They are called 'flying legends' for a reason; the Spitfires, the Mustangs, the kind of aeroplanes that leave you with goosebumps and stars in your eyes. This year on 10 July the Flying Legends Air Show at the Imperial War Museum Duxford left crowds with exactly that.
Considered Europe's premier aviation museum, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) Duxford is situated in Cambridge, UK and is home to some of the best-preserved classic aircraft in the world. Organised and run by The Fighter Collection, the day included fabulous displays of up to 40 aircraft, all telling the story of the great achievements made by aviation throughout history and the effect it had on mankind and the wars they flew in.
Opening the flying display at 2pm was the Spitfires, filling the crowd with emotion, excitement, nostalgia and just a hint of jealousy of those lucky enough to fly these magnificent beasts. Twelve Supermarine Spitfires, one being the incredible Mk V EP120 making its worldwide debut at the air show filled the skies throughout the day, taking part in tail-chasing and high speed flybys seemingly close enough to the ground to touch.
No display was noisier and more thrilling than that of the United Sates Air Force Air Combat Command Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor flying in formation with a North American P-51 Mustang. Flying at Mach 2.25, about 2 414 km per hour, the F-22 Raptor is more stealthy, manoeuvrable, aerodynamic, smarter and faster than any other currently known of or
Miss Helen, as the P-51 Mustang accompanying the F-22 is fondly known, was built in 1944 and made several kills while being flown by Captain Raymond Littlge during World War II. It is currently painted in the scheme it wore in 1945 and is the last existing Mustang from the 352nd Fighter Group, one of the most highly decorated United States Army Air Forces Fighter Groups from the Second World War.
A crowd favourite was a display by The Classic Formation - the only multi-engine veteran aircraft display team in Europe. Polished to perfection, a legendary DC3 built in 1943 accompanied by two ex-Canadian Air Force Beech 18's from 1952, one in red and one in blue, entertained the masses by doing a wonderful display including passes in 'T', 'echelon', 'delta' and 'colonna' for those interested and knowledgeable about formation flying. Making the formation even more exciting is the fact that pilots only keep a 10 meter horizontal and 5 meter vertical distance between the three aircraft.
The Flying Bulls, a collection of rare historical aircraft in the famous Hanger 7 in Salzburg, Austria sent three very iconic aircraft for a wonderful display. The North American B-25J, 'Mitchell', known for its famous part in the Doolittle Raid in 1942, is distinguished by its glass nose and distinctive twin tail.
The Lockheed P-38 'Lightning' earned its spot in history by being able to fly for longer, faster and higher than its competition. This iconic twin tail aeroplane is so rare, it is considered to be priceless and it was a pleasure seeing the only P-38 in Europe in good flying condition.
A 'Corsair', a Chance Vought F4U-4 that was part of the Flying Bulls display is one of only 15 in the world and one of 4 in Europe. Probably the most aerodynamically perfect designs of its time, it is pulled along by a massive propeller with a 4 meter diameter and is fully aerobatic. What makes the fighter even more impressive is a brilliant hydraulic system allowing the wings to fold up vertically to save space on aircraft carriers where it was intended to fly from.
Boeing's B-17 Flying Fortress known as Sally B is the last flying B-17 in Europe and was accompanied by two P-51 Mustangs for her display.
On loan from the US Navy, a Grumman TBM Avenger, a Grumman Wildcat
FM-2 and the stunning Hawker Fury Mk.II made a short display.
Also making their appearance at the air show was a Grumman Bearcat F8F, a Bucker Jungmann, two Gloster Gladiators, a Hawker Nimrod MKI, the legendary Hawker Hurricane Mk IIa and two Messerschmitts flying in close formation.
Used to describe a large formation of aircraft, the Balbo was the grand finale to a fantastic event. Featuring 18 of the aircraft that participated in the show, the huge formation is unique to the Flying Legends Air Show Duxford and is definitely something to experience.
The Flying Legends Air Show at Duxford was well worth the £34.50 (about R660) and attracts thousands of local and international visitors from right around the world. With more than enough choice for food, beverages and souvenirs, it was a day for the entire family and especially for those who love the sound of vintage fighter aircraft.