As the 2022 UK Display Season started to wind down for winter, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight held its annual Members Day at RAF Coningsby. The day was a chance for the flight to say thank you to the members of the Official Memorial Flight Club and the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association who provide vital support to the unit. As well as flying displays from the flight, members were also treated to a demonstration from the RAF Typhoon Display Team and both fighters from the Rolls Royce Heritage Flight.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is an incredible national institution. Each year the BBMF support hundreds of events throughout the summer from intimate military commemorations through every sort of public event through to major national events. 2022 has been no different with displays and flypasts across the UK and even the odd foray into Europe. All that is set against the flight’s continuous work to keep its precious fleet airworthy which is no easy task.
Though the flight is a RAF unit, it received vital support from two independent supporting organisations, the Official Memorial Flight Club and the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association. Financial support from both organisations has gone a long way to facilitate the flight’s mission, not least with the funding of maintenance items and other improvements to the flight’s infrastructure.
Members Day is the BBMF’s annual thank you event to both organisations and is usually the last significant day of flying for the flight each year. It is a fairly exclusive event with only a limited number of tickets made available through the Official Club and the LLA. However, it is very popular and is always sold out ahead of the actual day.
As well the flying displays, the BBMF hangar is opened with a number of traders inside. Outside the hangar was a small static display with one of the BBMF de Havilland Canada Chipmunk T10s WG486 parked alongside the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 ZJ914 ‘Blackjack.” Joining them was a very select fly-in of other aircraft including a Miles Magister and a Piper Cub.
Opening displays was one of the highlights of the display season, the joint display by Supermarine Spitfire IIa P7350 piloted by OC BBMF Sqn Ldr Mark Sugden and the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 flown by Fly Lt Adam O’Hare. The combination has been a highlight of many of the UK’s major airshows including the RAF Cosford Air Show, Southport Airshow, Airbourne Eastbourne and the Bournemouth Air Festival. Such mixed formations are always popular moments at airshows and hopefully it is something that can be continued for future display seasons. Following on from the combination, Flt Lt Adam O’Hare gave his penultimate UK public display in the Typhoon FGR4 before handing over the reins of the Typhoon Display Team to a new pilot for the 2023 season.
Further to the Spitfire and Typhoon display, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight presented a number of different display profiles throughout the afternoon. Spitfire IIa P7350 stayed airborne and joined up with Avro Lancaster B1 PA474 and Hawker Hurricane IIc LF363 for the flight’s signature display. Flying the Hurricane was RAF Coningsby’s outgoing station commander, Group Captain Matt Peterson. His display was his final flight in the RAF and what a superb way to sign off from his long career with the service! The signature display also marked the final BBMF flight for bomber pilot Flt Neil Farrell. Neil has flown with the flight for nine seasons and will be moving north to RAF Lossiemouth to join the Poseidon MRA1 fleet.
The BBMF’s other Hurricane IIc, PZ865, was flown through a solo routine by Flt Lt Giles Croft who takes on the role as the flight’s executive officer in 2023. The finale to the flying was a BBMF tailchase display featuring the Hurricane IIc LF363 flown by Squadron Leader Mark Long and Spitfire Vb AB910 with Flt Lt Andy Preece at the controls. Mark had a busy day as for much of the flying display he provided the commentary as well!
Complimenting the RAF displays were the North American P-51D Mustang ‘Warhorse’ and Supermarine Spitfire PRXIX from the Rolls Royce Heritage Flight. Both performed solo displays with Alistair ‘Steg’ Williams at the controls of the Mustang and former OC BBMF Mark Discombe flying the Spitfire. As well as being one of the BBMF’s commercial supporters, Rolls Royce also provide their North American Harvard to the BBMF for the training of BBMF pilots. The Harvard provides an important link between the flight’s Chipmunks and the more potent Hawker Hurricane as BBMF pilots build their tailwheel experience.
Thanks must go to all of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight personnel who made the day run so smoothly and in such a friendly manner. The chance to attend Member’s Day is a wonderful perk of being a member of the LLA or the Official Club and see the whole flight in action; something you often don’t see at an airshow.