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The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) is a Royal Air Force flight which provides an aerial display group comprising an Avro Lancaster, a Supermarine Spitfire and a Hawker Hurricane. The aircraft are regularly seen at events commemorating World War II, upon British State occasions, notably the Trooping the Colour celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday in 2006, and at air displays throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

The Flight is administratively part of No. 1 Group RAF, flying out of RAF Coningsbymarker in Lincolnshiremarker.

Aircraft

Although usually seen flying in a formation of three, the Lancaster flanked by a fighter on each wing, the Flight comprises 11 aircraft, including five Spitfires, two Hurricanes, a Douglas Dakota, and two De Havilland Chipmunks.

Chipmunks

The two Chipmunks are the last in RAF service, but are not intended for display use; rather, they serve to give pilots experience in flying aircraft with a tailwheel landing gear, a design that has now vanished from the modern RAF fleet. One of the two Chipmunks flew reconnaissance missions over East Germanymarker, as part of the RAF Gatowmarker Station Flight, in co-operation with The British Commander-in-Chief's Mission to the Soviet Forces of Occupation in Germany, commonly known as BRIXMIS.

Dakota

The Dakota fills a dual role, serving both as a support aircraft for the Flight (and as a multi-engine tail-wheel trainer for the Lancaster) and, more recently, as a display aircraft in her own right.

Flypasts

The Flight also regularly takes part in combined flypasts with other recognisable British aircraft, such as The Red Arrowsmarker. It appeared on occasion with Concorde before that aircraft's withdrawal from service in October 2003.



History

Biggin Hill

In the years following World War II it became traditional for a Spitfire and Hurricane to lead the Victory Day flypast over London. From that event there grew the idea to form a historic collection of flyable aircraft, initially to commemorate the RAF's major battle honour, The Battle of Britain, and latterly with broadened scope, to commemorate the RAF's involvement in all the campaigns of World War II. Thus in 1957 the Historic Aircraft Flight was formed at RAF Biggin Hillmarker with one Hurricane (LF363) and 3 x Mk XIX Spitfires (PM631, PS853 and PS915), in what, even then, had become a predominantly jet-powered Air Force.

Coltishall

Originally the RAF Historic Aircraft Flight, with a small group of Spitfires and Hurricanes operating from RAF Coltishallmarker from 1963, the group became the "Battle of Britain Memorial Flight" in 1973, with the acquisition of a Lancaster. The first Chipmunk was acquired in 1983, and the Dakota in 1995. The Spitfires and Hurricanes in the Flight have varied over the years, as new aircraft are acquired and older ones given to museums or used for parts.

Aircraft histories

Spitfires

Individual aircraft have historic heritages; the oldest of the Spitfires, P7350, is a Mk.IIa, which originally flew in the Battle of Britain in 1940, with 266 and 603 Squadrons. She is both the oldest Spitfire still in flying condition, and the last surviving aircraft from the Battle of Britain still able to fly. In 2007 she was repainted in the 603 Squadron letters XT-L, those of Gerald 'Stapme' Stapleton's personal aircraft.



The Mk Vb Spitfire, AB910, escorted convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic, flew escort patrols during bombing raids on Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, then (as part of No. 133 squadron) fought in the Dieppe Raid. Capping this long career, as part of No. 402 Squadron RCAF, she flew cover patrols over the Normandy beachheads on D-Day and in the subsequent weeks - as did another of the Flight's Spitfires, with No. 443 Squadron RCAF.

