They don't make them like that any more! Scores of warbirds take to the skies at Flying Legends airshow

By
James White

04:20 EST, 2 July 2012

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08:58 EST, 2 July 2012

Tens of thousands of aviation enthusiasts descended on the Imperial War Museum’s air branch this weekend for the world-famous Flying Legends airshow.

Staged at former World War Two fighter station Duxford in Cambridgeshire, the display featured only propeller-engined warplanes from both wars and beyond.

Sunday’s programme began appropriately with the sight of three Spitfires bumping and bouncing their way into the air across Duxford’s grass strip in a scene straight out of the Battle of Britain.

The chase is on: Three Spitfires chase each other across the skies above Duxford at the Flying Legends airshow

The chase is on: Three Spitfires chase each other across the skies above Duxford at the Flying Legends airshow

Shortly after they were joined in the air by five more of the iconic planes, including three incredibly rare Mark One variants filling the sky with the roar of their Merlin engines.

Next the classic outline of the twin-boom American P-38 Lightning, painted in mirror-effect silver and its Red Bull sponsor logo, wowed the crowd with an aerobatic display, the twin-engined fighter completing its slot with a low and fast pass of the flightline.

The U.S. theme continued with the take-off of B-17G Sally B, a four-engined Flying Fortress that is a perennial fixture on the airshow circuit yet never fails to get the shutters clicking by the thousand.

Gleaming: The Flying Bulls P38 Lightning catches the sun as it banks right during an aerobatic display

Gleaming: The Flying Bulls P38 Lightning catches the sun as it banks right during an aerobatic display

Bomber run: Boeing B17G Flying Fortress Sally B cuts across the airfield as Mustangs and Spitfires sit on the flightline below

Bomber run: Boeing B17G Flying Fortress Sally B cuts across the airfield as Mustangs and Spitfires sit on the flightline below

It was accompanied by the undoubted star of the show – The Fighter Collection’s P47 Thunderbolt Snafu, which was appearing in its first public display.

However, the stand-out performance came in the form of a Hawker Sea Fury in Australian Navy colours.

One of the most powerful piston-engined planes ever produced, the Fury’s incredible capabilities were demonstrated in the Korean War when Australian pilots used it to shoot down supposedly superior MiG jets.

Star of the show: The 'new' Republic P-47G Thunderbolt in the colours of World War Two fighter 'Snafu' makes its UK airshow debut

Star of the show: The ‘new’ Republic P-47G Thunderbolt in the colours of World War Two fighter ‘Snafu’ makes its UK airshow debut

Smoking hot: This Hawker Sea Fury completed the best solo display of the show with smoke trailing from its wings

Smoking hot: This Hawker Sea Fury in Australian Navy colours completed the best solo display of the show with smoke trailing from its wings

There was no such adversary for the British-designed plane in this routine, just gloriously muscular solo turns, rolls and vertical climbs that left smoke trails across the sky from canisters attached to its wings.

Collector’s items at this year’s Flying Legends included a Junkers JU52 – the workhorse transport plane of the Third Reich. Flown by the Luthansa airline’s historic flight, it cut an unusual and surprisingly manouvrable shape in the Cambridgeshire skies.

Another unique moment was the world’s only airworthy Sirkosky S-38 seaplane, brought from the U.S. especially for the show. All struts and high engines, this zebra-skin covered delight was a thing of beauty from an age when air travel was the preserve of the monied elite and explorers.

Flying wing: some of the 22 single-engined warbirds that joined together for the grand finale flypast

Flying wing: some of the 22 single-engined warbirds that joined together for the grand finale flypast

The finale of the three-and-a-half hour display was a fitting tribute to the airfield that saw Douglas Bader’s famous Wing of multiple fighter squadrons in World War Two.

Twenty-two noisy warbirds, formed up in pairs and Vs, thundered over Duxford in a living, breathing link with a glorious past age.

The scenes were testament to the skill of the pilots and the dedication of restoration teams and engineers that keep these fantastic planes airworthy.

In the words of the show’s announcer, Flying Legends is aviation archaeology at its best. 

Close-up: P47 Snafu on the ground after its display

Close-up: P47 Snafu on the ground after its display

Crowd-pleaser: B17G Sally B, the iconic American bomber of the Second World War, is sat on the flightline before the show

Crowd-pleaser: B17G Sally B, the iconic American bomber of the Second World War, is sat on the flightline before the show

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Why do we continue to live in the past? Small wonder our country is way down in the economic league when we continue to wallow in the past. Incidentally, the Russians bore the brunt of the German onslaught. The Battle of Britain was just a sideshow.
– Keith, Yeovil, 02/7/2012 13:03
Don’t forget when the Battle of Britain was raging whose side the Russians were on ,they decided to carve up Poland between them and Germany ,also at the time Britain stood alone ,we were also fighting the japanese in the far east ,and most of the aircraft flown at Duxford are privately owned ,run by people who can afford to run and maintain these wonderful aircraft ,so your economic argument falls flat on its face ,may I suggest you move to Russia

Magnificent machines… Magnificent achievement… (Keith, Yeovil, 02/7/2012 13:03 grow up or get help…)

Why do we continue to live in the past? Small wonder our country is way down in the economic league when we continue to wallow in the past. Incidentally, the Russians bore the brunt of the German onslaught. The Battle of Britain was just a sideshow.

“is sat on the flightline” does this translate as “sitting on the runway”?

Why not have more pictures of the Spitfire, especially the ‘incredibly rare’ Mk1s? Why so many close ups of USAF aircraft? Couldn’t you get any close-ups of the RAF/RN aircraft? (8 photos – 2 of B17, 2 of P47, 1 of P38 (all US) 1 of Spitfires, 1 very distant Sea Fury, 1 distant formation). Lancaster? Hurricane? Lysander? Buchon? Sopwith Triplane?

Fantastic, I love the Duxford Air Shows. Long may they continue….

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