The Flying Legends Experience    Flying Legends 2004

Flying Legends 2003
July 12-13, 2003
F-4U Corsair lands 'over' a waiting Tigercat F-7F.
Duxford held its 'Flying Legends' display in clear blue skies over the whole weekend. The event however was marred by the tragic crash of the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Firefly and the death of pilot Lt Commander Bill Murton and his passenger Neil Rix. The enormous crowd was enthusiastically enjoying the show when the Firefly (WB271) after completing its display appeared to drop a wing a fall vertically into a field the other side of the M11. It was at 2:45 p.m. on the Saturday afternoon.
I noticed something was wrong but could only follow the plane through my camera's viewfinder when suddenly the ground appeared and the plane impacted. Only at this point I released the shutter. A sick feeling spread amongst the stunned crowd. Commentator, Sean Maffett, fearing the worst could only reassure everyone, saying that the emergency services would be on the scene as soon as possible. The show was suspended for up to an hour but was resumed later.
At the beginning of the day, while most of the spectators were trying to secure good crowd line position, the serious photographers and enthusiasts for a modest extra fee were allowed to gain close access to the display aircraft on the field. This was very much appreciated, as it was the only way to get uncluttered quality shots of these very fine aircraft. The special 'enclosure' (there were no barriers, just a white line, was open for a few hours. It was only cleared when the display was about to start in earnest.
The show was opened by a fly-by of numerous Spitfires of various marks, over this famous World War Two airfield, and home to the Imperial War Museum.  The Spitfires were flown by the; Fighter Collection (3), Old Flying Machine Company, Historic Aircraft Collection, Historic Flying (2), Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and three other privately owned examples.
Left to right: Spitfire FRXVIIIe (SM845/GZ-J also G-BUOS), Spitfire FRXIVe ('MV268 'JE-J' also G-SPIT) and Spitfire LFVb (EP120 'AE-A' also G-LFVB).
Whilst the Spitfire and the Hurricane made the biggest contribution with the RAF during the war, the Mustang was the USAAF's most famous fighter in the European theatre. Duxford was used by Mustangs during the war, and so it was a thrill to see three Duxford painted examples (black/white chequers) line up and display together. The trio included for the first time P-51D Mustang 'Twilight Tear' 463684/HL-W (G-CBNM) which has returned to Duxford where it was originally based during the war with the 78th Fighter Group (USAAF) and whose colours it is once again painted. Another new and interesting addition to the show was a rare North American/Cavalier TF-51D Mustang Mk2 (N20TF ex 67-14866) from Chino Warbirds, California. It was flown by Steve Hinton and also wore the markings (DF-X) to represent the P-51s based at Duxford during the war. There were five Mustangs at the show in total.
Left to right: P-51D Mustang (463684 'HL-W' registered G-CBNM), Impressive line up TF-51 (DF-X), P-51D ('HL-W'), CAC-18 Mustang 22 ('WZ-I'), AD-4 Skyraider & P-47M Thunderbolt and P-40E Kittyhawk 'P-11151/663' (ZK-RMH).
A UK debut in the shape of Junkers Ju-52/3m (CASA 352L F-AZJU) in a Luftwaffe scheme as 'AZ+JU' from the fabulous l'Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis/EADS collection based at La Ferte Alais, near Paris. It flew in company with another Ju52/3m 'D-AQUI' (D-CDLH) of Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung in a Lufthansa livery, from Berlin Templehof. A recent import is a Lavochkin La-9 '28' (ZK-LIX) this was another aircraft seen at Duxford for the first time, it is now owned by the 'Old Flying Machine Company' and based at Duxford.
Left to right: For shear size, power and sound star display aircraft for me was the AD-4NA Skyraider (126922 'AK-402' / G-RAID) owned by 'The Fighter Collection'.
Other classic warbirds at this huge event included; B-17G Flying Fortress, B-25J Mitchell, Blenheim, F-4U Corsair, FG-1D Corsairs (2), F-6F Hellcat, F-7F Tigercat, F-8F Bearcat, FM-2 Wildcat, Hurricanes (2), Sea Hurricane, Gladiator I, Hawker Nimrod I, Lysander IIIA, P-40E Kittyhawk, P-40M Kittyhawk, P-47M Thunderbolt and a Yak-3UTI. 
Left to right: F-7F Tigercat, F-4U-4 Corsair (97264 'B-210' registered F-AZVJ), F-6F-5K Hellcat ('40467/19' / G-BTCC) and Corsair and Tigercat.
Whilst the crowd line is on the north side of the field, forcing the photographers to take shots towards the sun, photographic opportunities are still excellent. The display aircraft taxi pass so close to the crowd line, that you feel the larger aircraft's wing tips are going to go above your head. At the holding points (here at the eastern end) aircraft 'pose' for a minute of two for shots.

Left and right: P-40E Kittyhawk 'P-11151/663' (ZK-RMH), and Lysander IIIA ('V9367 / MA-B' registered G-AZWT).
Towards the end of the day, the sun shines down the length of the fuselages, as they turn onto the grass runway. This leads to very attractive shots with reflections. I was at the eastern end, and as they turned on to the field, the light was perfect. With so much going on all through the show, my camera's motor-drive must have been getting hot!
Left to right: Hurricane XIIA 52024/LK-A (G-HURR) of the Real Aircraft Company (FAC) at Breighton, Spitfire line-up with Spitfire LFVb (M597 'JH-C' registered G-MKVB) and FG-1D Corsair ('92844/8' / G-BXUL).
At the end of the show a traditional fly past or 'balbo' as it has become known, involved all the serviceable (one or two failed to make it) vintage aircraft available, and numbering around 28 on both days. This was a very impressive formation, which took some time to form and to recover at the end of the display, it was a very fitting finale.

A special thank you must go to the Imperial War Museum and The Fighter Collection who organise the show for making this Europe's finest warbird display, see you next year.
If there is a complaint it is only that the visiting light aircraft are allowed to park along the far side. It was consequently very difficult to get a 'period' photograph of a warbird without one of these modern planes in the background. Perhaps they could be parked at one end away from the main action.