Category Archives: Airshow News Warbirds

Two airshows & ten “Flying Days” on IWM Duxford’s 2021 event calendar

DUXFORD | The Imperial War Museum will be holding two major airshows and ten “flying days” at Duxford next year, according to their provisional 2021 event calendar.

The two major airshows will maintain Duxford’s now-familiar Air Festival and Battle of Britain themes, with each event taking place over two and three days respectively. However, in a change from their typical schedule, the Air Festival will be moving to a new slot in late July, rather than late May.

This follows the forced move of the annual Flying Legends Airshow from Duxford to Sywell. Flying Legends, which is organised by The Fighter Collection, had traditionally been held in mid-July, but the Imperial War Museum terminated their agreement to host the show, wishing to hold their own flying display in July instead. It had been hoped that Duxford would, therefore, continue to host three major airshows per year in total, although instead of setting up a new July event, the May show has been moved into a new July slot.

The 2021 airshow season faces considerable uncertainty, with social distancing expected to remain necessary at least until the middle of the year. It is possible that the Imperial War Museum have decided not to host a May show next year because of this, with a view to adding a third annual airshow in 2021.

In addition to their main airshows, the museum will also hold ten Flying Days between April and October. These appear to be a rebranding of the “Showcase Days” introduced in 2019, although they have been considerably increased in number. Each Flying Day will have a different theme, such as D-Day or of Duxford’s 19 Squadron, with pop-up exhibits around the museum and flying displays in the afternoon.

The 2021 event calendar is as follows:

  • Sunday 24th April: Flying Day
  • Sunday 8th May: Flying Day
  • Saturday 22nd May: Flying Day
  • Sunday 6th June: Flying Day
  • Sunday 20th June: Flying Day
  • Saturday 3rd July: Flying Day
  • Saturday 24th-Sunday 25th July: Duxford Air Festival
  • Wednesday 4th August: Flying Day
  • Wednesday 11th August: Flying Day
  • Thursday 19th August: Flying Day
  • Friday 17th-Sunday 19th September: Battle of Britain Airshow
  • Sunday 9th October: Flying Day

You can read our guide to air displays at Duxford here.

Sea Vixen return-to-flight effort ends due to lack of funds

YEOVILTON | Navy Wings have decided to halt efforts to return their beloved Sea Vixen to flight, following a gear-up landing in 2017.

Photo: James Connolly

The organisation had hoped that a “white knight” sponsor would step in to fund the estimated £2 million repairs, but despite a fundraising appeal and searching for individuals and organisations that may be willing to fund the restoration, none have been forthcoming.

In a statement on their website, Navy Wings said the coronavirus pandemic had forced them to re-evaluate their business plan to ensure that some of the aircraft can be back in the air next year. They said they had “carefully considered” the future of the Sea Vixen, but “the Board of Trustees has reluctantly made the decision to stop investing vital funds into preparing her for flight.

Navy Wings will now focus its efforts on restoring its Sea Fury FB.11, which will one day fly alongside its Sea Fury T.20.

“It is difficult having to make choices between historically important and beautiful aircraft,” Navy Wings said. “They all have their place in our story. We will not do anything to render the Sea Vixen unfit to fly in case someone comes forward in the future and she will continue to be a star attraction at Yeovilton Air Day.

“This classic Fleet Air Arm fighter and icon of the Cold War will always have a special place in the hearts of many and continue to impress and inspire for years to come.”

Sea Vixen FAW.2 XP924 (G-CVIX) was forced to make a gear-up landing at Yeovilton in May 2017, when the landing gear failed to lower. Although the pilot was praised for a textbook landing, structural damage to the aircraft was unavoidable.

XP924 was the world’s only flying Sea Vixen at the time of the accident, and none have flown since then.

Shuttleworth Collection plans to host 10 airshows in 2021

OLD WARDEN | The Shuttleworth Collection is planning a full airshow season next year, with most events already confirmed to be drive-in events.

Ten airshows, each with a distinct theme, will take place between May and October, including four evening air displays. Most events up until mid-August are already confirmed to be drive-in events, while later shows will be held in a more conventional format if possible.

As well as some of Shuttleworth’s traditional themes, there will also be several new event themes in 2021. The biggest shake-up sees the traditional mid-August Flying Proms being replaced by the Flying Circus, an evening event that will feature barnstorming air displays combined with traditional circus acts on the ground. It is hoped that the Proms, which are harder to run in a socially-distant manner, will return in 2022.

