Le­gends gather again at Dux­ford

Pilot - - OLD TIMERS - Re­port & photos An­drew March

Nei­ther the CAA’S re­vised air­show dis­play reg­u­la­tions nor the Bri­tish weather were able to put off the crowds from en­joy­ing some in­cred­i­ble sights and sounds at this year’s Fly­ing Le­gends at Dux­ford on 9-10 July. There were the for­ma­tions we have come to ex­pect with Spit­fires, Cur­tiss Hawks, Hawker bi­planes and His­pano Buchóns; there were some new ones as well with a ‘four-ship’ of Spit­fire 1, Hur­ri­cane XIIA, Glad­i­a­tor II and Blen­heim 1 bring­ing a unique early war years per­spec­tive. The Red Bull trio of B-25 Mitchell, P-38 Light­ning and F4U Cor­sair were again warmly wel­comed. How­ever, no Fly­ing Le­gends dis­play would be com­plete with­out a Spit­fire de­but and this year it was the turn of Co­manche Fight­ers’ Spit­fire VB EP122/G-CISV.

Built at Cas­tle Bromwich EP122 was shipped to Gi­bral­tar in June 1942 where it was re-as­sem­bled at the lo­cal MU. De­liv­ered to Malta the fol­low­ing month it was im­me­di­ately pressed into ser­vice to help de­fend the is­land from sus­tained Ger­man and Ital­ian air raids. EP122 was flown by nine­teen-year old Amer­i­can vol­un­teer, Sgt Claude Weaver III from Ok­la­homa City. Fly­ing with No 185 Sqn, he shot down two Bf109s on 22 July, fol­lowed by another pair the next day and a half-share in a Ju88 the day after that! Weaver rapidly be­came the youngest Al­lied ace of WWII. After Weaver was shot down fly­ing another Spit­fire, EP122 be­came the reg­u­lar mount of squadron OC Wg Cdr J M Thomp­son. Hav­ing been trans­ferred to No 1435 Flt EP122 crash-landed on the edge of the cliff at Dwe­jra Bay, Gozo on 27 March 1943. The badly dam­aged Spit­fire was pushed over the cliff-edge into the bay and be­came a pop­u­lar dive wreck with the sub-aqua com­mu­nity and aviation archaeolog­y groups after the war. Small parts were ini­tially re­cov­ered from the air­craft in the 1970s, with the en­gine and for­ward fuse­lage even­tu­ally be­ing raised. Stored in Malta for a num­ber of years the wreck was bought by Co­manche Fight­ers and its fuse­lage was re­built by Air­frame Assem­blies on the Isle of Wight. Trans­ferred to the Big­gin Hill Her­itage Hangar for com­ple­tion, EP122 made its first post restora­tion flight on 4 May 2016. It was painted in the scheme that it wore whilst be­ing flown by Sgt Claude Weaver in the sum­mer of 1942. How­ever, it ap­peared at Fly­ing Le­gends in tem­po­rary 1940 Fighter Com­mand colours for its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the film Dunkirk cur­rently be­ing shot in North­ern France.

Another notable first ap­pear­ance this year was Europe’s only multi-en­gined vet­eran air­craft dis­play team. Formed sev­eral years ago by Swiss busi­ness­man Hugo Mathys, and equipped with two Beech 18s (N21FS and N223CM) and a DC-3C (N431HM), the Gretchen-based team has per­formed at nu­mer­ous air­shows on the con­ti­nent but never be­fore in the UK. Im­mac­u­lately pre­sented, the team’s DC-3 was orig­i­nally built for the USAAF in 1943 as C-47A 42-24133 . Sold to a suc­ces­sion of civil­ian own­ers after the war, in­clud­ing Air At­lan­tique and Aces High in the UK, the DC-3 was op­er­ated by Zurich-based Clas­sic Air as HB-ISC from 1986 along­side the com­pany’s four Ju52s. It was ac­quired by Mathys in 2007. Both of the team’s Beech 18s are ex Royal Cana­dian Air Force ex­am­ples built in 1952 by Beechcraft at Wi­chita. After ser­vice ca­reers as nav­i­ga­tion train­ing air­craft they went onto the civil­ian mar­ket be­fore be­ing ac­quired by Mathys to join his fleet, N21FS (red trim) in 2006 and N223CM (blue trim) in 2010. The dis­play con­sisted of fly­pasts in ‘T’, ech­e­lon, and delta for­ma­tions.

