A true privilege to fly at Biggin Hill

Posted on: 30th Jun 2009

In these days of gloomy economic news, it was invigorating to be part of the programme at Biggin Hill last weekend. OK, the superb weather did help, but it’s great to know that they had maximum capacity crowds on both days. There was a great buzz from the enthusiastic spectators. Biggin Hill has an amazing history and to be flying there in a Spitfire really is a privilege. It was a relief to find that this year’s Red Bull Air Race programme gave Paul Bonhomme and I the time to fly at Biggin again. Paul was in the Old Flying Machine Company P51 Ferocious Frankie whilst I was in MH 434, probably the most famous flying Spitfire on the planet. (See www.ofmc.co.uk for more information about the history of these iconic machines.) We fly a very simple formation aerobatic display, which flows well, is fun to fly and presents the aircraft well without giving the engines or airframes a hard time. On landing we normally see 3.5 to 4 G and we fly with very conservative power settings. The way to give the engine of the following aircraft an easy time is to limit the use of throttle for positioning and simply finesse the way you fly the arc in any turning manoeuvre. This means that all the power changes can be made slowly and smoothly. Paul is an excellent formation leader and being next to a P51 looping over Biggin Hill is a ‘pinch yourself’ moment. This year Paul and Steve Jones won the Best Formation Display prize flying their Sukhoi Matadors display. If you havent seen it, youve missed something really special. Sunday was spoiled by a rare Mustang snag. A parking brake problem kept Paul on the ground for the display. Once the brakes were sorted an hour after the display ended, Steve Jones flew Ferocious Frankie back to Duxford in readiness for a display practice on Monday morning. We are fortunate to have him join us displaying for the Old Flying Machine Co. Warbird flying does not get better than closing the show in MH434 on both days at Biggin Hill. I am a very lucky man.