Among the other shows, one will pay tribute to the Festival of Britain, a national exhibition held across the UK in 1951. The Scurry of Chipmunks Airshow will bring together large numbers of Chipmunks and de Havilland Moths, and the Flying for Fun Airshow will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Light Aircraft Association. The Collection’s most popular show, the Military Airshow, will return in its usual early July slot.

In an effort to make ticket costs more flexible, ticketing for drive-in shows will be completely revamped in 2021. Each group of visitors must purchase either a 5×5 metre car space for £10, a 4.8×5 metre oversize car space for £20, or a 2.5×5 metre space for visitors attending on foot or bicycle. The latter will cost £5 and has a capacity of two people. In addition, each visitor must purchase an entry ticket for themselves, which cost £26 per adult until the end of February, rising to £34 thereafter. The Flying Circus is slightly more expensive than other scheduled airshows.

Some end-of-season airshows are currently not being marketed as drive-in airshows, although the drive-in ticketing system currently applies. If the Collection are able to follow a more traditional airshow format, the cost of parking or viewing spaces will be refunded.

The Collection’s 2021 schedule is as follows:

  • Sunday 2nd May: Season Premiere Airshow (drive-in)
  • Saturday 15th May: Spies and Intrigue Evening Airshow (drive-in)
  • Sunday 6th June: Flying Festival of Britain (drive-in)
  • Saturday 19th June: Scurry of Chipmunks Evening Airshow (drive-in)
  • Sunday 4th July: Military Airshow (drive-in)
  • Saturday 17th July: Flying for Fun Evening Airshow (drive-in)
  • Sunday 1st August: Need for Speed Family Airshow
  • Saturday 14th August: Flying Circus (drive-in)
  • Saturday 4th-Sunday 5th September: Vintage Weekend Airshow (air display on Sunday only)
  • Saturday 2nd-Sunday 3rd October: Race Weekend (air display on Saturday only)

The Shuttleworth Collection held several successful drive-in airshows in July, August and September 2020.

For more about how airshows are coping with the coronavirus, see our in-depth feature article.

Flying Legends gets new home at Sywell after being forced out of Duxford

NORTHAMPTON | Sywell Airfield near Northampton will be the new home of Europe’s biggest warbird airshows, after the event was forced to leave Duxford earlier this year.

Flying Legends, which is run by Duxford-based The Fighter Collection, was left without a home in August after the Imperial War Museum suddenly decided that they would not allow the airshow to go ahead there from 2021 onwards. It is expected that IWM will host their own airshow in July in replacement of Flying Legends, to boost the museum’s revenue.

Sywell is a major warbird base which has hosted major airshows in the past – most recently in 2014. It also hosts a selection of smaller annual events, such as Pistons & Props. The airfield also houses much of Air Leasing’s warbird fleet, as well various other civilian airshow performers such as The Blades aerobatic display team.

The airfield has three grass runways – some of which may be closed to accomodate the airfield showground – and a 1,200m hard runway, as well as sturdy, permanent hangars. It is located just 40 miles from Duxford. The first edition of Flying Legends at Sywell is scheduled for the 10th-11th July 2021.

Sywell is likely to have a considerably smaller capacity than Duxford, which can welcome up to 30,000 spectators each day (although Flying Legends crowd are often smaller). Previous airshows at Sywell have had a capacity of around 10,000 visitors per day. On the map above, the old showground is marked in red. The largest possible showground is marked in pale blue – this is roughly the site layout used for the LAA Rally. This would give the crowd the closest possible view of the two parallel 03/12 runways.

The promotional poster for Flying Legends 2021 suggests a small showground (shown in yellow), roughly the same size as the old showground, but with a curved crowdline – a tantalising prospect for photographers. This layout would provide the most favourable lighting during the flying display and could allow all four runways to remain open, although it may also bring the display line close to congested areas that could be subject to additional restrictions such as minimum altitudes or a ban on aerobatics.

The longest possible crowdline length is around 500 metres – less than half of the length of the crowdline at Duxford. However, the convex shape of Duxford’s crowdline means that the display line is likely to be closer to spectators at Sywell than at Duxford.

Flying Legends’ move away from Duxford was announced in a shock statement on the 25th August, leading many to speculate that the airshow may never return.

Flying Legends has been held at Duxford for over 30 years and has become Europe’s biggest and best-known warbird airshow. The two-day annual event attracted rare warbirds from around the world, but is perhaps most famous for the “Balbo”, a huge formation of around 30 warbirds that closes out each show day.

Traditionally, Flying Legends was one of three large airshows held at Duxford each year, with the other two being organised by the airfield owners, the Imperial War Museum. The Fighter Collection are one of several classic aircraft operators to be based at the site and their aircraft typically feature both at Flying Legends and at museum-run shows.