Two very de­ter­mined air­line pi­lots, Pat Dono­van and Bill Sleeper flew a rare Lock­heed Model 12A from Moses Lake, Wash­ing­ton State to Fly­ing Le­gends. Com­pleted by Lock­heed at Burbank, Cal­i­for­nia in December 1938, NC14999 was one of three Model 12As de­liv­ered to the Con­ti­nen­tal Oil Com­pany. Over the years it passed through the hands of many own­ers, end­ing its ac­tive em­ploy­ment drop­ping sky­divers be­fore be­ing re­tired to a glider mu­seum in Texas, where Pat found it in 1977. After a long restora­tion the vin­tage twin was flown again in 1992. To pre­pare for the transat­lantic trip the in­te­rior ta­bles and seats were re­placed by a 400-gal­lon fuse­lage tank and dump sys­tem, along with a sec­ond al­ter­na­tor, satel­lite phone hook up, as­sorted GPS sys­tems, back up power sup­ply and in-flight en­gine oil­ing sys­tem. With the cleared take­off weight now over 11,000lb and a jour­ney of

over 4,000 nau­ti­cal miles the air­craft finally made it to Dux­ford after a six-hour fi­nal leg from Reykjavik on 3 July.

Ab­sent for seven years, Fury FB11 G-CBEL made its UK air­show re­turn painted as the Sea Fury pro­to­type SR661. Reg­is­tered to Anglia Air­craft Restora­tions on 1 June 2016 after its ar­rival at Sy­well from Aus­tralia, the ex Iraq AF Fury was dis­played well by Richard Grace.

Brought out of Iraq by David Tal­lichet in 1979 Iraqi Fury 315 was re­stored to fly as N36SF at Coleman, Texas from 1989-91. Ac­quired by BA Con­corde pilot and Kings Cup Air Race win­ner John Bradshaw in 1990 it was shipped to the UK the fol­low­ing year. Painted in a Dutch Navy/ RCN/RAN Sea Fury mid­night blue scheme with the se­rial 361, it was widely dis­played by John for nearly two decades be­fore be­ing sold to Dave War­bur­ton in New South Wales, Aus­tralia in 2009. After ar­rival at Sy­well it was rapidly re­assem­bled and painted in the green/grey colour scheme with yel­low un­der­sides to rep­re­sent the pro­to­type Sea Fury, and was air­borne a few days be­fore Fly­ing Le­gends.

The ap­pear­ance of the USAF Her­itage Flight added a new di­men­sion to Fly­ing Le­gends. For the first time at Dux­ford an F-22A Rap­tor — the USAF’S lat­est front-line fighter — paired with a former USAAF P-51D to make a cou­ple of close-for­ma­tion passes be­fore the F-22 broke away to demon­strate its power and agility with some impressive­ly tight turns.

The P-51, Robert Tyrrell’s Col­erne-based Mus­tang Miss He­len, was flown by Amer­i­can pilot Dan Fried­kin and the Rap­tor, which came from Fair­ford where it was tak­ing part in RIAT, was in the hands of Maj Dan ‘Rock’ Dick­in­son. Fly­ing Le­gends al­ways man­ages to pro­duce some­thing new and ex­cit­ing ‘out of the hat’ and 2016 was no ex­cep­tion.

Lee Proud­foot in the Blen­heim lead­ing the Spi­it­fire I, Glad­i­a­tor II and Hur­ri­cane XII of the ‘early WWII’ for­ma­tion

Fly­ing Bulls B-25, P-38 and F4U

Flown by Stu Gold­spink, Co­manche Fight­ers’ Spit­fire VB EP122 in tem­po­rary film mark­ings as R9649

Richard Grace dis­play­ing Fury FB11 ‘SR661’ USAF Her­itage Flight pair­ing of F-22A Rap­tor and P-51D Mus­tang was unique to Fly­ing Le­gends Long dis­tance fliers Pat Dono­van and Bill Sleeper in the 1938 Lock­heed 12A

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