AZJS PS890 owned and flown by Christophe Jacquard
The next flight comprised of four Merlin Spitfires:
- Supermarine Seafire LFIII G-BUAR PP972 Air Leasing Ltd flown by Richard Grace
- Supermarine Spitfire MK. LFVb EP120 G-LFVB of The Fighter Collection flown by Alan Wade. This particular Spitfire is one of the most famous examples still flying in the world today. It scored 7 kills during WWII, six of which by Sqn Leader Geoffrey Northcott of 501 Sqn. After repairs was assigned to 19 Sqn in Cornwall before moving to 402 City of Winnipeg Sqn of the RCAF, whose colors the aircraft wears today.
- Supermarine Spitfire MK. Vb BM597 G-MKVB owned by Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd and flown by Charlie Brown
- The Grace Supermarine Spitfire MK. IX G-LFIX ML407 owned by Air Leasing Ltd and flown by Dave Puleston. This Spitfire was built at Castle Bromwich as a single seat low level LF Mark IX fighter. It served in the front line of battle throughout the last twelve months of WWII. ML407 is currently in the colour scheme as she was when delivered on April 29th, 1944 by a famous lady A.T.A. pilot, Jackie Moggridge, to 485 New Zealand Squadron at ALG Selsey to Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC, with Squadron letters OU and Johnnie's personal insignia letter V (for Vicki his wife to be). Johnnie Houlton was accredited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft (a Junkers 88) over the Normandy beach head just south of Omaha Beach whilst flying this aircraft. ML407 did a total of 176 operational sorties, predominantly ground attack, amassing over 320 combat hours whilst in the 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) going from 485 New Zealand Squadron in December 1944 to 341 Free French, 308 Polish, 349 Belgian, 345 Free French, 332 Norwegian Squadrons, returning to 485 New Zealand Squadron at the end of the War. In 1951 Vickers Armstrong at Southampton was commissioned by the Irish Air Corps to convert 20 Spitfires to the trainer configuration. ML407 was one of these, serving with the Irish Army Air Corps as IAC162 until 1960 with a total time of 763 hours flown for the IAC. In 1968 ML407 was sold on, finally ending up in Scotland, and went into storage.
The final Merlin trio consisted of:
- Old Flying Machine Company's Supermarine Spitfire MK. IXb G-ASJV MH434 flown by Paul Bonhomme. This particular Spitfire was once air tested by Alex Henshaw.
- Historic Flight Foundation's Supermarine Spitfire LF MK. IXe N633VS SL633. This Spitfire flew from RAF Duxford with N°312 Sqn and is visiting from the US for its first UK public display. It was flown by its owner John Sessions
- MaxAlpha Aviation GmbH Supermarine Spitfire MK. VIIIc D-FEUR MT928 flown by Maxi Gainza
Following the Spitfire extravaganza a US naval formation took to the skies in the form of a Grumman Bearcat and two Corsairs. It's been a while since we saw a formation of Corsairs at Legends so it was a great sight to see two of them displaying this year.
The trio made a nice three ship formation pass after which they broke up into a Corsair pair and a Bearcat solo demonstration.
The Grumman Bearcat F8F G-RUMM is owned and operated by The Fighter Collection and was displayed here by Pete Kynsey.
The Grumman F8F Bearcat was developed as a single-engine American fighter aircraft introduced in late World War II. The Bearcat concept started in 1942 where a new carrier borne fighter was needed. One of the most important requirements was a good climb rate.
Climb performance is strongly related to the power-to-weight ratio, and is maximized by wrapping the smallest and lightest possible airframe around the most powerful possible engine. Another goal was that the G-58 should be able to operate from escort carriers, which were then limited to the older non-competitive Grumman F4F Wildcat as the Hellcat was too large and heavy. A small, lightweight aircraft would make this possible. After intensively analyzing carrier warfare in the Pacific Theater of Operations for a year and a half, Grumman began development of the G-58 Bearcat in late 1943.
The design of the Bearcat was largely derived from its predecessor, the F6F Hellcat which was powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine providing 2,000 horsepower (1,500 kW). This was the most powerful engine available at that time, so it would be retained for the Bearcat design. This also meant that improved performance would have to come from a lighter airframe.
This was achieved by the following modifications:
- the fuselage was about 5 feet (1.5 m) shorter than the Hellcat, and was cut down vertically behind the cockpit area. This allowed the use of a bubble canopy, the first to be fit to a US Navy fighter.
- The vertical stabilizer was the same height as the Hellcat's, but increased aspect ratio, giving it a thinner look.
- The main wing had the same span, but having lower thickness, especially at the root.
- tructurally the fuselage used flush riveting as well as spot welding, with a heavy gauge 302W aluminum alloy skin suitable for carrier landings. Armor protection was provided for the pilot, engine and oil cooler.
- The Hellcat used a huge 13 ft 1 in three-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller. A slight reduction in size was made by moving to a 12 ft 4 in Aeroproducts four-bladed propeller. Keeping the prop clear of the deck required long landing gear, which, combined with the shortened fuselage, gave the Bearcat a significant "nose-up" profile on land.
- The hydraulically operated undercarriage used an articulated trunnion which extended the length of the oleo legs when lowered; as the undercarriage retracted the legs were shortened, enabling them to fit into a wheel well which was entirely in the wing. An additional benefit of the inward retracting units was a wide track, which helped counter propeller torque on takeoff and gave the F8F good ground and carrier deck handling.
