Airborne enemies to meet once more at summer airshow

Sally B, the only B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe

Sally B, the only B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe, is the biggest aircraft on display at the Old Buckenham Airshow - Credit: John Allan

Eyes will once again turn to the skies this summer, as the Old Buckenham Airshow gets ready to make up for lost time with a fantastic line-up of Second World War displays. 

Organisers of the Old Buckenham Airshow are always looking for new and exciting displays to wow the crowds, and this year’s event on July 30 and August 1 will be no exception thanks to the menacing form of a warbird with a difference - a Messerschmitt.  

Old Buckenham itself was created as a base for American B-24 Liberator Bombers during the Second World War, and every year warbirds such as the P-51 Mustang, Hurricane and Spitfire form an indispensable part of Norfolk’s only airshow. This year, that roster of legendary aircraft meets their natural enemy once again in the form of Nazi Germany’s most potent fighter.  

The Messerschmitt aircraft in flight

The Messerschmitt, Nazi Germany’s most potent fighter, will be on display at this year's Old Buckenham Airshow - Credit: Paul Johnson/Flightline

“The aircraft which you’ll be able to see is even more special than your ‘average’ 

Messerschmitt 109; it’s a Buchon,” explains event organiser Matt Wilkins. “These extremely rare machines have a fascinating story; they were originally conceived as an experiment when the Spanish were building 109s for the Germans. This may have seemed like a good idea in 1943, but by 1944 there was an issue; Germany was too busy being defeated to be able to supply engines and other parts.  

“Fast forward to 1954 and the engineless machines were used for the filming of one of the greatest movies of all time, ‘Battle of Britain’. The one you’ll see was actually used in filming. There is a major difference between it and the ME109 it played in the movie; all 27 Buchons have the iconic Rolls Royce Merlin engine, so they aren’t just more reliable than the original, they sound better too.” 

The Second World War dominates the airshow in 2021. Celebrating (a year late) VE Day, the victory V will be seen everywhere and the aircraft which fought are represented, from the very smallest to the very, very biggest.  

The spitfire aircraft in flight

Second World War aircraft on display at this year's Old Buckenham Airshow include the P-51 Mustang, Hurricane and Spitfire, pictured - Credit: John Allan

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The biggest is the unbelievable Sally B - the only B-17 Flying Fortress flying in Europe. This four-engine monster has been kept flying by the amazing Elly Sallingboe and her B-17 Preservation Charity for 45 years.  

The smallest, the venerable Piper Cub, could be parked quite comfortably many times over on top of Sally B. This small 65hp spotter plane is still very popular today and is responsible for the last dogfight of the war; an amazing feat which will be celebrated at the airshow. Between those two extremes of aircraft sit a world of horsepower and iconography; the P51 Mustang, North American T6 and Hawker Hurricane will all return. They’ll be led once more by the most famous single engined aircraft in history, Supermarine Spitfire MH434. In point of fact, most of the aircraft in the movie Battle of Britain are represented. In the case of the Buchon and MH434, they’re also stars of the film.   

“All airshows have the same aim; to amaze and inspire everyone, especially the next generation of pilots,” said Matt. “The Old Buckenham Airshow aims to be a real family event, and visitors can expect all of the family-friendly features the event has become known for, including Philip Gray’s ever-popular funfair, and acres of things to see and do on the ground before the airborne excitement starts.” 

The skies over Old Buckenham will not be the exclusive preserve of the display pilots. Every year, each morning at the airshow dozens of potential pilots are able to take to the skies at the controls of one of Old Buckenham Aero Clubs’ school aircraft. The private pilot’s license flying school will be on hand each day to start the flying careers of tomorrow’s pilots.  

Tickets are on sale now at As in 2020, if circumstances mean that the airshow has to re-schedule, all tickets remain valid for the new dates. At this point, organisers are happy that Government guidance means that one of Norfolk’s biggest events is a go for 2021.