The Fighter Collection will continue to be based at Duxford.

UK aviation museums and restoration groups get share of £1.6bn recovery fund

LONDON | Organisations helping to keep British aviation heritage alive will get hundreds of thousands of pounds in government funding to help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost £1.6 billion pounds has been allocated to help museums, heritage sites and entertainment venues struggling because of restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the disease. Over 400 organisations will benefit from £67 million pounds in grants from the Culture Recovery Fund, which is being administered by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Taking the largest sum in the aviation sector is the Shuttleworth Collection, which will recieve more than £620,000. The museum is home to a large collection of airworthy aircraft and historic vehicles, many of which are the last working examples of their kind. They also host bi-monthly airshows through the summer months – a key source of revenue – but a combination of poor weather and virus restrictions has meant that only four have gone ahead this year, leaving the museum critically short of income at the end of the airshow season.

A further £280,000 has been awarded to Navy Wings, a civilian organisation tasked with restoring and maintaining a number of ex-Royal Navy aircraft, such as Sea Vixen G-CVIX and Sea Fury FB.11 VR930.

Commodore Jock Alexander OBE, Chief Executive of Navy Wings, said the funding was a “lifeline” after a year with no airshows, which has seen the organisation temporarily ground their aircraft and lose “thousands of pounds of income”.

The Lincolnshire Bomber Command Centre were “thrilled” to be awarded over £420,000 and the Boscomb Down Aviation Collection recieved £28,000, while £12,000 and £11,000 went to the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum and the Nimrod Preservation Group respectively.

Duxford Battle of Britain airshow cancelled, Headcorn still on, amid crackdown on gatherings

DUXFORD | This month’s Battle of Britain Airshow at Duxford has been cancelled in a surprise announcement, although AeroLegends’ show at Headcorn is still going ahead.

The Imperial War Museum said it had taken the decision to protect “the safety of our visitors and loval community,” saying it would be “irresponsible” to host the event. The show, scheduled for the 18th-20th September, was due to feature the Red Arrows, a balbo of Spitfires and dozens of other historic aircraft, and would have been the largest British airshow of 2020.

Changes to the law announced on Tuesday 8th September amid a spike in coronavirus cases will ban most gatherings of six or more people, and give police new powers to break up gatherings and issue fines. Until now, gatherings of up to six people had been permitted outdoors, although police had no power to stop gatherings unless they exceeded 30 people. Outdoor events which had been deemed Covid-secure were permitted to go ahead, including a mix of drive-in and conventional air displays. The law will come into force on Monday 14th September, with fines starting at £100 and increasing to as much as £2,300 for repeat offenders.

However, the rules will not apply to some Covid-secure settings, including as hospitality venues, and in the wake of the announcement, the Imperial War Museum said they expected the airshow would still go ahead. Tickets are also still on sale for the museum’s Showcase Day on the 10th October.

Another conventional air display, the Weston Park Model Airshow on the 17th-18th October, also plans to go ahead. They said: “We are still waiting to hear the full details however it would appear this does not change anything other than a maximum of six can group together.”

They added that they understand the cap of six people applies only to events which are not deemed Covid-secure.

The Aero Legends Battle of Britain Airshow in Kent is also still going ahead on the 25th-27th September.

The Shuttleworth Collection’s three remaining drive-in shows are less likely to be affected, as they do not count as a public gathering as long as visitors remain in their assigned viewing areas.

Flying Legends Airshow will not return to Duxford, says The Fighter Collection

DUXFORD | One of the world’s largest warbird airshows, Flying Legends, is on the hunt for a new venue, after it was announced that the show will not return to its iconic home at IWM Duxford.

Nick Grey of The Fighter Collection, which organises Flying Legends, said in a statement: “It is with a heavy heart that we confirm 2019 was the final Flying Legends with our friends at IWM Duxford. We truly hope that our team will find an alternative location to welcome this iconic event and that we will have the privilege of seeing you all again.”

Flying Legends has been held at Duxford for over 30 years and has become Europe’s biggest and best-known warbird airshow. The two-day annual event attracted rare warbirds from around the world, but is perhaps most famous for the “Balbo”, a huge formation of around 30 warbirds that closes out each show day.

Traditionally, Flying Legends was one of three large airshows held at Duxford each year, with the other two being organised by the Imperial War Museum, which owns the airfield. The Fighter Collection are one of several classic aircraft operators to be based at the site and their aircraft typically feature both at Flying Legends and at museum-run shows.

The 2020 edition of Flying Legends was due to be held on the 11th-12th July, but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with the Duxford Air Festival. The final Duxford show of the year, the Battle of Britain Airshow, is still planned to go ahead on the 18th-20th September.