The most extreme weight reduction developments were:
- Restricting the internal fuel capacity to 160 gal (606 l) and limiting the fixed armament to four .50 cal Browning M2/AN machine guns, two in each wing. The limited range due to the reduced fuel load would mean it would be useful in the interception role, but meant that the Hellcat would still be needed for longer range patrols.
- Another weight-saving concept the designers came up with detachable wingtips. The wings were designed to fold at a point about 2/3 out along the span, reducing the space taken up on the carrier. Normally the hinge system would have to be built very strong in order to transmit loads from the outer portions of the wing to the main spar in the inner section, which adds considerable weight. Instead of building the entire wing to be able to withstand high-g loads, only the inner portion of the wing was able to do this. The outer portions were more lightly constructed, and designed to snap off at the hinge line if the g-force exceeded 7.5 g. In this case the aircraft would still be flyable and could be repaired after returning to the carrier. This saved 230 pounds (100 kg) of weight
Compared to the Hellcat, the Bearcat was 20% lighter, had a 30% better rate of climb and was 50 mph (80 km/h) faster.
The F8F prototypes were ordered in November 1943 and first flew on August 21st , 1944, a mere nine months later. The first production aircraft was delivered in February 1945 and the first squadron, Fighter Squadron 19 (VF-19), was operational by May 21st , 1945. The Bearcat never saw combat service because World War II was as good as over by then.
The initial flight test demonstrated a 4,800 feet (1,500 m) per minute climb rate and a top speed of 424 miles per hour (682 km/h). Compared to the Vought F4U Corsair, the Bearcat was marginally slower but more maneuverable and climbed more quickly.
Production ended in 1949, and the first units began to convert off the type that year. The last Bearcats were withdrawn in 1952. In late 1946, the Blue Angels also briefly flew the Bearcat.
A carrier borne fighter that did see its share of combat in World War II was the Chance Vought Corsair.
First off, let's clear the issue around the issue “is it Vought Corsair or Goodyear Corsair?”. When production levels peaked during WWII, the demand soon overwhelmed Vought's manufacturing capability, resulting in licensed production by Goodyear and even a third party: Brewste. Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. So they are all basically the same aircraft, they were just by another manufacturer and at different locations in the US.
From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, about 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured by Vought, divided over 16 separate models, which gives the Corsair the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history.
The Corsair was designed primarily as a carrier based aircraft. However, its difficult and dangerous carrier landing performances rendered it unsuitable for the Navy to use!
In February of 1938 the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics published two requests for proposal for twin-engined and single-engined fighters. In June of 1938 the Vought design came out a winner and the US Navy signed a contract for a prototype, the XF4U-1 (BuNo 1443).
When the prototype was completed it had the biggest and most powerful engine, the largest propeller and probably the largest wing on any naval fighter to date. Its' first flight was made on May 29th , 1940. A few months later, on October 1st , the XF4U-1 became the first single-engine U.S. fighter to fly faster than 400 mph (640 km/h)
Because of the large propeller used, the need for a folding wing and a strong undercarriage for carrier landings, the Corsair got its characteristic bent wing. This inverted gull wing considerably shortened the required length of the main gear legs and still provided enough ground clearance for the large propeller.
The F4U was the first US Navy aircraft to feature landing gear that retracted into a fully enclosed wheel well. The oil coolers were mounted in the heavily anhedraled center-section of the wings, alongside the supercharger air intakes, and used openings in the leading edges of the wings, rather than protruding scoops.
Even with its streamlining and high speed abilities, the Corsair could fly slowly enough for carrier landings with full flap deployment of 60°.
The US Navy received its first Corsair on July 31st , 1942. As mentioned before, ironically the Corsair seemed to be doomed as a carrier based aircraft at first, because of the following issues:
- The original framed “birdcage” canopy along with the large nose provided inadequate visibility for deck taxiing and final approach;
- the aircraft had a nasty tendency to flare and "bounce" on touchdown, which could cause it to miss the arresting hook and slam into the crash barrier, or even go out of control;
- the enormous torque of the Double Wasp engine also created operational problems.
As the result of carrier qualification trials carried out aboard the USS Sangamon on September 25th , 1942, the US Navy released the type to the US Marine Corp, whilst they continued to operate the F6F Hellcat. The Hellcat did not entirely match the performance of the Corsair, but was a far more reliable deck landing aircraft.
The Marines mainly operated the Grumman F4F Wildcat at the time and desperately needed a better performing aircraft against the Japanese aircraft. They usually flew from land bases, so the Corsair suited them perfectly.
Foreign operators of the type in World War 2 were the French Aéronavale and the British Fleet Air Arm. It was the latter who eventually overcame the Corsair deck landing issues which eventually lead to the re-introduction of the Corsair in the US Navy.
The British operated a naval version of the Spitfire (see above), but these lacked the range to operate at a distance from a carrier task force. The Corsair was welcomed as a much more robust and versatile alternative. They soon would also learn of the dangerous landing characteristics of the Corsair, but they eventually overcame them with a few simple modifications:
- Because of the limited hangar deck height in several classes of British carrier, many Corsairs had their outer wings "clipped" by about 8 in (200 mm) to clear the deckhead. The resulting change in wingspan brought about the added benefit of improving the sink rate, reducing the F4U's propensity of "floating" in the final stages of landing.
- The British pilots also used a curved approach upon carrier landing which helped solve visibility issues. By approaching the carrier in a medium left-hand turn, the pilots were able to keep the carrier's deck in view over the dip in the port wing, allowing for safer carrier operations.
