Warbird Tails 2020 Season Preview

2019 was a year of great firsts for the UK airshow scene. We saw the debut of the wonderful Ultimate Fighters team (who have already been confirmed for their first 2020 appearance at the Air Festival at Duxford in May) and the incredible DH9 from the Historic Aircraft Collection. It also saw a wonderful tribute to those involved with the historic D-Day landings with a remarkable gathering of Douglas DC-3s/C-47s from Europe and the United States which made for many memorable events, notably at Duxford and Old Warden last June.

2020 promises to be another fantastic year and while specific details of participants is yet to be fully confirmed, any Battle of Britain anniversary year typically builds a number of highlights, not to mention the VE/VJ Day commemorations.

Battle of Britain at 80

The 75th Anniversary of the Battle Of Britain was celebrated in fine style with at the time unprecedented gatherings of both Spitfires and Hurricanes at Duxford and Goodwood. While a year that was tinged with tragedy for other reasons, those moving tributes to the Battle of Britain stick clear in the mind as brighter points.

Since 2020 we have seen a significant increase in the UK population of Hurricanes, highlighted in 2019s incredible seven ship display at Old Warden in July. With previous anniversary years bringing examples from all over Europe, there is certainly potential that up to ten Hurricanes could take to the air together, not to mention the potential re-emergence of the two seat “Hurribomber” from Hawker Restorations. There is plenty more representative types from the Luftwaffe side as well with an incredible four Hispano Buchons joining the airworthy ranks since the last major anniversary. If the past two years set pieces at Legends and the September shows have been anything to go by there could be something very special. On top of the front-line fighter types we also have the Blenheim, the promise of two Gladiators once again and perhaps an outside chance of 109E White 14 (although maybe that’s just wishful thinking).

On the static side of things, after years languishing in Hangar 5 at Duxford, it is fantastic to see work progressing on the former Old Flying Machine Company Casa 111 (Heinkel 111) at Hawkinge. The Kent Battle of Britain Museum has always been a great collection but with the recent addition of a Blenheim from the Aircraft Restoration Company and now a Heinkel, it is really amassing one of the greatest collections of Battle of Britain types around (particularly with the breakup of the Hendon collection). I can’t wait to catch a glimpse of this aircraft revived and on display later in the year.

VE Day 75

My main memory of a significant VE day celebration goes back to 2005 with the 60th anniversary which saw a huge formation of multi-engined warbrids head down to London off the back of the Flying Legends Balbo. I don’t think anyone expects quite such a large fanfare this time around, which is more a comment on the lack of multi-engine warbirds around these days. Back then there were multiple B-25s, an A-26, two Catalinas and two B-17s. Today it is rare to muster one of each at a UK show, with the A-26 having been absent for a number of years.

Sally B

That being said, we do have a fantastic array of warbirds from both sides of the Atlantic that can represent both VE and VJ day and no doubt will in fine style. The return of the P-47 in 2018 certainly bolstered the available line up to pay tribute to the USAAF efforts in Europe. Surprisingly, Old Warden aside, no major airshows have yet chosen VE/VJ day as a theme in the UK. As a side note, how great would it be to see the Swordfish back in the air, being one of the few types to be in service at the start of the war and on VE Day.


Across the Atlantic however, things are quite different. An impressive flypast featuring a wide number of WW2 aircraft is being put together over Washington by the Commemorative Air Force which will feature highlights such as B-24, B-29, Mosquito and two Spitfires. Planes of Fame at Chino have also identified “Victory Through the Air” as their show theme for 2019.
Restorations to Watch
Seemingly with every increasing pace, a wide array of restorations, replicas and rebuilds emerge each and every year. It really does seem that we are truly living in a golden age from this point of view. Those who read the regular monthly magazines will no doubt have seen wonderful features of Anglia Aircraft Restoration’s Tempest II under restoration at Sywell which is, all being well, expected to fly this year. It is already part finished in a post-war silver scheme and will no doubt look wonderful and represent an entireley new type to the warbird scene. It goes without saying that this machine will be demonstrated in fine style, given Air Leasings involvement.


As mentioned above in the Battle of Britain section, Hawker Restorations Two-Seat Hurricane project is expceted to fly soon, having been rolled out late last year. This will offer the great chance to take to the sky in both the Hurricane and Spitfire, which will no doubt prove popular. On the subject of two seat fighters, Biggin Hill are also hoping to get there latest arrival, TE308 in the air again this year further bolstering the ride capcaity of the operator.


Staying with Biggin Hill there are also a number of other Spitfires under restoration that from appearance could certainly fly this year, if not play a part in the airshow circuit. The Greek Spitfire MJ755 (pictured below) has already flown and work is progressing on the desert schemed MKIX LZ842 (which now has wings fitted) and Peter Teichman’s Russian MK IX PT879.


Looking earlier in aviation history, this year should see the airshow debut of the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust’s Albatros D.Va. This will mark the first time the type has flown in the UK since the landing accident of the Trust’s previous example in 2016. Plans are also in place for a Fokker DVII to join the Albatros in time, perhaps in 2020.


Away from fixed wing types, Historic Helicopters in Somerset should make their formal debut with the Wessex at Duxford in May and have recently commenced engine runs on their SAR Sea King. While helicopters haven’t traditionally held that much interest with me, the idea of a Sea King being operated as a “Warbird” is certainly a feat that cannot be ignored!

An Interesting Year Ahead


This post has probably only scratched the surface of the potential highlights that may be ahead of us in 2020. As always the weather and unforeseen circumstances will play its part to make up the story of the next few months but I certainly looking forward to seeing what comes up. We have the great news that some shows are continuing or expanding (such as Abingdon staying on with a reduced line up and Old Buckenham expanding their events to a number of shows) while sadly losing other events (The Victory Show at Cosby have announced that 2019 will be the last) which simply confirms the old adage with aviation; make the most of everything. Take nothing for granted and enjoy every show, you never know what next year will bring!

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