Mid-air collision at Duxford

Photo (C) Chris-Sandham Bailey.

I just received word from Gaël, a friend and fellow member of the CAF French Wing that the French Skyraider (F-AZDP) collided with P-51 “Big Beautiful Doll” at the Duxford Flying Legends airshow.  Rob Davies, BBD’s pilot, bailed out while the Skyraider was able to land, minus several feet of right wingtip. Fortunately, no casualties have been reported (aside from the aircraft).

From what can be seen on the videos and descriptions of witnesses, BBD was leading a Vic formation as part of the airshow’s final “Balboa”. BBD broke off, followed a few seconds later by the Skyraider. The Skyraider caught up with BBD, its right wing impacting the lower rear fuselage of the Mustang. The Skyraider lost its right wingtip and went into a roll (probably due to the difference in lift between the two wings) before its pilot regained control and brought it back to a safe landing.

BBD was not so fortunate and Rob Davies quickly jettisoned the canopy, and exited the aircraft only a few hundred feet off the ground. BBD fell in a field and was destroyed. Rob Davies appears to have been uninjured by his ordeal, but was taken to the hospital out of precaution.

Thanks to Chris Sandham-Bailey for sharing these pictures of F-AZDP:

Photo (C) Chris-Sandham Bailey.

Photo (C) Chris-Sandham Bailey.

Luckily, the wingtip was torn away but the aileron remained on the airframe. Some very impressive shots of the Skyraider’s landing are also visible here.

P-51 "Big Beautiful Doll" (Photo Simon (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

P-51 "Big Beautiful Doll" (Photo Simon (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))


A video posted on Youtube by MrJonlar shows the collision (best watched watch in hi-res):


Permanent link to this article: https://www.worldwarbirdnews.com/2011/07/10/mid-air-collision-at-duxford/


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    • Jason on July 11, 2011 at 12:08 AM
    • Reply

    I was ther its so sad

      • jon on July 11, 2011 at 1:26 AM
      • Reply

      was anyone injured ??

      • Larry on July 11, 2011 at 4:10 AM
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      Glad both pilots are ok…

  1. check my picture of the crash itself:

    • dusty on July 11, 2011 at 8:12 AM
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    dammit, these people who are ENTRUSTED with these rare and valuable aircraft are rarely up to the task. (as shown AGAIN !). There saftey record is deplorable. ***INSULT EDITED*** why can’t the owners of these fine aircraft find the real qualified aviators? perhaps there focus in qualification is a bit myopic. they can’t see past a zillion hours of turbine/corporate time, with a modicum of t/w experience.
    i’d trust a pilot w/ a thousand hours of aeronca champ time over these kerosene contaminated jet jockeys, moonlighting as warbird pilots. the other sceario is the buisness tycoon, who is so busy making the money to afford these tresures, he can’t afford the time to stay proficient at flying them!!! AAHHAAAHHH!!!!

    1. Just to let visitors know: this is the ONE AND ONLY comment of its sort that I am not going to remove.

      I know the people of l’AJBS (who run F-AZDP) and I certainly know they are not amateurish rich kids. They are dedicated and hard-working people who have done much more for warbirds than leaving insulting comments. Please also note that they are not simply entrusted with an airplane: they located, bought, restored and fly it. I don’t know about BBD, but I suspect it’s pretty much the same thing.

      Next time anyone wants to be aggressive, insulting and rude, find another blog or forum (or create your own) to do so.

      B. Brown, WWN blog editor

        • airy on July 11, 2011 at 4:11 PM
        • Reply

        Just to say, that UK airshows pilots, are doing their display, under “display authorization”! And formation flying is always quite dangerous, and is still rare within warbird airshows. Even well trained pilot can do mistakes just look to every countries display formations (red arrows, frecce tricolori, patrouille de france, etc..).

        • Rich on July 12, 2011 at 7:37 PM
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        For the record BBD was fully and lovingly restored by it’s former owner (who only sold it a few months ago).

      • Kevin on July 13, 2011 at 4:14 PM
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      Rob Davies, pilot of “Big Beautiful Doll” i can tell you is a very competent pilot.
      “Big BeautifulDoll” was based local to me (only 4mls away) at Robs home. I,ve proberbly seen Rob “taking-off, flying & landing” in that aircraft more times over the years than you,ve had hot dinners.
      GROW UP.