- A bulged canopy was also introduced (similar to the Malcolm Hood on the P-51), raising the pilot's seat by about 7 in (180mm) and also improving visibility on the deck and on final approach.
- Another modification was wiring shut the cowl flaps across the top of the engine compartment, diverting the oil and hydraulic fluid around the sides of the fuselage.
After the carrier landing issues had been tackled it quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. It was able to outperform the primary Japanese fighter, the A6M Zero. While the Zero could outturn the F4U at low speed, the Corsair was faster and could outclimb and outdive the A6M. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War II and the U.S. Navy counted an 11:1 kill ratio with the F4U Corsair.
After WWII, the Corsair served almost exclusively as a fighter-bomber throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria. The Corsair flew its final combat missions during the 1969 "Football War" between Honduras and El Salvador. It was in service with both air forces at that time.
The Fighter Collection's Goodyear FG-1D Corsair KD345/A-130 (G-FID) was built and delivered too late to see combat in WWII. She was dispatched to Guam in May of 1945 where she served with Fleet Air Wing 2 in the Pacific until December of that same year when she returned to the US.
After almost being scrapped, she passed through several civilian owners and ended up with TFC in 1986 and was repainted in 1997 as Corsair Mk IV (UK name for the FG-1D) with serial number KD345 of 1850 Naval Air Squadron, 13th Carrier Air Group, based on HMS Vengeance. TFC's Corsair was flown by Keith Skilling during the weekend.
The second Corsair was flown by Brian Smith and belongs to MaxAlpha Aviation GmbH. It is a Change Vought F4U-5NL (D-FCOR) and is painted in the black matte colors of VMA-513 Flying Nightmares, one of the most important units of the US Marines.
Marine Attack Squadron 513 was formed in February of 1944 and started out with the Grumman F6F Hellcat. During the Korean War they changed to the Corsair.
The next formation taking off was an all Curtiss Hawk quartet, with a special twist. Special in that there was a worldwide premiere of a new Curtiss member only just restored and arriving only a week before the show! We're talking about the bare metal Curtiss P-36C (N80FR) owned by The Fighter Collection.
After a 4-year restoration by California Aerofab and TFC, this is the last P-36C anywhere in the world. Also often referred to as the Hawk Model 75, it was an American-designed and built fighter aircraft in the late 1930s. The aircraft was one of the models which made the shift in fighter aircraft from biplane designs to a monoplane design.
On May 27th , 1935, the prototype was flown to Wright Field, Ohio, to compete in the USAAC fly-off for a new single-seat fighter but the contest was delayed because the Seversky entry crashed on the way to the contest. Curtiss took advantage of the delay to replace the unreliable engine with a Wright XR-1820-39 Cyclone producing 950 hp (710 kW) and to rework the fuselage, adding the distinctive scalloped rear windows to improve rear visibility. The new prototype was designated Model 75B with the R-1670 version retroactively designated Model 75D. The fly-off finally took place in April of 1936. Unfortunately, the new engine failed to deliver its rated power and the aircraft attained only 285 mph (459 km/h). Its competitor, the Seversky P-35, also underperformed and was more expensive, so the Curtiss was still declared the winner and awarded a contract for 77 aircraft.
Because of the lack in performance, the type saw little action with the USAAF in WWII, but was extensively used by the French Armée de l'Air during the Battle of France. This was due to the build-up of international tensions and the threat of Germany. Several European nations needed to acquire whatever fighter aircraft they could get their hands on at that time and the P-36 just happened to be the right aircraft at the right time.
Although Curtiss continued developing the P-36 it never made its way to a frontline US fighter. The P-36C was a further development incorporating a new engine (the R-1830-17 of 1,200 hp) and an additional 0.30 in machine gun installed in each wing.
The first production P-36As were delivered to the 20th Pursuit Group at Barksdale Field in Louisiana in April of 1938. The aircraft's service history was marred by numerous teething. By the time these issues were resolved, the P-36 was considered obsolete and was relegated to training units and overseas detachments at Albrook Field in the Canal Zone, Elmendorf Field in Alaska, and Wheeler Field in Hawaii.
The P-36s had been delivered to Hawaii in February of 1941 by being loaded on the carrier the USS Enterprise in California, then, in a first for the USAAC, flown off the carrier's deck by the P-36's U.S. Army Air Corps pilots when the vessel neared the coast of Hawaii. This saved considerable time over the traditional shipping method of having the fighters first disassembled, crated and then loaded by crane in the hold of a freighter, then unloaded and reassembled in Hawaii.
Although the P-36 never made it as a frontline fighter for the USAAF, the type was responsible for the very first aerial victory of the USAAF in the Second World War. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th , 1941, four P-36s managed to get airborne at 0830 from Wheeler Field. Lt. G.H. Sterling flew through the smoke pouring up from the many bombed sites and managed to avoid anti-aircraft-fire in order to get to Bellows Field to be in a position to attack the Japanese aircraft. As he approached the airfield, he spotted nine Mitsubishi A6M2 Zeros pulling up from a strafing run, together with a similar number of Aichi D3A “Val” dive bombers that were about to hit the airfield.
The P-36 pilots attacked the dive bombers with Sterling going after one which had just broken formation. Although his fighter was under-armed he did manage to get a couple of shots on target, which immediately burst into flames and crashed. This marked the first aerial victory of the USAAC in WWII. Unfortunately, the Zeros bounced the P-36s and Sterling was forced to ditch his crippled aircraft in the water. He drowned while his P-36 sank to the bottom of the ocean.
