UK Messerschmitts Part 1: The Buchons

Over the past couple of years I’ve taken the time of putting together lists of UK Mustangs and Spitfire’s, the latter of which was quite the task and already needs considerable updating one year on. For my next post I thought I would take a look at the “other side” with a post covering the UK Messerschmitt collection. With only 2 airworthy variants of the type in the UK (soon to be three), I have also featured the selection of static examples in the country. This post will focus on Buchons and will be followed up with another post covering the BF109s on display and under restoration in this country.

December seemed an appropriate time to cover the UK based Buchons as it was on the 27th December 1965 that the last examples were retired from the Spanish Air Force, brining an end to the service career of one of the most iconic aircraft designs in history.

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P1350685The Hispano Buchon was a development of the BF109 that was built under licence by the Spanish following the Second World War. Daimler-Benz engines were hard to source in post-war Spain so the Rolls-Royce Merlin was chosen. An unlikely pairing given recent history but the first prototype of the fighter was powered by a Kestrel so it proved to work well. Ever since a fleet of Spanish Air Force Buchons were given the role of the German Air Force BF109s in the Battle Of Britain film these airframes have lived a life of pretending to be the Luftwaffe at airshows around the world. The past decade has seen a resurrection of the Buchon in the UK and with another couple of restoration projects on the way things are certainly looking up for this type.

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Hispano Buchon G-AWHK – Historic Flying Limited, Duxford

The first entry on this post is now part of the furniture of the UK airshow scene. The Duxford based “109” has been practicing getting shot down by Spitfire’s and mustangs for over a  decade now since returning to flight under the ownership of the Real Aeroplane Company at Breighton in May 2006. Shortly after the return to flight the airframe was sold to Tom Blair’s Spitfire Ltd along with the Real Aeroplane Company’s Hurricane. This change in ownership saw the Buchon make the move south to Duxford.

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Since moving to Duxford the airframe changed ownership once again, this time to Historic Flying Limited securing a future at Duxford. A major overhaul was followed by the airframe being finished in the colours of Yellow 10 – the colour scheme the aircraft wore while taking art in the filming of the Battle of Britain film, making this airframe the only Buchon to be painted in German markings that actually represent a key part of the airframes history.

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This airframe has made many airshow memories over the year, notably when in the hands of John Romain who has really made the Buchon his own over the years with graceful aerobatic performances. Another classic display sequence that this airframe has taken part in was the stunning formation aerobatic routines alongside Cliff Spink in the Humberside based Buchon.

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Following a trip to New Zealand for the Warbirds Over Wanaka display in the early months of 2016 ‘AWHK was then transformed into “Black 2”, which combined with clipped wingtips gave the impression of a 109E for the purposes of filming the new Dunkirk movie. Luckily the Buchon was able to make a number of appearances in this configuration over the 2016 season which made a welcome change and the smoke system fitted for the filming added something extra to the dogfight sequence and the September show at Duxford this year.

Hispano Buchon G-AWHE – Spitfire Ltd, Humberside

5 years after the Historic Flying Buchon took to the skies for the first time, another veteran of the Battle of Britain film returned to flying status on the 9th May 2011 in the hands of John Romain. This followed a 3 year restoration, with the aircraft having arrived at Duxford in 2008.

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Before arriving at Duxford this airframe had a varied career passing through a number of owners during the 1960s and 70s, before flying again in 2004, though the aircraft was not flown often. In 2007 the Buchon was offered for sale and was soon on its way to Duxford.

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Along with the Historic Flying Limited example outlined above this aircraft, which is finished in a distinctive dessert colour scheme and clipped wings (currently fitted to the “other” Buchon), has provided plenty of entertainment over the past few years. This aircraft is generally flown by Cliff Spink and can often be seen at Duxford shows both solo and alongside the Duxford based example.

Restoration Projects

These airworthy Buchons make great airshow acts and it looks like the UK population is about to increase, perhaps we can finally see an example wear the Spanish Air Force colour scheme in the not too distant future. Air Leasing at Sywell currently have two Buchons under restoration. One of which is a dual control example, which gives the exciting prospects of passenger flights being offered in this famous fighter. Hopefully in the next few years we will be able to witness three of four of these Spanish fighters in the air together.

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