      • Kevin on July 13, 2011 at 4:18 PM
      • Reply

      My last comment was aimed at “Dusty”

      1. @Kevin: Although I agree with you, let’s all be civil and not play the same “game” as Dusty. It’s not worth it…

        As I wrote, his comment is the only one of its kind I haven’t moderated/deleted. All of the other ones have been deleted by yours truly… 🙂

      • Andrew on July 18, 2011 at 11:42 PM
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      Rob Davies WAS THE OWNER of the Doll for a very long time.

      Research then you may comment.


      No other P51 screamed like Doll on a Sunday afternoon over Woodchurch !

    • frank c bonansinga on July 11, 2011 at 11:32 AM
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    These two intrepid aviators were lucky to be alive and perhaps it’s time for them to hang up their gloves and goggles like I did after 40 years of driving flying machines. Even pro athletes know when to quit;; well some of them do.

    I got to drive the AD3N, 4N and 5N some 1,776 hours making 288 carrier landings, 61 at night in them between 1950 and 1955 in a night attack squadron, VC33..
    Excellent coverage. Thanks. fcb Indio Hills CA USA

    • wolfgang on July 11, 2011 at 4:46 PM
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    here one of Big Beautiful Doll´s last flights – recorded three weeks before she crashed – the last video ever taken from the cockpit with Rob Davies on the controls!

    • Patricia Webster on July 11, 2011 at 9:35 PM
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    Please watch the crash. Big Beautiful Doll did NOT collide with the Skyraider – it was the Skyraider who caused the crash of the BBD. Rob Davies is a fine pilot and I see some really silly comments here that are inappropriate. I particularly dislike the “old geeser” type remark here and the ignoramus remark – well, that’s exactly what it is.

    • ChrisG on July 12, 2011 at 1:04 AM
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    There has recently been losses of not only the Mustang, but also B17, B25, Yak-52(2), Tiger Moth, etc. It is heart breaking to see these airplane losses let alone the human losses and injury.

    So should we ground all our classic planes?

    Imagine if all privately owned Warbirds were grounded in the ’60, how many Warbirds would still exist? I would think far fewer than we have now, without the incentive of getting these Warbirds flying most would be mouldering away as the cost of recovery and restoration is so great.

    A whole industry has evolved to restore and service these planes, this keeps a healthy bedrock of skills alive.

    How many Seafuries and Mustangs would we have if some guys hadn’t started racing them back in the ’50s? I used to think it was madness to risk such rare airframes until I realised that most would have been scrapped years ago if they hadn’t been raced.
    NowI think it’s a shame Critical Mass is being restored to ‘stock’, funny how one’s opinions change over the years.

    While ‘bussiness tycoons’ are prepared to pull wads of money out of their pockets and spend it on these planes we should think how fortunate we are and be happy they are not buying ‘Art Work’ instead.

    I would like to thank all the people who devote so much time, cash, knowledge and skills to keep a broad smile on this little ‘face in the crowd’.

    Well that’s my two-pence worth!

    • jai yarnell on July 12, 2011 at 3:36 AM
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    I got to say to the camera man, What are you thinking you just filmed two aircraft collide midair, and they are both still flying, I know lets see whats going on at the tower??? LOL I had the same thing happen to me last year,
    I know this is not a laughing matter but I would like to have seen the recovery if there was one. Did both pilots make it out?
    A side note, The guy ranting should really keep his mouth shut, he has no Idea the details of what happend, heck for all he knows it could have been a mechanical malfuntion, in that case all bets are off. Its not like these fellow are playing smash up dirby. I know what it takes to get your hands on one of these birds and its either a very large check book, or many years behind the stick.
    Thats enough. Sorry
    I will say it did look like a very strange midair,

    • Auger on July 12, 2011 at 2:26 PM
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    Why do people insist on making stupid and crass comments, having been involved with Vintage aircraft I can categorically say that the pilots who were flying during the incident on Sunday are not ignoramuses or lacking in the qualifications to fly, as was pointed out but another post to fly in the UK you are required to have a Display authority. The DA as it is know is not a piece of paper handed out by some faceless person from the CAA, the whole planned display and the pilots abilities are assessed before the DA is issue. The pilot must also be cleared on type and have reasonable experience of type before they will even be considered for a DA.

    It is extremely sad to see another warbird lost, I am glad both pilots escaped injury.

    • Ed Sense on July 12, 2011 at 3:27 PM
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    Pilot of BBD has over 1000 hours on Mustangs, read it in Fly Past & Loop!

    • SkyDaddy on July 12, 2011 at 10:45 PM
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    Close formation with dissimilar aircraft is difficult and dangerous. It would have made more sense to me to put the more-powerful AD in the lead. The AD pilot made an error, plain and simple. He lost sight if his leader and rolled into BBD rather than pushing and flying under.