The example acquired by TFC participated in the 1939 Cleveland Air Races before going on to serve with a number of Squadrons on the US East Coast in WWII. Following its restoration it displayed at the 2015 Planes of Fame airshow before heading across the Atlantic for its new Duxford home.
The aircraft was displayed at the show by Steve Hinton. It perfomed together with three other Duxford based Curtiss aircraft:
- TFC's Curtiss Hawk 75 G-CCVH
- TFC's Curtiss P40C G-CIIO
- TFC's Merlin powered Curtiss Warhawk P40F G-CGZP
All of them are rare examples flying in the world. The Hawk 75 is the only airworthy example left in the world. It wears an authentic Armée de l'Air scheme with the Lafayette Escadrille Sioux Indian head motif, which is also the TFC logo.
The Curtiss P-40C was used by Technical Training Command at Chanute Field, Illinois in 1940 and the Curtiss P-40F in one of only 2 airworthy examples of this aircraft in the world. It was shipped to 13th AF in the Southwest Pacific on Christmas Eve of 1942.
The remaining Curtiss aircraft were flown by Patrice Marchasson, Dave Southwood and Stuart Goldspink respectively. Nowhere else in the world could one witness a special and beautiful formation like this, courtesy of The Fighter Collection!
The P-51 Mustang tail chase is always something we look forward to at Legends. Although we've seen a larger number of Mustangs in previous editions, the four Mustangs present this year really flew an awesome display, coming in hot and fast and “strafing” the airfield from both directions.
The four P-51s attending the show were:
Following an impressive low level takeoff (thrilling for those watching from the tank bank end of the display line), the first three Mustangs started out with a formation pass. Following that pass they went into crazy mode and started hugging the ground and battering the airfield from both directions. It was one of the most thrilling Mustang tailchases I've seen in recent years. The trio was led by Nick Grey in TFC's converted P-51, followed by Lars Ness in the “Mustang Mk. Iva” and Marc Mathis in the German operated TF-51D.
In between passes, Frédéric Akary showcased various aerobatic maneuvers in a solo display.
P-51 Mustang G-SHWN of the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation is the previous well known olive drab “Old Crow” and is now repainted in a shark mouthed Mustang of Lt. Blanchford of RAF 112 Squadron, which operated from Italy in 1945 on ground attack missions over the Balkans and along the Adriatic Coast.
After all this time it is very nice to see a Mustang painted in RAF colors, because Mustangs usually are associated with the colorful USAAF Fighter Groups of the 8th AF.
N° 112 Squadron was formed on May 16th , 1939 and left for service in Egypt. They started out using obsolete Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters. After Italy entered the war on June 10th , 1940, the squadron was soon in the thick of it. In July of 1941, it was one of the first squadrons to become operational in the Curtiss P-40.
Inspired by the unusually large air inlet on the P-40, the squadron began to emulate the "shark mouth" logo painted on some German Messerschmitt Bf 110s of Zerstörer Geschwader 76 earlier in the war. (This practice was later followed by P-40 units in other parts of the world, including the Flying Tigers, American volunteers serving with the Chinese Air Force.) In December, the Tomahawks were replaced by the improved P-40 Kittyhawk, which the squadron used for the remainder of its time with the Desert Air Force, often as a fighter bomber.
After the invasion of Sicily on July 10th , 1943, the squadron moved there and onto the Italian mainland in September. In June of 1944, the Kittyhawks were replaced by the North American Mustang Mark III and from February of 1945, Mustang Mk IVs. The squadron remained in Italy at Lavariano as part of the occupying forces until disbanding on December 30th , 1946 at Treviso. By the end of the war some 206 air victories had been claimed by the Squadron and 62 destroyed on the ground.
A very special anniversary this year was that of Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” (G-BEDF) owned by B-17 Preservation, celebrating 40 years on the display circuit. To honor all the men of the “Mighty Eighth”, Sally B flew a couple of passes in formation with a “little friend” escort, the shark-mouthed Mustang.
The Mustang then peeled off and gave away the stage to the only airworthy B-17 in Europe.
We must not forget that Sally B is a living piece of national heritage and it should be preserved for the enjoyment and education of today's and future generations. Everyone can contribute and make a donation to keep Sally B flying, just pay a visit to the B-17 Preservation website and have a look how you can help keep her where she belongs: in the air!
Trouble came in from the left in the form of three Bf-109 Messerschmitts… well in fact two Spanish license built Hispano Buchons and a Bf-109 … which is also in essence a Buchon… are you still with us?
Let's explain: the Hispano Aviación HA-1109 and HA-1112 are license-built versions of the Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2, developed in Spain during and after WWII.
The Spanish State under General Franco was officially non-belligerent during World War II. This status was not recognized by international law but in practice amounted to neutrality. In fact, Franco's regime did supply material and military support to the Axis Powers in recognition of the heavy assistance it had received in the Spanish Civil War.
As such, the Spanish government arranged a manufacturing license with Messerschmitt AG to build the Bf 109G-2, with DB605A engines, propellers, instruments, and weapons to be supplied from Germany somewhere in 1942. This proved impossible, as Germany was incapable of meeting her own needs, let alone Spain's.
As a result, Hispano Aviacion modified the airframes and tried two different engines, the second French built engine being the more successful. Improving relations between the Spanish government and the West from 1952 onwards, saw a more powerful engine sourced from Britain, the two-speed Rolls Royce Merlin 500-45. The combination of ex-German airframe and British powerplant was successful and the first prototype flew its maiden flight on December 30th , 1954. This final variant was designated HA-1112-M1L.
