By the end of the Second World War piston engine aircraft had been perfected. Six brutal years of aerial warfare had advanced flying machines into a new era: the Jet Age. But in the aftermath of this devastating conflict, surplus aircraft were sold off to private buyers and smaller countries, unable to afford jets. These sales started a movement of collection and restoration that we still enjoy today. The birth of the privately owned Warbird scene meant opportunities to see them being flown well after (almost 80 years now!!) they left service. These Warbirds are painstakingly maintained and operated by teams of highly dedicated and professional people all over the world. It is because of this that the number of Warbirds flying is on the rise. We are seeing many types being restored to airworthy condition all around the world. The interest in these vintage flying machines is increasing with each year, and as one project draws to a close another starts somewhere else. We are in a fortunate position where a mass Spitfire flypast is a regular event at the Duxford September airshow. We are also seeing an increase in almost perfect reproductions of World War One airframes. The Aircraft Restoration Company (ARC) based at Duxford recently restored a Blenheim to flight, as well as two Mk1 Spitfires. We are seeing more and more rare types being returned to the sky. This trend is world wide, with an active Warbird scene in New Zealand, Canada, America, Britain and many other nations. An original Mitsubishi Zero has been restored to flight in Japan, we have the B29 FiFi back in the air and an Me262 flying. The operators are growing in confidence, with the Canadian Heritage Warplane Museum bringing over their Avro Lancaster to fly with the Battle of Britain Memorial flights Lancaster and Vulcan XH558 in 2014 as a prime example. The Vulcan To the Sky team managed to complete the most complex restoration project privately undertaken to return Vulcan XH558 to the sky in the October of 2007. For 8 years the Vulcan raised an average of £2 million a year to keep XH558 in the air, a testament to the enduring popularity of the Vulcan and the passion classic aviation attracts. These are a few examples of a vast and wonderful aviation scene. There is a real willingness to preserve these aircraft in an airworthy condition, and display them at airshows as a living memorial to those who fought and those who gave there lives. This is one of the common themes among these operators; the theme of keeping history alive. To see, feel and experience these aircraft as a living display.
There is, however, a dark cloud hanging over the British Warbird scene: CAA regulations. A massive, unjustified, increase in airshow charges has pushed many airshows to cancel, and in turn removing the need for Warbird displays. The exposure and revenue that displaying these Warbirds at airshows creates is crucial to there continued operation and restoration. The CAA are using the hollow reasoning of safety to justify the price increase but they are just profiteering from circumstance. It is in these uncertain times, when the very future of airshows is somewhat grey that we need to support Warbird operators and airshow organisers. If we want to keep these mechanical monuments flying, to remember, honour and preserve the past, all while inspiring the future, we need to continue to attend airshows and support the operators. We must not let the pencil pushing, profiteering of the CAA ruin a vibrant and wholly worthwhile aviation movement. Warbirds are so important, they remind us of the past, honour those who fought and most of all, are pure, exhilarating fun.