After the disappointment of the planned flypast for the coronation of HM King Charles III being scaled down massively due to the very poor weather over London on 6th May, it was wonderful that a full flypast, including the BBMF formation, could take place for the King’s official birthday on Saturday 17th June.
Following on from the Trooping of the Colour ceremony on Horse Guards Parade a flypast of 70 aircraft from the three services overflew The Mall and Buckingham Palace at 1300, with HM the King and members of the Royal Family watching from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. This was the first King’s Birthday Parade and Flypast for 72 years and the first for King Charles III.
The 70 aircraft involved in the flypast took off from 15 different airfields, routing to different holding points according to their speed and positioning in the flypast procession. As usual, with these flypasts the slower elements arrive first, with faster aircraft catching up, so that each formation or element passes over Buckingham Palace at 30-second intervals. With speeds varying from 90 knots for the first helicopters to 360 knots for the fast jets at the rear, this takes some careful planning and accurate flying and navigation.
Following behind the rotary elements on the flypast, the BBMF formation consisted of the Lancaster, flanked by Hurricanes LF363 and PZ865, with Spitfire Vb AB910 behind the Lanc. The Lancaster was captained by Flight Lieutenant Paul ‘Ernie’ Wise; Squadron Leader Mark ‘Suggs’ Sugden (OC BBMF) flew Spitfire AB910, whilst the two Hurricanes were flown by Squadron Leaders Mark ‘Disco’ Discombe in LF363 and Mark Long in PZ865.
Also included in the flypast were three C-130 Hercules on their last official outing before being retired. The RAF’s newest aircraft, the Envoy IV CC1 (a VIP transport aircraft) was at the rear of the flypast, accompanied by the Red Arrows in formation with their traditional red, white and blue smoke. In addition, 18 Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s from RAF Coningsby (home to the BBMF) flew a very impressive “C R” formation in honour of the King.
For most of the flying participants this was their only event of the day, but for the BBMF, whilst this was the most important with the largest audience, there were many other events to attend during the day. The Lancaster completed five further flypasts and a display at the Larne Armed Forces Day event on the coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, before landing at Prestwick three hours and 55 minutes after taking off from Coningsby. Leaving Prestwick at 1810 the Lancaster completed three more flypasts during its return flight to Coningsby, landing after a long day at 2010. The Spitfire and two Hurricanes also flew various further individual flypasts, with Spitfire AB910 and Hurricane LF363 landing away independently and each flying a second sortie in the afternoon for a variety of flypasts and a display in the Spitfire at the Portsmouth Armed Forces Day at Southsea, before returning home.