This engine had a chin intake which altered the lines of the Bf 109's airframe visually.
Now, back to the Bf-109F-4 “Red Seven” (D-FWME) belonging to the Airbus Group – Flugmuseum Messerschmitt. In essence, the airframe was a Spanish built Hispano which flew with the Spanish Air Force as C.4K-75. It was decommissioned on December 12th , 1965 and was acquired by Spitfire Productions Ltd where she was one of the 24 Buchons to be used in the movie “The Battle of Britain” in 1968. At that time the aircraft went on the UK civil register as G-AWHG and participated in the movie as “Yellow 11” and “Red 14”.
She was also used in a rather unusual role in the movie “Patton – Lust For Glory” the following year, where she was repainted as a P-51B of the 357th FG. In fact, when the Mustang first arrived in the theatre in WWII, mishaps occurred where the Mustang was mistaken for a Bf-109. The two types look alike from a distance. There were several reports of Luftwaffe pilots joining up with a formation of Mustangs only to realize their mistake when they were almost in formation. They used three Buchons for the part because at the time, no P-51Bs were available.
It was there where bad fortune would start to haunt the airframe. During the filming period she was caught in a crosswing takeoff incident at Le Havre and was struck off as permanently witdrawn from use. After three more sales, the last to David Tallichet of Chino, California in 1978, she would once again be restored to airworthy status. During her first post restoration test flight on May 28th , 1986, she was once again involved in a takeoff accident and was seriously damaged.
The decision was made to restore her back to static display status, but reconfigure the airframe to better resemble a true Bf109. The airframe returned to Europe in 1994 when acquired by its new owners at La Ferté Alais in France. In 1997 she was sold to the Messerschmitt Aircraft Company in Germany who intented to complete the aircraft with an original Daimler-Benz 605A engine, even more, rebuild her to airworthy status with that engine. They started searching for engine parts as far back as the 1960 and it all paid off when Sigfried “Siggi” Knoll succeeded in completing a DB 605A from scratch and brought the modified Buchon to life. She was now rebuilt to resemble an orginal Bv 109G-4 with a Daimler-Benz engine, exactly like the BF 109s as they flew in WWII.
“Red 7” was ready to fly once more on August 23rd , 2004, and was re-registered D-FWME. She participated in several European shows. Misfortune would strike again in 2005 when a landing went wrong, tearing off the engine and damaging the underside. She had flown 32 hours since her last restoration. Undeterred by the mishap, the people of MAC received a great deal of support and decided to restore her back to airworthy status once more.
The restoration was underway when the fighter was once again sold, this time to EADS, whose Heritage Flight operated the Flugmuseum Messerschmitt fleet (they operate three Me 109s, an Me 262 jet and Me 163 Komet). The aircraft crashed once more on its second test flight on April 15th , 2008, so repair work could begin once again. She took back to the air on February 19th , 2009 and appeared at several airshows in the following 4 years.
Another wheels up landing incident occurred at Roskilde, Denmark, on August 18th , 2013. The aircraft was fixed once more and flew again on August 20th , 2014. After a troublesome road and after a long absence, a Bf 109 once again flew at Flying Legends in 2015. Let's hope the aircraft has a more promising and trouble-free future ahead!
The other two Buchons are Duxford residents. G-AWHK belonging to the Aircraft Restoration Company was also one of the 24 Buchons used for The Battle of Britain movie. She was briefly acquired by The Old Flying Machine Company in 1996. After brief ownerships by The Real Aircraft Company and Spitfire Ltd, she was acquired by The Aircraft Restoration Company in 2006. She is currently painted as “Yellow 10”.
The other Buchon is G-AWHE and is owned by Spitfire Ltd. She wears the Luftwaffe, North African scheme of a Bf109F-4/trop used by Jagdgeschwader 53, the famous “Pik-As” (Ace of Spades) unit flown by Major Eric Gerlitz, Gruppenkommandeur III/JG53 at Quotaifiya, Egypt in July 1942.
“Red 7” was flown by Klaus Plasa with Cliff Spink and Lee Proudfoot flying the other Buchons.
Whilst the skies were being taken over by the Luftwaffe, two more German WWII ear aircraft displayed in front of the public: the Junkers Ju-52 and a Bücker Jungmann. It was only the second time that Ju-52 F-AZJU belonging to the Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis, stationed at La Ferté Alais, visited legends. Usually the Lufthansa example can be seen at Legends, so the more accurately painted French based “Tante Ju” was a nice change. Meanwhile, Anna Walker displayed some graceful aerobatics in the Bücker Jungmann CASA 1-121-E3B (G-BSAJ) owned by Skytricks.
After all those tail-chasing high speed displays, it was time for a change of pace with some very rare 1930s biplane aircraft.
First off, a unique pair of the world's only two airworthy Gloster Gladiators took off and displayed.
The Shuttleworth Collection's Gloster Gladiator I L(K-7985/G-AMRK) was joined by The Fighter Collection's Gladiator II (N5903/G-GLAD). TFC's Mark II was the last of the 25 Mark IIs built. The Gladiators were piloted by Brian Smith and Rob Millnship.
The Gloster Gladiator is a British-built biplane fighter, used by both the RAF and Fleet Air Arm during the late ‘30s. It was RAF's last biplane fighter aircraft and was rendered obsolete as newer monoplane fighter designs were being introduced.
