The sound of smoking and kicking turbo supercharged Cyclone, Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 and Packard Merlin engines, the smell of burned oil and fuel and the view of beautifully shaped aircrafts makes your heartbeat go faster. This means that you are at "Flying Legends" at the Duxford Airfield, U.K. A very well coordinated air show with a great and relaxed atmosphere and highly professionally restored war birds. After last years more than impressive visit to Duxford, did I get hooked on this great event. The historic atmosphere and nostalgic feeling that is in the air, makes you want to go back. Arriving in the early morning and looking around on the flight line, where you can distinguish eleven airworthy Spitfires, six P-51 Mustangs, two P-40 War/Kitty hawks, three B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, two B-25 Mitchell bombers, one A-26 Invader, and much, much more. Were can you say you can find such a fine scene in the world. And it get even better when around 14:00Lt all these beauties are started up, and going into the sky.
This year again, was Duxford the place to be if your hart is with those nostalgic birds, and also of course accompanied again with a highly interesting list of participants. Most remarkable and welcome visitor was the B-17G Flying Fortress "Liberty Belle", which flew all the way from her home base in Georgia, United States via Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland before she arrived at Duxford. This silver beauty is a flying legend, and really earns the name "Flying Fortress", as the "Liberty Belle" is packed with 13.50 calibre machine guns on her chin, top, ball, waist, cheek and tail turrets. She was accompanied by two other B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, in the shape of the "Sally B", which was sadly grounded on her home base, due to a lot of bad luck with the number one engine. And the "Pink Lady" from France, which is the only one of the three with actual wartime history, as she flew six missions over Germany during WWII. And this unique and rarely seen "gathering" of B-17's could only be found at Duxford, with the "Pink Lady" and "Liberty Belle" together in the air, accompanied by two P-51D's in the shape of "Miss Velma" and "Ferocious Frankie" escorting them true the sky.
Other more personal highlights where the two P-40's, in the shape of the Curtiss P40-N Kittyhawk "Little Jane" from France, and the locally based Curtiss P-40B Warhawk. The P-40B is the one with the wartime history, as it is the only survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941. And now beautifully restored, and in airworthy condition at Duxford. Another Curtiss family member in a excellent airworthy state, was the Curtiss 75 Hawk. This aircraft was shipped in 1939 to the French Air Force, and has seen combat against British aircraft such as Sunderlands, Hudsons, Fulmars, Wellingtons over Algeria, Tunisia and Morroco, plus USN Wildcats. Furthermore left the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, as always, a great impression whit her powerful engine and slick looking wing shape. And last but not least was the A-26B Invader "Sugarland Express" of the "Scandinavian Historic Flight" build in 1944, a more than welcome visitor to Flying legends. This beauty started it's career as a USAF trainer version with dual controls, and is now converted to a fast executive transport.
And when you think of the Flying Legends, you immediately have large formations of Spitfires and Mustang's in your mind, and was also the case during this Flying Legends. Nine Spitfires took to the sky, and used every inch of available airspace. The five P-51 Mustang's also ripped every cloud apart over Duxford with their powerful and roaring Packard Merlin V-1650 V-12 engines. Flying from side to side, at low level and in every angle in front of the crowd, makes quit the impression when you see this with your eyes wide open and jaw dropped to the ground. It is every year a plessure to see witness of the "layers" used during the air show, with the result a roller coaster of an air show with no gaps in it. While on a higher flight level aircrafts were performing their air show, were other aircraft coming in for the landing or going into take-off. And this was repeated from the beginning of the air show to the end, causing the display seamlessly flowwing into one another.
One of kind
I always like the fact that all these old aircraft up in the sky have different stories to tell. And just to see so many aircraft at one place, is remarkable and unique. Besides that, can you see and feel the care and tremendous effort that is put in every aircraft to keep them flying. Most historic aircraft seen during the show are property of the locally based "Fighter Collection". They have a remarkable collection of aircraft, both airworthy or in restoration. And for every interest is a aircraft present, with for example the Beechcraft 17 "Staggerwing", or the Hawker Nimrod. My personal interest is with WW II aircraft, flown in Europe or in the Pacific. And at Duxford are some fine examples located of this era, with as personal highlight the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat.
F6F-5K Hellcat, BuNo 40467 was built in 1943, and is known to have been flown by US Navy ace Lt Alex Vraciu whilst serving with VF-6. Vraciu was able to account for nine enemy aircraft in the process.
Spitfire Mk Vb "EP120" with seven kills represents a real combat proven fighter, downing Messerschmitt Bf 109's, Focke Wulf FW190's and a Dornier Do-217.
American Air Museum
Before the Flying Legends show is starting at 14:00Lt, and you have finished your walk along the static display. You have more than enough time to have a look in the "American Air Museum". This great museum houses the largest collection of American warbirds on display outside the United States, including a vintage B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, P-47 Thunderbolt, and aircraft from the Cold War era such as a B-52 Stratofortress, SR-71 Blackbird and a F-4 Phantom. Besides all this great displayed static, is the B-17 Flying Fortress "Sally B" the official flagship of the American Air Museum in Britain, and is permanently based at the Imperial War Museum Duxford. Built as a Boeing B-17G-105-VE c/n 8693, the future Sally B was one of the last to be constructed by the Lockheed-Vega plant at Burbank, California. Accepted by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) as 44-85784 on June 19 1945 it was too late to see war service, and was flown to Nashville for modifications. Converted for training purposes and re-designated TB-17G, it was based at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson AFB), Ohio from November that year. And when writing this article out of service, and awaiting a new engine.
All reviewed again a great and one of kind air show, and showing that it is really one of the best historic shows in the world. With as personal highlights the three B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, the A-26 Invader, two P-40 War/Kitty Hawks and the FG-1D Corsair. And with some rumours in mind for the Legends 2009, and I repeat...rumours, with a P-38 and a P-47G, is this great event again marked in my agenda. Special thanks goes to Ivy Young and Tracey Woods for their hospitality, effort and generous help in making this feature possible.