Text: Serge Van Heertum -  Pictures: Serge Van Heertum & Marc Arys © sbap 2014

Duxford... Flying Legends... Spitfire... Mustang... all those names roaring like a perfectly tuned Rolls Royce Merlin in the ears of warbirds passionate...

This July 12 and 13, 2014 the Imperial War Museum (IWM) and the Fighter Collection association organised the now world renowned Flying Legends. During the weekend this mythical airbase went back in time through the flying demonstrations as well as through all the activities spread along the base and of course through the famous museum. This year, the Manhattan Dolls were also present bringing songs of the '40's wearing US uniforms. What a joy! Wandering around you could also find yourself bumping into two joyful stooges from the glorious years of American comic movies, Laurel and Hardy. For real in their famed car (which did not break down this time).

Along the main alley aplenty of booths allowing you to spent your sterling pounds which cluttered your wallet as to enriched libraries and other display cases.

The highlight of the weekend is undeniably the aerial part of the show and every year the organizers strive to offer the public a fantastic display including each time some rare aircraft. Sadly the bad weather of Friday and Saturday morning cancelled the presence of various aircraft which could not make it safely to Duxford. Each show has its own stars and for the Duxford Flying legends 2014, we could watch for the first time the freshly restored Curtiss P-40C. A magnificent machine, in a shiny, bare metal finish reflecting the sun, luckily generously present at the start of the flying displays on Saturday. A real delight! But more incredible was the presence and presentation in flight of an authentic Boeing P-26 Peashooter coming straight from over the Atlantic from the well renowned “Planes of Fame” collection. This aircraft, of which only 151 were built, was a real leap in time and although, not a mythical airplane such as the Spitfire or the Mustang, the presence in the air of this little plane gave us the shivers, especially knowing what was done to have the P-26 at Duxford. It was taken apart, boxed and shipped by boat, arrived at Duxford, reassembled and test flown just a couple of days before the show. Saturday saw the flight of the P-26 but sadly on Sunday the flight was cancelled due to strong crosswinds. One can only vouch for the pilot's decision to stay on the ground rather than to risk damaging such a beauty. The Peashooter was again taken apart and boxed on Wednesday July 16 and shipped back to the US.

Besides the guest stars, we could watch a festival of all kinds of Spitfires (11 of them flying together), the inescapable B-17G “Sally B”, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and of course all the roaring machines of the Fighter Collection without forgetting the warbirds from Austria, Swiss, or France. The flying program totalised around fourty airplanes and was magnificent as always, particularly the traditional finale putting in the air most of the fighters that flew during the day. Called the “Balbo”, taken from the famous Italian aviator Italo Balbo which flew two transatlantic flights grouping quite a lot of airplanes. For the first one flying 12 Savoia Marchetti S.55 flying boats and for the second one, flying no less than 24 of these aircraft. Nowadays the term “Balbo” entered common usage describing a large formation of at least twelve aircraft.

But let's cut the cackle and move on to the pictures summarizing these two days. We do hope these pictures will convince you to cross the Channel see some English countryside and enjoy the show of these machines from another era and all of this at an airbase filled with history which can not be forgotten.

The SBAP-team heartily thanks the organizers and the Imperial War Museum for this memorable weekend and particularly Ms Esther Blaine, public relation manager, and her team for the accreditations and cordial reception of our members during the Flying Legends 2014.
We eagerly await the 2015 edition!

Last checks before the great show!  (Serge Van Heertum)
The star of the Flying Legends 2014 coming from California (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
A British legend, the Spitfire exhibed with some armaments and material (Serge Van Heertum)
Some beautiful flying models (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
Unique collector book edited...

This unique collector’s item contains 29 characterized images of past and present Legendary figures who have been, and are, closely associated to The Fighter Collection.
This is a limited edition run of 300 copies which have been signed and numbered by the artist. More information and details of how to order one of these collector’s items:

The Fighter Collection

In 1970, Stephen Grey, an English businessman living in Swiss and former RAF pilot, wanted to acquire a warbird. As Supermarine Spitfire (his dream) was very rare at that time, he decided to buy a more available one: a P-51D Mustang. He found one at Placerville, California at Robert MacFarlane's place. Entirely painted in red with a white striping having taken part in the Reno air races wearing the number 7 and called “Candyman”. The aircraft convoyed by late John Crocker, flew from Oakland to Geneva in several legs and when arriving on Swiss soil, was the first “stone” of The Fighter Collection (TFC) museum.

Followed by a F8F-2P Bearcat in June 1981, a FM-2 Wildcat the next year. In the meantime Stephen Grey realised his dream finding a two-seater Spitfire Mk IXT with an American Senator, but which to the contrary of the three other aircraft of his collection, needed to be completely restored. Converted to a single-seater, the work was completed by the “Personal Plane Service” of Tony Bianchi with the first flight in February 1984. It was also this year that the Fighter Collection, lacking space and stockroom, had to leave Geneva to become established some twelve kilometers to the south of Cambridge at an airbase with a glorious past: Duxford.

The collection continued to grow and enriched. In disarray, passed through the hands or still in the hands of the TFC: three Curtiss P-40 (P-40B, P-40C, P-40M), two Hawker Hurricane (Mk IV and XII), four Supermarine Spitfire (one Mk V, two Mk XIV, one Mk XVIII), one FG-1D Corsair, two Republic P-47 Thunderbolt (P-47D and P-47G), a Grumman F6F Hellcat, a second Bearcat, a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, one Bell P-39Q Airacobra, two Bell P-63 Kingcobra, a Grumman F7F Tigercat, a Curtiss H-75 Hawk and three other Mustang (one P-51C and two P-51D). Also to be included in the list is a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, a Douglas Skyraider, a Hawker Nimrod, a Bristol Fighter, a Bücker Jungmeister, a North American T-6G Harvard, a Beech 17 Staggerwing, etc… All these aircraft are or were in perfect flying conditions (some has been sold and others were lost in accidents) and regularly take part in various dedicated events throughout Europe. Some of these aircraft even played a part in several movie or television productions.

The Fighter Collection maintains and restores all of his aircraft (Bristol Beaufighter, Hawker Sea fury, Spitfire F.22, Gloster Gladiator) for herself and other clients thanks to their highly qualified personal: a little team of engineers and mechanics lead by engineer Martin Espin and helped by numerous volunteers.

The pilots, dedicated or occasional, are for the most professional passionate of old aircraft in love with those machine of more than 50 years of age which give them a real joy they can not find aboard the ultra sophisticated airplanes they daily fly.

Their names : Pete Kynsey, chief-pilot, Jack and Charlie Brown, John Romain, Carl Schofield, Stuart Goldspink, Steve Johnson, Dave Southwood, Paul Bonhomme, Warwik Brady, Lee and Jan Proudfoot and of course Stephen Grey (who flew his last display at La Ferté Alais 2014 - see our report on :  http://www.sbap.be/events/2014/025ferte2014/025ferte2014.htm ) and his son Nick Grey.
We also mention the late John Larcombe, Hoof Proudfoot and Guy Bancroft Wilson, all three tragically passed away while flying aircraft of the TFC.

A tribute to the pilots and all the ground crew for their fantastic job allowing warbirds revival...(Serge Van Heertum & Marc Arys)
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