Despite the introduction of the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, the Gladiator did see actual combat on several occasions, such as the Finnish Winter War. South African pilot Marmaduke “Pat”Pattle was the top Gladiator ace with 15 victories over Italian aircraft during the North African and Greek Campaigns of World War II. It also made him the highest-scoring biplane ace of the Second World War.
They were followed by another rare trio of biplanes:
- Hawker Fury Mark I K5674 (G-CBZP) operated by the Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd
- Hawker Nimrod II K3661 (G-BURZ) also operated by the Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd
- Hawker Nimrod Mark I S1581 (G-BWWK) operated by The Fighter Collection
The Hawker Fury was designed as a British biplane fighter aircraft in 1929. Initially dubbed the Hornet, it was designated Fury when purchased by the Air Ministry. The Fury was the RAF's first operational fighter to exceed 200 mph (322 km/h) in level flight.
The Fury I entered squadron service with the RAF in May of 1931, re-equipping No. 43 Squadron. Owing to finance cuts in the Great Depression, only relatively small numbers of Fury Is were ordered, the type equipping 1 and 25 squadrons. The type remained with RAF Fighter Command until January of 1939, replaced primarily with Gloster Gladiators and other types, such as Hawker Hurricane. They did continue to be used within the RAF however as training aircraft.
The HAC Fury Mark I made its second post restoration airshow appearance at Flying Legends and is currently the only airworthy example in the world.
It was delivered to 43 Sqn at RAF Tangmere on June 2nd , 1936. Flying Officer F.E. Rosier, later to become Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Rosier flew the Fury between December 9th , 1936, and February 22nd , 1939.
Is was named Queen of the North and South. On his last flight in the aircraft, he commented in his log “Last fling in Queen of the North and South. Perfect”
The Hawker Nimrod is essentially a navalized version of the Fury. The first production Nimrod entered service in 1932 with No.408 Flight on HMS Glorious. Others went to Nos 402 and 409 Flights soon after. Fleet Air Arm flights were reorganized into Squadrons early in 1933, with the Nimrods joining No.s 801, 802 and 803 Squadrons RAF. The Nimrod II (which featured a more powerful engine and a modified swept wing) followed in September of 1934.
TFCs Nimrod Mk. I flew with 408 Fighter Flight aboard HMS Glorious as “573” (later 803). After the war she was sold as scrap an re-emerged at a scrapyard in West London in the early 1970s. She joined TFC in 2004.
We were truly blessed to see such a rare display of immaculately restored vintage biplanes gracing the hallowed skies of Duxford.
From one magnificent piece of aviation history to another: the commemoration of the Battle of Britain featuring three Mark I Spitfires, a Hawker Hurricane and the long awaited airworthy restoration project that is the Blenheim… what a sight!
The Bristol Blenheim is a British light bomber aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company that was used extensively in the early days of the Second World War. It was adapted as an interim long-range and night fighter, pending the availability of the Beaufighter. It was one of the first British aircraft to have all-metal stressed-skin construction, retractable landing gear, flaps, a powered gun turret and variable-pitch propellers.
The Blenheim Mk I G-BPIV was restored by the Aircraft Restoration Company. The restoration is based upon a restored Bolingbroke (Canadian built variant of the Blenheim) airframe together with a restored Blenheim Mk I nose section. At long last, after 11 years of painstaking work, on the 20th of November 2014 Chief Pilot John Romain and James Gilmour as Flight Engineer took Blenheim Mk I on its maiden flight at Duxford for a successful 26 minute test flight, following some minor adjustments a further two test flights were carried out.
The Blenheim received its full Permit to fly at the end of 2014.
The Blenheim Mk I outran most biplane fighters in the late 1930s but stood little chance against the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 during daylight operations, though it proved successful as a night fighter. The total production count of the Blenheim Mk I in England was 1,351 aircraft.
The Blenheim units operated throughout the Battle of Britain, often taking heavy casualties, although they were never accorded the publicity of the fighter squadrons.
The Blenheim units raided German occupied airfields throughout July to December of 1940, both during daylight hours and at night. Although most of these raids were unproductive, there were some successes; on August 1 st , five out of twelve Blenheims sent to attack Haamstede and Evere (Brussels) were able to bomb, destroying or heavily damaging three Bf 109s and apparently killing a Staffelkapitän Two other 109s were claimed by Blenheim gunners. Another successful raid on Haamstede was made by a single Blenheim on August 7 th which destroyed one Bf 109, heavily damaged another and caused lighter damage to four more.
Unfortunately, there were also some missions which produced an almost 100% casualty rate amongst the Blenheims. One such operation was mounted on August 13 th , 1940 against a Luftwaffe airfield near Aalborg in north-western Denmark by 12 aircraft of 82 Squadron. One Blenheim returned early whilst the other 11 were shot down (five by flak and six by Bf 109s).
The Blenheim was demonstrated with an appropriate escort of a Hawker Hurricane and three Mark I Spitfires. They all made a couple of formation passes before splitting up and demonstrating on their own.
John Romain put on a superb and breathtaking display in the only airworthy Blenheim in the world.
The Hawker Hurricane XIIa Z5140 (G-HURI) is operated by the Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd and is repainted in RAF markings as P3700, coded RF-E of N° 303 (Polish) Sqn. Original P3700 was abandoned by Sgt. Kazimierz Wunsche over Poynings, Kent on September 9th , 1940 after sustaining damage from a Bf-109 over Beachy Head.
