We attended the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight 50th season air display. This unusual air event was organised at Duxford airfield by the RAF and the IWM on Saturday 5th May 2007. All Battle of Britain Memorial Flight airplanes : seven british WWII fighter aircraft, a unique Avro Lancaster and one Douglas C-47 Dakota all flew in front of the public for a unique show fully dedicated to this historical squadron traditions.
To introduce these celebrations that were charged with emotion, a RAF Typhoon flew a common display with Spitfire Mk IIa P7350 at 12-00 AM. P7350 is the oldest Spitfire still flying in the world in 2007. 20.400 Spitfires were produced in 22 variants. The very P7350 gem was built at Castle Bromwich and did its maiden flight on August 1940. As it was fighting into the Battle of Britain with 603 Squadron (City of Edinburgh), a polish pilot Ludwik Martel flew it from Hornchurch airfield and he was shot down. P7350 was repaired, and today bullet holes traces are still visible on the airframe. As a matter of facts it was all the more impressive to watch this venerable plane performing "Rolls Royce Merlin music" and being graced by a latest technology sharp-edged twin engined Typhoon that was sometimes putting on reheat into black clouds.
Later on three Spitfire MkXIXs and one Hurricane teamed for another display : two of these MkXIXs are ownned by the Flight, but the third one is former BBMF MkXIX PS853 that was sold in June 1994 to Rolls Royce company. PS853 joined the anniversary for the occasion. These four classic aeroplanes were gracefully flown as only british pilots can fly with precision and skills, and no need to say that the resulting Merlin and Griffon engines concert was a fest. So Sky-Lens'Aviation' best overall display award in this event is given to this unique team of four Rolls Royce airframes. That first air display ended at around 1-00 PM and the visiting public could then talk to the BBMF pilots and engineers. Duxford visitors are always cool and some of them behave as if the are attending an opera, wearing smart ties, and other ones bring their own metal tea pots and all those details are kind things from the public that you may never experience anywhere else in Europe.
People could discover the new scheme and squadron markings just applied weeks before the event on two of the Flight’s aircraft. Spitfire MkVb AB910 was presented as the personal aircraft of Sqn Ldr Jan Zumbach who was 303 Polish (Kosciuszko) Squadron Commander. Last winter, Avro Lancaster PA474 was delivered to Air Atlantique - a Coventry based company - and it received full detailed inspection. Then in February - March 2007, it was painted with the “Phantom of the Ruhr” markings. This airplane was flown by 100 and 550 Squadrons. But though this BBMF 'Lanc' was actually built in 1945 in Chester, at present it looks as a "phantom" coming back from deep history. It is reminding us that during WWII, thousands of serving RAF Bomber Command aircrew did not come back from bombing night missions flying Lancasters over Germany.
We congratulate the one hour long second air display of the day that started later on at 4-00 PM. It was the first and - may remain the last time - that all seven BBMF fighter airplanes - Spitfires MkIIa P7350, MkVb AB910, LFIXe MK356, PRXIX PM631 and PRXIX PS915, and Hurricanes MkIIc LF363 and MkIIc PZ865 - all performed a single formation with Avro Lancaster PA474. Not only was this celebration day a tribute to british RAF men and women serving during World War Two with the RAF, but it was an opportunity to say thank you to the only operational Air Force flying historical aeroplanes in its ranks worldwide. The BBMF was founded at Biggin Hill airfield in July 1957 as the Historic Aircraft Flight. It officially became the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 1973. Single engine planes aircrew are volunteers serving with regular RAF operational Squadrons. Most of them flying Typhoon and Tornado jets and join the Flight a few hours every week to fly the vintage machines. Today the BBMF is stationned at RAF Coningsby, so many of that air base Typhoon Squadrons pilots also fly the Spitfires and Hurricanes. Several AWACS aircrew from Waddington serve with the Lancaster or the Dakota. Engineers maintain the vintage planes with help from private expertise from warbird companies. Engineers are coming from operational units as well and also do it as an additional job to usual operational duties.
The BBMF will take part to events and airshows every weekend untill next winter. During each event they will fly two or three vintage airplanes together but no more. So never again will the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight use its full fleet of airplanes in a single flypast as performed during that very 5th May 2007 memorable day.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight seven vintage fighter airplanes special flypast.