A long-standing tradition at Duxford shows, particularly Flying Legends has been an “ultimate pistons” segment or similar. This started in the early days of the Fighter Collection’s show when Ray Hanna and Stephen Grey used to put on a breathtaking high energy tail-chase sequence in the skies of Duxford. As you’d expect from the people involved this was a very impressive and very low level performance with Ray in the Iraqi Fury and Stephen in his Bearcat.
This idea was rested for a good few years, to the best of my knowledge until 2016 when Anglia Aircraft Restoration’s Hawker Fury G-CBEL returned to the UK. Since then many will have enjoyed Richard Grace’s incredible account of the machines power with classic, low level aerobatics. At the 2016 September show at Duxford (“Meet the Fighters”) Richard joined Pete Kynsey in the Fighter Collection Bearcat for a stunning close formation aerobatic display. This was a great throw back to those early displays, though they were perhaps a little more precise than those earlier demonstrations. What I mean by that is, rather than sprawling tail chase, this performance was an equally impressive close formation masterclass.
The closest routine I could remember to those Hanna/Grey performances was at Flying Legends in 2009 when Nick Grey and Frederic Akary flew an incredible “double solo” display in the Sea Fury T20 and Hawker Fury. This routine saw Nick spend most of his time in the looping plane while Akary flew some incredible low level rolls and passes below. An exhilarating performance that, as yet had not been repeated.
2018 changed that, when the exciting prospect of Richard Grace and Nick Grey taxied out and took to the air together in the Sea Fury T20 (now re-engined with a R2800) and Fury II. I was expecting the now regular formation performance but then saw the two fighters split in the hold and commence runs in for an opposition arrival. I think anyone catching sight of this build up would have certainly gotten goosebumps.
Both machines arrived at an impressive speed before pulling up into vertical figures. The next 5 or so minutes was sheer warbird bliss with countless impressive passes and the two masterful solo performances interweaving throughout, occasionally breaking into an impromptu tail chase before it was all over all too soon.
The last couple of years at Legends has certainly been all about the Sea Fury/Fury design, with the Anglia example stealing the show in 2016 and taking over/sharing Joker duties in 2017, this year saw Nick Grey and WG655 take centre stage with not only this routine but also an equally impressive Joker slot that gave a towering account of this ultimate demonstration of piston engined power.