The three Mark I Spitfires were:
- Supermarine Spitfire MK. Ia QV (G-CFGJ) operated by the Aircraft Restoration Company
- Supermarine Spitfire MK. Ia XR-D (G-AIST) operated by Comanche Fighter and The Fighter Collection
- Supermarine Spitfire MK. I KL-A (G-GCUK), also operated by Comanche Fighters and The Fighter Collection
G-CFGJ was built at the Supermarine factory at Southampton and N3200 made its first flight on November 29th , 1939. After a short storage period she was delivered to 19 Squadron at Duxford on April 19th , 1940. When flying from RAF Hornchurch in the hands of Sqn. Ldr. G D Stephenson, it was shot down and made a wheels up landing on the beach near Sangatte, France on May 25th , 1940. Covered by the sea and sand, the wreck was forgotten until discovered and recovered in 1986. Acquired by the current owner in 2000 the Spitfire was brought to Duxford and rebuilt by Historic Flying Ltd. It made its first flight on March 26th , 2014 in the hands of John Romain.
G-AIST was built by the Westland Aircraft Factory, Yeovil, UK in 1941. It was delivered to No.12 M.U Kirkbride and relegated to training duties. She ended up at No.7 O.T.U. Harwarden. Following a number of landing accidents she was struck off charge in November of 1945. She was purchased by Group Captain Allen Henry Wheeler in October of 1946 and restored to airworthy condition for the movie Battle of Britain as N3311/A1-13. After another couple of owners she was acquired by its current owners: the Comanche Fighters of Houston, Texas.
Third and last Mark I, G-CGUK (X4650), made its first flight at Eastleigh on October 23rd , 1940. She was issued to 24 M.U. Tern Hill, Shropshire, UK on October 25th , 1940 on charge with 54 Sqn. Catterick, Yorkshire. She was involved in a mid-air collision in December of 1940 and struck off charge in June 1941. The wreckage was discovered on the banks of the river Lever in 1976. The remains were acquired by Peter Monk in 1995 and soon after restoration work commenced. The first post restoration flight was made from Biggin Hill in March of 2012.
The Spitfires were flown by Paul Bonhomme, Steve Hinton and Dave Ratcliffe whilst the Hurricane was piloted by Dave Harvey.
Personally, one of the most thrilling displays was that of the TBM Avenger. It was part of another themed pair, namely a couple of Grumman Navy aircraft:
- Grumman TBM Avenger HB-RDG owned by Charlie's Heavy Association
- Grumman Wildcat FM-2 (G-RUMW) owned by The Fighter Collection
As with many aircraft there are several designations for the Avenger. When the Avenger was given the green light for production, Grumman was already mass producing several fighter aircraft: TBF for the aircraft manufactured by Grumman and TBM for license built examples by General Motors). The Avenger was designed as a torpedo bomber for the US Navy and Marine Corps. It was the aircraft of preference to replace the obsolete Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers which had been in service since 1935.
The Grumman design was the heaviest single-engined aircraft in WWII, surpassing the P-47 Thunderbolt. It featured a new compound angle wing-folding mechanism, which was also created by Grumman, to maximize storage capacity aboard the aircraft carriers.
The powerplant chosen for this beast was the Wright R-2600-20 Cyclone 14 twin-row radial engine (which produced 1,900 hp/1,417 kW).
It also featured a crew of three: the pilot, a turret gunner and a radioman/bombardier/ventral gunner. Armament was a single Bliss-Leavitt Mk 13 torpedo weighing 2,000 pounds (907 kg) or four 500 pound (227kg) bombs, one .30 caliber machine gun in the nose, a .50 caliber gun mounted next to the turret gunner's head in a rear-facing electrically powered turret and a single .30 caliber hand-fired machine gun mounted ventrally (under the tail) to defend from attacks from the rear and from below.
Later models of the TBF/TBM dispensed with the nose-mounted gun for one .50 caliber gun in each wing per pilots' requests for better forward firepower and increased strafing ability. There was only one set of controls on the aircraft, and no access to the pilot's position from the rest of the aircraft.
With a 30,000 ft (10,000 m) ceiling and a fully loaded range of 1,000 mi (1,610 km), it was better than any previous American torpedo bomber.
The first prototype of the Avenger was delivered in April of 1940 and first flew on August 7th , 1941. Coincidentally, Grumman held a ceremony to present the Avenger to the public on December 7th , 1941, the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Following those attacks, the Avenger quickly entered US service in early 1942 and saw its first action during the Battle of Midway.
One of the more famous avenger pilots was former US President George H. W. Bush, who was commissioned as the youngest naval aviator at the time. While flying a TBM with VT-51 (from the USS San Jacinto (CVL-30)), his TBM was shot down on September 2 nd , 1944 over the Pacific island of Chichi Jima. Both of his crewmates died but Bush was able to release his payload and hit the target before being forced to bail out. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. Another famous Avenger aviator was Paul Newman, who flew as a rear gunner.
Some 40 examples still fly today, only two are stationed in Europe. HB-RDG is based at Lausanne, Switzerland. It wears the color scheme of Marine Torpedo Sqn 132 which was based on Escort Carrier USS Cape Gloucester in the Pacific in 1945.
“Charlie's Heavy” really put on a tremendous display at legends. People who were on the M11 end on Saturday were buzzed on more than one occasion when it came in tight and fast around the museum and made several fast passes along the grass.
Filling in the gaps whilst the Avenger repositioned between passes was Dave Southwood in the Grumman Wildcat.
