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FESTIVAL OF FLIGHT – “A HIGHLY WORTHY TRIBUTE TO THE FEW ON 75th ANNIVERSARY”

In spite of challenging weather conditions affecting the London area on Saturday, the Festival of Flight produced many innovative and imaginative displays in a programme that ran continuously from 1pm to close at 5.30pm.

Stars of the show were the Red Arrows Aerobatic Team and the Spitfires of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight  and the Heritage Hangar. Though the cloud base required the Reds to fly their low level show, many thought that this allowed the team to present their display in a more dynamic way for the benefit of spectators.

The team’s 2015 display included a number of imaginative evolutions not seen before.  The sequence included the Phantom Bend, Chevron Roll, Corkscrew, Opposition Barrel Roll, Mirror Roll and Vixen break – among many others.  Supported with a clear and concise commentary, the display was exemplary in presenting the skill of team pilots and innovation of the display routine.

Andy Pawsey, a member of the Festival commentary team, suggested that for this occasion, spectators received a much better impression of the various manoeuvres and display changes at the lower level than in the full vertical version.

A defining moment during the afternoon was a second appearance by the Red Arrows flying in Vic formation with four Spitfires of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in close formation within the Vic. This was a meaningful encapsulation of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the skill and professionalism pilots of the Royal Air Force integrating close formation flying with aircraft that were several generations apart.

Flying a Mk XVI Spitfire of the Heritage Hangar, test pilot Dan Griffiths coordinated  a highly realistic airfield attack sequence together with an  original Messerschmitt 109G ‘Red Seven’ powered by the Daimler Benz engine DB 605 of the Nazi Luftwaffe and flown by Airbus test pilot Klaus Plasa.  Hidden in the grass was large selection of pyrotechnics under the control of a specialist team that added a massive dimension of realism for the strafing and bombing attacks, with volumes of smoke and flame.

Mixing generations of aircraft 75 years apart was the theme of the coordinated display featuring a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire of the 1940’s (max speed under 400 mph)  and a Typhoon of the modern era with a Mach 2 capability.  The interplay between these two aircraft in their display profiles reminded spectators once again of the pilot skills that marks the modern RAF, both pilots from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

The Royal Navy ‘Black Cats’ helicopter duo flying the relatively new version of the Lynx known as the Wildcat, set new standards for an interactive rotary wing display.  They adopted former Harrier techniques of bowing to acknowledge spectators in their finale.

The Red Bull Matadors, a team of two flying Russian Sukhoi Su-26 made from composites, flew high-G sequences contained within the airfield boundary.  Pilots Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones later changed cockpits to fly the Spitfire duo that closed the show with a flourish to bring an outstanding afternoon to a close.

Organiser Colin Hitchins says that the 2015 Festival of Flight was special in so many different ways.

“The commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain was highly worthy and brought us all many visual images that strongly reflect a tribute the ‘The Few’.   Perhaps the most poignant was the Red Arrows formation with Spitfires – but there were many others.  Commentator Brendan O’Brien said in his closing observations – ‘One thing is certain – we shall never forget Churchill’s Few.  We shall always owe them our deepest gratitude’

The 2015 Festival of Flight was presented in association with MetroBank.