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Second World War planes grounded over engine-related safety fears ahead of Biggin Hill Festival of Flight

PUBLISHED: 13:38 17 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:38 17 August 2017

An RAF Spitfire at Biggin Hill

An RAF Spitfire at Biggin Hill

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Bosses admit crowds “will be a bit disappointed” as the airport celebrates its centenary year

A star attraction at this weekend’s Biggin Hill Festival of Flight may be missing from the line-up after a number of aircraft were grounded over engine-related safety fears.

The Second World War-era planes operated by the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF), were scheduled to take to the skies at the popular Bromley festival as well as the Eastbourne International Airshow in East Sussex.

But BBMF’s Lancaster bomber, four Spitfires and two Hurricanes will not fly until they have been checked after a fault was found with the engine of one of the Hurricanes.

A public display at the Weymouth Carnival on Wednesday was cancelled after the fault was discovered and Thursday’s performance in Eastbourne has also been pulled.

An RAF spokesman said the fault with the Merlin engine was still being investigated and it was unclear how long the planes would be grounded.

The spokesman said: “A routine inspection has highlighted a fault with one of the Merlin engines in a Hurricane aircraft.

“We are currently investigating the fault and, as a precaution, flying of Merlin engine powered aircraft has been paused.

“We are still operating Griffon powered aircraft, including Spitfires and Chipmunks.

“We realise the disappointment this will be to many supporters and airshow organisers, however safety is our paramount concern.”

Based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, the BBMF keeps six Spitfires, two Hurricane Mk 2Cs, a Lancaster, a C47 Dakota and two Chipmunks preserved in airworthy condition.

They are some of the last Second World War planes to still fly today.

Andy Patsalides, marketing manager for Biggin Hill Airport, said the BBMF were a “crowd-pleaser” and it was disappointing the squadron, which was formed at the airport 60 years ago, might not be there to celebrate the airport’s centenary.

He said: “The crowds will be a bit disappointed - everyone has got a soft spot for BBMF. They’ve been been very, very good to us because it’s their spiritual home.

“The crowds will be a bit disappointed but in our business it’s safety first.”

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