Airshow Moments 2017 – BBMF Thompson Formation

This past season was both special and challenging for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. This July saw the completion of the Lancaster’s major overhaul at Duxford which resulted in the aircraft emerging in a new colour scheme having had significant maintenance completed.

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The return of the Lancaster meant that the BBMF were able to mark their 60th anniversary in style. This important anniversary was marked at several shows with a special fighter four ship display.

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As part of this years Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford this special “Thompson” formation was joined by the Lancaster. This sequence was really special, the four fighters (Hurricane, Spitfire II, Spitfire XVI and Spitfire XIX) got airborne and formed up into a box formation while the Lancaster climbed into the air. This was the first time I had seen the Lancaster and fighters in a number of years. After a number of passes in formation the fighters broke off into a thrilling tail chase sequence.

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This part of the display saw the four fighters follow each other through dynamic figures and rolls before giving way to the bomber again for its own solo performance. There is something very special about a Lancaster display and it is worth noting that since the incredible sight of a pair of these graceful bombers together, there have been relatively few appearances from the BBMF example through one reason and another.

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Fairford would be the only public appearance for the Thompson formation alongside the Lancaster. It was planned to take place again at the Scampton airshow in September but problems with the Merlin engined aircraft in the fleet meant that only two fighters were available for the Scampton show. Hopefully with the RAF 100th anniversary celebrations taking place next year we will see a return of this dynamic routine.

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