September 17th opened up as a wet, grey and cloudy day. The inclement weather did not bode well for the last Flying Heritage Collection flying day for the year (as is the way, the day before and after were sunny days!). Flying Tanks Day was to be a showcase of some of the FHC heavy hitting ground attack aircraft: the worlds only flying Ilyushin Il-2M3 Sturmovik, a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt “Tallahassee Lassie” and North American B-25J Mitchell bomber plus their North American P-51D Mustang “Upupa Epops” was thrown into the mix (that unusual P-51 nickname is apparently the scientific name for the Hoopoe Bird – the plane’s World War Two ace pilot, Harrison Tordoff was an ornithology student before the war)!
Despite the weather the FHC team started the show with the intent of running some of their Soviet era tank armour (T-34/85 and Scud missile launcher) and then fire up all the aircraft engines and display them at least taxiing on the ground. They did all this with much excitement in the crowd and the noticeable beacon light on the tower indicated that despite the greyness overhead, the ceiling was high enough that flying could possibly just go ahead.
The pilots ran the aircraft out to the end of the long runway and we in the crowd plus the FHC ground team waited in anticipation to see what would happen. Then we could see landing gear lights off in the distance and what appeared to be the B-25 thundering down the runway. Yes!
Against all odds the pilots took off in all the aircraft and put on some very spirited low-level flying (some of the best for the flying season). We were treated to some great formation and individual passes (unfortunately the light wasn’t great for photos and I have done my best to brighten them up a bit but you get the idea)!
This was expected to “just” be a day to wander about the museum, check out the aircraft on static display and the tanks, and really just catch up with friends to enjoy the last display for the season (flying or not). What seemed like it would not happen turned out to be a fantastic flying display and a great day!