Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th July 2023 saw the famous Flying Legends airshow move to Church Fenton having left its previous home of Duxford. Organised by The Fighter Collection, it saw a plethora of warbirds converge on Church Fenton for what was a barely believable weekend of Avgas-fuelled history coming alive.
The Friday before the show saw pretty much continuous rain with all the assembled aircraft well and truly “covers on”:
Saturday dawned damp and breezy, but luckily the West South Westerly wind was not far off the runway heading of 24. As the assembled public took in the Flight Line Walk a storm complete with lightning blew across the airfield, leading organisers to understandably close the flight line walk and urge everyone to take cover in 3 and 4 hangars which were opened up by the Leeds East team.
Amazingly the flying display started at its planned start time of 1400. The next two and a half hours saw many of the assembled warbirds put on a fantastic show between showers, with a few absences where lower cross-wind limits applied.
Around 1630, as another storm threatened to pass over the airfield, the Flying Control Committee made the absolutely understandable decision to curtail the day’s flying meaning the renowned “balbo” to close the show was not able to take place.
Sunday happily dawned brighter, albeit with a slightly more gusty wind. Again this was fairly well aligned to the runway so the flying was again able to begin at the planned 1400 start time. Sunday saw a fuller flying display, which happily included the BBMF Lancaster displaying at Church Fenton for the first time in many years (probably 29 since the last SSAFA show in 1994?). The only casualties from the gusty wind were the Grumman Wildcat, Gloster Gladiator, and Horsemen Mustang pair who all sadly were confined to terra-firma.
As the famous “balbo” mass flypast of 17 aircraft flew over, we were left to think to ourselves “did that weekend really happen?”.
The feedback since the show has been pretty much universally positive, with the unique curved display line that was used coming in for particular praise as it allows a more immersive experience and plenty of top-side passes. After the chaos of parking at the 2015 show, the feedback was that the parking and general entry / exit were extremely well managed with minimal queues.
Personal aircraft favourites from the show were the Grumman Bearcat, Flying Bulls P-38 Lightning and the Sea Fury although all displays were superb.
It is hoped that Flying Legends will return to Church Fenton in 2024, this time not clashing with RIAT which will hopefully boost visitor numbers.
A gallery of the weekend can be seen below:
The list of aircraft that were involved in the display, along with their pilots, is:
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I AR213: Pete Kynsey
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I N3200: Jon Gowdy
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I X4650: Brian Smith
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.V EE602: Jim Schofield
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.V EP120: Stu Goldspink (display), Nick Grey (Joker)
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.V JG891: Brian Smith
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.VIII: MT928: Martin Overall
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX MH415: Alex Smee
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX MH434: Paul Bonhomme
Supermarine Spitfire Pr.XI PL983: Lars Ness
Supermarine Spitfire XIV RM927: Brice O’Hayon
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I P2902: Gabrielle Barton
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I R4118: James Brown
Hawker Hurricane Mk.X AE977: Mark Levy
Hispano HA-1112 MIL Buchon ‘White 9’ G-AWHH: Dave Puleston
Hispano HA-1112 MIL Buchon Yellow 10 G-AWHK: Steve Jones
Grumman Bearcat F8F-2P G-RUMM: Pete Kynsey
Goodyear Corsair FG-1D G-FGID: Rolf Meum (display), Brian Smith (Balbo)
Chance-Vought F4U-5NL Corsair F-AXEG: Edmond Salis
Hawker Sea Fury Mk2 G-CBEL: Paul Bonhomme
Curtiss Hawk 75 G-CCVH: Baptiste Salis
Curtiss P-36X G-CIXJ: Patrice Marchasson
Curtiss Wright P-40C G-CIIO: Paul Bennett
Curtiss P-40F Warhawk G-CGZP: Stu Goldspink
Republic P-47D Thunderbolt G-THUN: Nick Smith
North American TF-P51D “Contrary Mary” G-TFSI: Cameron Rolph-Smith
Fairey Swordfish W5856: Andrew Davis?
Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs G-VNAM & G-PDOG: John Beattie & Laurie Gregorie
Lockheed P-38L Lightning N25Y: Eskil Amdal
North American B-25J Mitchell N6123C: Frederic Handelmann & Ludwig Reiter
Lockheed Electra Junior G-AFTL: Jon Corley
Avro Lancaster B Mk 1 PA474: Paul Wise