Another naval theme came up next featuring a duo of one of the latest production piston engined aircraft produced:
- Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 F-AZXL owned by Jan Friso Roozen (formerly by Frédéric Akary)
- Hawker Fury FB.11 F-AZXJ owned by Christophe Jacquard
On Saturday, Bernard Charbonnel put Christophe Jacquard's Fury through its paces in a solo display. It was supposed to be a Fury duo display but unfortunately Jan Roozen's Fury had to abort due to technical issues.
The issues were resolved the next day, but then its display by Eric Goujon was cut short by a heavy shower.
A real change of pace came with the presentation of a trio of Piper Cubs:
- L4J Grasshopper G-AXGP operated by Adrian Paul Acres
- L4H Grasshopper G-BMKC operated by Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar Ltd
- L4A Grasshopper G-AKAZ operated by Frazerblades Limited
The J-3 Cub is a small, simple, light aircraft that was built between 1937 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft. It has a distinct tandem (fore and aft) seating and was originally intended for flight training but eventually became one of the most popular and best-known light aircraft of all time.
Piper developed a military variant, variously designated as the O-59 (1941), L-4 (after April 1942), and NE (U.S. Navy). The L-4 Grasshopper was mechanically identical to the J-3 civilian Cub, but was distinguishable by the use of a Plexiglas greenhouse skylight and rear windows for improved visibility
Carrying a single pilot and no passenger, the L-4 had a top speed of 85 mph (137 km/h), a cruise speed of 75 mph (121 km/h), a service ceiling of 12,000 ft (3,658 m), a stall speed of 38 mph (61 km/h), an endurance of three hours and a range of 225 mi (362 km).
5,413 L-4s were produced for U.S. forces, including 250 built for the U.S. Navy under contract as the NE-1 and NE-2.
All L-4 models were collectively nicknamed “Grasshoppers”, and were used extensively in World War II for reconnaissance, transporting supplies, artillery spotting duties, and medical evacuation of wounded soldiers. During the Allied invasion of France in June 1944, the L-4's slow cruising speed and low-level maneuverability made it an ideal observation platform for spotting hidden German tanks and troops.
The L4A was first issued to 126 Observation Sqn at Lawson Army Airfield, US in 1942, after which it was assigned to French Morocco for North African French use. She then moved onto Italy to serve with 12th AF Army Ground Forces and then diverted to French Forces.
The L4J was issued to 8th AF in 1942 as a hack aircraft in France and is repainted in her original 1942 paintscheme.
The L4H was also issued to the 8th AF, but went on to serve with US Ground Forces in Europe, possibly with Pattons 3rd Army. She wears a most interesting WW2 color scheme with the red triangle markings of the USAAC 381st Bomb Group (B17) from USAF Ridgewell, Essex.
The TFC Hawk 75 returned to the skies for a second display, this time next to the Morane D-3801 MS406 (HB-RCF) belonging to the Association Morane CF. The Swiss operated Morane is always a pleasure to watch and was displayed by Daniel Koblet.
Welcome guests at Legends are Austrian based “The Flying Bulls”. This year they brought with them two of their shiny bear metal vintage collection aircraft, namely:
- Lockheed P-38 Lightning N25Y
- North American B-25J Micthell N6123C
A lot of people still complain about the fact that The Flying Bulls fly their WWII aircraft in a polished metal scheme instead of a historically correct paint scheme, but the fact is that we should all be happy to see one of only two airworthy B-25 in Europe and the only airworthy Lockheed P-38 gracing the skies and honoring the men and women who flew them during the war.
The pair flew a couple of formation passes before splitting up and presenting both aircraft in a solo demonstration.
Raimund Riedmann's demonstration on Sunday was a very spectacular sight with a couple of rays of sunlight glistening off of the airframe against the threatening cloud backdrop. The Lightning even managed to produce some vapor on top of the wings as it pulled in over the runway.
Last aircraft to present was also a Duxford first. Usually the DC-3 presentation was left to the Norwegian Dakota LN-WND, but this time to organizers invited the Breitling sponsored DC-3 Dakota HB-IRJ, operated by the Super Constellation Flyers Association based in Switzerland. This example was originally delivered to American Airlines on March 12 th , 1940, under the name “Flagship Cleveland”, but was leased to the US Army between 1942 and 1944.
With the DC-3 display over it is usually time for the mass warbird takeoff as everyone prepares to form up for the traditional closure set piece of each Flying Legends show: the balbo. As the participating aircraft form up to the south of the airfield, the Joker takes center stage. Since Nick took over from his father, the aircraft presented in the joker role shifted from the Bearcat to the Gloster Gladiator, one of Nick's favorite aircraft.
The role of the joker is to keep the public entertained whilst the balbo formation forms up and in between the balbo passes.
Balbo was a common term in the late 1930s and early 1940s to describe any large formation of aircraft. “Inventor” was the Italian fascist flying ace Italo Balbo who led a series of large aircraft formations in record-breaking flights to promote Italian aviation in the 1930s. During the Battle of Britain the term was used for the Big Wings that were based at RAF Duxford.
This year's balbo featured about 25 aircraft and was led by TFC's Chief Pilot Pete Kynsey. Presenting such a diversity of aircraft takes up a lot of planning and hard work because of the different handling and power settings of the participating aircraft. Nevertheless it sends shivers down your spine each year to see and hear the formation pass over the legendary airfield.
We would once more like to thank the organizers of the event, as well as the many people involved in making it a huge success year after year. We all hope to see you there next year!
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