The Mk LFIXe Spitfire, MK356, was built in March 1944 with clipped wings optimised for low level flight, and fitted with a Merlin 66 engine. Allocated to the Canadian Air force, 144 Canadian wing, based in various locations around southern England. She took part in the Rodeo fighter sweep over occupied France in the weeks leading up to D-Day. After the war she served as a gate guardian at Hawkingemarker and Locking, and was later recovered and refurbished in 1992 for the BBMF. As of 2008, she is painted in a silver paint scheme used in late 1944 bomber missions over the Balkans from bases in Southern Italy.
Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865, with Dakota ZA947 in the background, 2008


There are also two MkXIX Spitfires both built in 1945 with Griffon 66 engines. PM631 was too late to see operational services in World War II and carried out civilian duties until 11 July 1957 when she became part of the Historic Aircraft Flight; she is the longest serving aircraft in the BBMF. PS915 performed various reconnaissance duties at Wunsdorf in Germany. She returned to the UK in 1954, and was retired to gate guarding duties. In 1987 she was modified with a Griffon 58 engine and refurbished to flying condition by British Aerospace. She currently carries the markings of PS888 of 81 Squadron based at Seletar Singaporemarker during the Malaya Campaign. This aircraft conducted the last operational RAF sortie on 1 April 1954, photographing communist guerrilla hideouts over an area of jungle in Jahore. The ground crew painted the inscription 'The Last!' on the left engine cowling.

One Mark IX Spitfire, PS853, was sold in 1994, to defray the costs of rebuilding Hurricane LF363 after her crash landing due to engine failure in 1991.

There is also a Spitfire Mark XVI, TE311, acquired in 2002 and initially allocated for spares but was officially added to the BBMF collection in 2007.

Hurricane MkIIC LF363, 2009


Hurricanes

There are two Hurricanes. LF363 is a Mk IIC and the last Hurricane to have entered service with the RAF. She appeared in the films 'Angels One Five, Reach for the Sky', 'The Battle of Britain', and a TV series 'The War in the Air'. PZ865 also a Mk IIC built six months later, is the last Hurricane ever to have been built and carries the inscription on her port and starboard sides, 'The last of the Many'.


Lancaster

The Lancaster Bomber. PA474, acquired by the BBMF in 1973, is one of only two airworthy condition Lancaster remaining; the other is in Canada. She was built in mid-1945 and assigned to reconnaissance duties after appearing too late to take part in the bombing of Japan. After various duties she was adopted by the Air Historical Branch for future displays. She appeared in two films 'Operation Crossbow' and 'The Guns of Navarone'. Having been flown for much of her service with the BBMF as 'City of Lincoln', PA474 presently wears the markings of the 'Phantom of the Ruhr' depicting a Lancaster that flew 121 sorties, a so called 'ton-up' Lancaster. She displays the markings of bombs for operations over Germany, ice-cream cones for operations over Italy, and poppies for when she has released poppies during exhibition flights. During the 2008 RAF Waddington Air Day the BBMF Lancaster PA474 was flown in formation with the recently restored Avro Vulcan B2, XH588 in an historic display of two classic examples of Avro 'heavy metal'.
Dakota ZA947 taking off for a solo display, 2009

Dakota

The Dakota, ZA947, built at Long Beach, California in March 1942, was issued to the US Army Air Force and later transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force where she served until 1971. The aircraft was purchased by the Royal Aircraft Establishment before being issued to the BBMF in March 1993. She is equipped with authentic period 'para seats' and is used in commemorative parachute drops.

Service history of the aircraft

Aircraft currently in the Flight have served with the RAF, the United States Army Air Forces, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as having been privately owned; whilst in the RAF, they were flown by Czechoslovakianmarker, Polishmarker, South African, Americanmarker and Canadianmarker pilots. Some were sold for scrapping and later saved, whilst at least one has been in operational service with the RAF for almost fifty years.

Other large collections of flying historic aircraft



Image:Spitfire.planform.arp.jpg|Spitfire AB910, 2004Image:MK356.jpg|Mk LFIXe Spitfire, MK356. Hurricane MkIIc, LF363 in the background, 2008.Image:AB910.jpg|Mk Vb Spitfire, AB910, in colour scheme of Polish squadron No. 303, 2008Image:PM631.jpg|Mk PRXIX Spitfire, PM631, painted for high altitude reconnaissance in 1944. PRXIXs could fly at 370mph at 40,000 feet with pressurised cockpits. Lancaster, 'Phantom of the Ruhr' is in the background. Taken 2008

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