The Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight brought its 2023 season to a close with its annual Members Day at the end of September. The day is a chance for members of the Official Memorial Flight Club and the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association to see the flight up close and enjoy an afternoon flying display at their RAF Coningsby base.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Of all the Royal Air Force’s display teams, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are perhaps the busiest supporting airshows and hundreds of flypasts across the UK and occasionally into Europe as well. 2023 saw the BBMF support high profile events such as the King’s Birthday Flypast as well as marking the 80th Anniversary of Operation Chastise – the Dams Raid in May 1943. The BBMF Lancaster also ventured into the Netherlands and Belgium during May performing flypasts at several different ceremonies across the two countries.
The BBMF traditionally close their flying season with their annual Members Day at RAF Coningsby. This is open to the members of both the Official Club and Lincolnshire’s Lancaster Association and always proves very popular. As well a final chance to watch the BBMF take to skies, the Day sees the BBMF’s hangar open allowing visitors to view some of the aircraft under maintenance as well the flight pair of de Havilland Canada Chipmunk T10s.
Adding to ground show were a small gathering of visiting aircraft including a Max Holste Broussard, Piper Cub and Miles Magisters. Perhaps the star of the visiting static display aircraft was the Hawker Hurricane XII from Polish Heritage Flight and the Historic Aircraft Collection. The flight has done much to mark the contribution of Polish aircrew with a number of the schemes carried by the flight’s fighters so there are strong ties with the Polish Heritage Flight organisation.
Much of the flying display revolved around the BBMF aircraft with different combinations flying throughout the afternoon. Perhaps the highlight was a series of flypasts by the Avro Lancaster B1, Spitfire IIa, Spitfire Vb, Spitfire IX and Hawker Hurricane IIc PZ865 – all the aircraft currently airworthy. Formations larger than three aircraft from the BBMF are rare, but spectacular sights often only seen on very special occasions such the King’s Birthday Flypast. Aside from the five-ship, three different duo displays from the fighters were flown during the afternoon as well as the classic three-ship formation with the Lancaster leading a pair of Spitfires.
The flying display also including participation from the Rolls Royce Heritage Flight’s Supermarine Spitfire PRXIX flown by Mark Discombe and the North American P-51D Mustang piloted by Alistair Williams. The Spitfire PRXIX itself is a former BBMF aircraft and Rolls Royce are important supporters of the flight. Recently OC BBMF Squadron Leader Mark Sugden flew Rolls Royce’s Spitfire PRXIX in preparation for the return of the BBMF’s own PRXIXs next year.
The day was also a chance for some goodbyes with some members of the flight conducting their final sorties. It was also the last time that the special Dambusters 80th formation of Avro Lancaster B1 and Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 was flown. The unusual combination was a highlight of many of the UK’s major airshows throughout the summer and was very well received by the public. BBMF Members Day also saw Flt Lt Matt Brighty’s final public display of the year in the Eurofighter Typhoon. His display built on previous Typhoon displays but also added some new manoeuvres highlight the superb handling of the RAF’s multirole fighter.
With the demise of many of the airfield-based airshows, BBMF Members Day was a rare chance to see the BBMF aircraft up close in 2023. It also offered an insight into the dedication of the BBMF ground crews that are so instrumental in making the bust summer season a success. Thanks go to all at the BBMF and RAF Coningsby for hosting such a fine event.