    I’m sure that BBDs pilot made the decision to bail out a long time ago. “If I lose control of the airplane at low altitude, I’m bailing out immediately.” Watch the other video of the collision and you’ll see that he jettisons the canopy within a couple of seconds, then a couple more seconds while he unplugs the headset and unstraps from the seat

    1. It’s a good point about dissimilar formations. However, things seem more complicated than one might think. On his forum, Bernard Chabbert (the French presentator) explained that the Rob Davies did not maintain as tight a turn at the break as had been briefed, possibly to keep some space between himself and more traffic. If that is the case and if the Skyraider maneuvered as planned, or perhaps turning a little tighter, this is what led to the collision.

      Please note that I’m not saying the fault is Davies’. I’m just pointing out that it’s unwise to make conclusions with the elements presently at hand. As is often the case, the fault is most probably shared (and perhaps not limited to the two pilots).

      I suggest, for those who can read French, that you read Bernard Chabbert’s comments on the forum: http://forum.pegase.tv/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=5594

      He is a knowledgeable airman, and his comments are wise IMHO.

    • Kevin on July 13, 2011 at 3:53 PM
    • Reply

    “Big Beautiful Doll” was based local to me, only 4mls away in Woodchurch, Kent.
    I,ve watched her flying around over my village of Hamstreet, Kent on many many occations over recent years. Its a sad loss of a beautiful aircraft. The main thing is pilot Rob Davies is unharmed. Rob used to stage a airshow called “Wings ‘n’ Things” at his home in Woodchurch
    with many aircraft attending, including his own aircraft “Big Beautiful Doll”. Sad Local loss.

    • Bill Giles on July 13, 2011 at 8:24 PM
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    This is the first time I’ve been to this site… probably the last.. I’m utterly appalled by the comments of “Dusty” as a display pilot and close friend of Rob Davies, I suggest that next time “Dusty” wishes to air his views so inappropriately, that he does it at his local after a few pints when no one else will know the difference.. know your facts or even use a search engine, you’ll find all the answers on Rob and his display pedigree quite easily.

    1. This is the first time I’ve been to this site… probably the last..

      I’m sorry you’re considering not returning to the website. Please note that the visitor’s comments belong to themselves and do not reflect our ideas. Please also note that Dusty’s comment has only been kept because I wanted to give an example and a warning that any further comments of the sort would not be approved. Since then, I’ve refused several other similar ones.

      I hope this makes our position clearer and I hope you’ll visit the blog again in the future.

      Best regards,

      B. Brown

    • Auger on July 15, 2011 at 2:49 PM
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    Putting thing simply I think Dusty is a troll and agree totally with the decision not to post further posting by the ill informed or uneducated. Why these oxygen wasters even bother typing I do not know

    • James on July 18, 2011 at 4:48 AM
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    Very unfortunate, amazing escape, I agree with Skydaddy, P51 pilot must have briefed himself on getting out if “this happens” long before take off. That seems quite professional and saved his life. Seems to me the Skyraider pilot lost sight in the sun. I did this once coming off the bombing range in a MB326K Macchi jet, in a 90 Deg turn, went to pass under lead to get on the beam in battle formation, lost sight briefly of lead in the sun, but felt I had enough crossing speed….when I saw him again, I was rapidly approaching his belly, with no crossing speed, leading to a very positive bunt from me, to avoid a collision….Never loose sight! It goes wrong VERY quickly. Then there was the overshoot in a PC9M with a student, trying to catch up with no2 and lead after a streamer take off…but that’s another story!

    • James on July 20, 2011 at 3:03 PM
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    Was looking at the Skyraider pics again. That was a lot of wing gone! What’s amazing is that in the landing pic, I would have thought you would need a lot of opposite aileron to compensate, but in the picture they look almost neutral. Tough old bird!

    • Martin on July 21, 2011 at 7:46 PM
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    Agree with James. Whether Rob Davies flew a slack break or not is irrelevant. On the break, following aircraft must keep sight of lead, and maintain nose/ tail separation. From the many videos I’ve seen, it appears that the Skyraider pilot lost sight of lead. It is easily done and there can be a tendency under the pressure of an air display to wait just a little too long to reestablish visual contact before breakin g out into clear air space. Thank goodness both pilots survived

  1. […] There was a mid-air collision this past weekend at the Duxford air show between the P-51 "Big Beautiful Doll" and a AD1 Skyraider. The Skyraider landed minus part of a wing, the P-51 crashed after the pilot safely bailed out. Mid-air collision at Duxford | World Warbird News […]

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