For many years the opening sequence of the Flying Legends show has been the trademark Spitfire tailchase. Typically consisting of 7 or so airframes (though recently as many as 10 or 11) this wonderful mix of Merlin and Griffon engine machines, charting a broad range of the Spitfire lineage. The tailchase typically showcases the Mk V onwards, ranging right up to the Mk XIX on several occasions.
Shortly before showtime on each day the familiar growl of the Griffon engine (in recent years most likely from SM845) kicking into life before the sweet sound of numerous merlins firing up alongside. That classic scene of all manner of Spitfires snaking their way up the taxiway towards expectant crowds at the M11 end to carry out their power checks is just magical.
Though changes to display line rules and regulations over the years have changed this sequence over the years it never ceases to be incredible to watch as multiple Spitfires form up behind the airfield and run in for a formation pass before peeling off into multiple tail chases.
‘Legends has been the debut show for a number of Spitfires over the years, most recently the return of Commanche Fighters Mk V JG891 (in 2018) and the immaculate Seafire III (in 2015).
It also saw the incredible sight of four MK Is flying together in 2014 following the completion of N3200 (now with the Imperial War Museum and still based at Duxford). This was one of those hard to believe ‘Legends moments and turned out to be unique as it would not be repeated before P3974 was sold to the states (departing in late 2016 after missing most of the 15/16 seasons).
Another ‘Legends Spitfire highlight of mine worth mentioning is, by my reckoning, the only time a Spitfire solo was featured as part of the main tail chase sequence. The Saturday of the 2005 show saw the classic pairing of Ray Hanna and MH434 fly a short solo display in his inimitable style. A fitting gesture as this would turn out to be Ray’s last performance at the show.
With the relatively recent revival of the MK I lineage, the early war Spitfires have typically been separated in the program owing to their lower performance. This has led to some magnificent Battle Of France/Battle of Britain formations featuring the Blenheim, Hurricanes and Gladiators.
Spitfires have also played a great part in the closing part of the display over the years. Generally the most numerous type in the ‘Legends program, the Balbo will often at least be a third if not half made up of Spitfires.
The Joker slot has also been flown by a number of Spitfires over the years. With the former Fighter Collection Mk XIV taking the role in the late 90s and early 00s, their Mk V in 2016 (Sunday) and Commanche Fighters Mk I in 2017 (Sunday).