In a statement published by UK Airshow Review, the Imperial War Museum said the decision was taken due to financial pressures sustained by the museum during the pandemic, which forced them to “examine all future events … to ensure that, as a charity, the organisation is able to maximise income and remain financially stable.”

It was therefore mutually agreed that TFC would seek an alternative location to host Flying Legends, which will be confirmed at a later date,” they added.

John Brown, IWM’s Executive Director of Commerce & Operations, said that The Fighter Collection would continue to be a “highly valued partner”. Its aircraft will remain based at Duxford and will continue to be displayed throughout the year.

We are confident that Flying Legends will continue with its success and would like to thank them for entertaining audiences at IWM Duxford over the years,” he said. “We will be making some exciting changes to our own Air Show programme for next year and look forward to sharing more details in the coming months.”

UK and France mark D-Day anniversary with historic flypasts

Large-scale flypasts in southern England and northern France marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings on Wednesday 5th June.

The Daks Over Normandy event brought together over 30 vintage Dakotas from around the world, coinciding with official commemorations in Portsmouth and in Normandy.

The UK’s official commemorative event was be held at Southsea Common in Portsmouth on Wednesday 5th June, attended by the Queen, the British Prime Minister, the US President, 16 other world leaders and 300 veterans of the operation.

The event included flypasts of 25 military aircraft, including a Spitfire, Hurricane, Wildcat helicopter, two Merlins, two Hercules, a Sentinel, A330 Voyager, four Hawk T.1s, two Typhoon FGR.4s and the nine Hawk T.1As of the Red Arrows. The Red Arrows returned for a full flying display later in the afternoon.

On the same day, a formation of over 20 Dakotas, escorted by P-51D Mustangs, Beech 18s and T-6 Texans, took off from Duxford en-route to France as the culmination of Daks Over Duxford. In addition, Duxford saw warbird displays and flypasts, flying displays by C-47s and DC-3s and a flyby from the United States Air Force over the weekend.

The main Dakota formation flew low over Colchester, Southend-on-Sea, Medway, Maidstone and Eastbourne before crossing the English Channel to France, flying over Le Havre before commencing a parachute drop at Sannerville, landing at Caen shortly afterwards.

Also on the 5th June, a variety of aircraft staged flypasts and parachute jumps at Carentan, including Dakotas, Spitfires, a Staggerwing and military aircraft from France, the UK and the USA. Hundreds  of jumpers took part, including re-enaction groups and military teams such as the  Red Devils and Golden Knights. Several veterans of the operation also participated in tandem jumps.

The French and US heads of state met in France on the Thursday 6th June for further commemorative events, which included a flypast of specially-painted F-15s. On the same day, the RAF Red  Arrows staged a flypast over Arromanches.

Further jumps from the US military and historic aircraft continued around Caen over the following days.

World’s last flying Meteor NF.11 makes final flight

BRUNTINGTHORPE | The UK’s last flying Gloster Meteor in private hands touched down for the final time on Saturday 5th January, and will now be maintained in a taxyable condition.

Meteor NF.11 WM167 arrived at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome as part of a celebratory ticketed event. Other classic aircraft, including a Vampire T.11 and Strikemaster Mk.80A, joined the Meteor for an impromptu fly-in.

WM167 was built in Coventry in 1952 and flew with the Royal Air Force  until 1975, seeing out the final years of its service as a target tug. It was  purchased by a private collector and reverted to NF.11 configuration shortly afterwards.

The jet was operated until recently by the Classic Air Force, a now-defunct aviation museum and warbird operator based first in Coventry and then Newquay. She was a regular airshow performer during this time, and the only flying Night Fighter Meteor in the world. The charity, who owned two Meteors, folded in early 2016.

Both Meteors, as well as two ex-CAF Venoms, were purchased by American collector Marty Tibbitts in 2017. The first Meteor, T.7 WA591, was taken to the United States and made its American airshow debut at Oshkosh last summer, while the remaining jets stayed in the UK. Meteor NF.11 WM167 was donated to the Classic British Jets Collection at Bruntingthorpe following Tibbitt’s death in an accident last July.

The jet will be maintained in a fast-taxy condition, along with a collection of other Cold War-era jets at Bruntingthorpe, and will likely participate in public events such as the biannual Cold War Jets fast-taxy events.

A further pair of UK-based Meteors are used by Martin Baker as testbeds for their ejector seats, but these are rarely seen in public. The only other airworthy Meteor in the world is a Meteor F.8 owned by the Temora Aviation Museum in Australia.