The Aero Legends’ Headcorn shows have quickly built a reputation over the last few years of offering wonderful set pieces and fantastic collections of Spitfires and Hurricanes. 2021 was no exception. Returning to the June slot following a later season event in 2020 due to the pandemic, the show was expected to boast no fewer than 12 Spitfires across the weekend and a single Hurricane. This would be comfortably the largest gathering of Spitfire’s at Headcorn and a rare total to enjoy away from Duxford.
Two of the Spitfires flew in their own slot from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (providing the sole Mk XVI and Mk V of the event) and Aero Legends’ pair of single seat Mk IX and two seater Mk IX flew a wonderful extended pairs display.
Jon Gowdy then led a mini-balbo comprising of the remaining 8 Spitfires, together with the sole Hurricane for a series of wonderful flypasts over Headcorn. This was not just any collection of Spitfires though, it featured many Headcorn firsts and covered the development of the Merlin engined variants perfectly.
Leading the formation was Mk I N3200, an early war Mk I design powered by the Merlin III and complete with hand pumped undercarriage. There was then a jump up the sole airworthy Mk VIII outside of Australia, flying in it’s first public display since returning to the British register in 2020, flown at the show by John Romain.
Mk IXs are probably the most common variant of the Spitfire still airworthy today and this formation featured four distinct examples. First off there was for many, the Mk IX if not the Spitfire, MH434 of the Old Flying Machine Company, flown by Brian Smith performing at Headcorn for the first time at a public event. Next there was RR232, better known now as the “City Of Exeter”, famous for being the last aircraft to fly out of Filton before it closed, flown by Jim Schofield.
A longtime airworthy machine but not often seen until it was acquired by the Aircraft Restoration company is PT462, previously known as the Welsh Spitfire, owing to it’s time based in Wales. This two seater flies with the more streamlined Grace style canopy arrangement and was flown at Headcorn by Dave Ratcliffe. The final Mk IX in the formation was the polished “Silver Spitfire” that competed a round the world flight back in 2019. This was the aeroplanes debut airshow appearance.
The latest Spitfire in the formation was Mk XI PL983. This machine appearing at Headcorn was important for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, this machine has become known as the NHS Spitfire following the fantastic fundraising campaign led by John Romain and the Aircraft Restoration company linked to this aeroplane. Further to that, this aircraft was a Headcorn regular in it’s previous life, when operated by Martin Seargent. It was fitting to see this machine back on the ground at Headcorn. PL983 was flown by Martin Overall for the show.
The final machine in the formation was Hurricane I P3717, flown by a name synonymous with the type, Stu Goldspink.
Hopefully this post has provided a wonderful summary of a great finale from this highlight of a the summer.