Plane-spotters and military aircraft enthusiasts never had it so good as almost 100 aircraft, from WWII Spitfires to the newest £92m stealth fighter jet flew over London for the first time to mark the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force.
Thousands of people lined the mall, to watch a ceremony hosted by the Queen and reached a climax with the historic flypast of bombers, old and new, along with spy planes, Chinook helicopters and transporters.
The monarch watched Typhoons form the shape of the number 100 in the sky, before the Red Arrows, the RAF’s aerobatic team, concluded the show, vapor-trailing the red, white and blue of the Union Jack flag.
Heir to the throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Prince William and wife Kate, and Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, all joined the queen on the palace balcony for the display.
Charles and William both served as RAF pilots.
The tribute to the RAF, which became the world’s first independent air force when it was founded as a separate entity from the British Army and Royal Navy in April 1918, began with a service at Westminster Abbey.
The queen, dressed in a royal blue outfit with turquoise edging, later hosted a ceremony to present the RAF with a new Queen’s Colour, at which she recognised the work of servicemen and women.
“Tenacity, skill and gallantry have been your hallmarks,” she said.
“I remember the Battle of Britain being fought in the skies above us and we shall never forget the courage and sacrifice of that time,” she added, referring to the decisive encounter between the air forces of Britain and Nazi Germany over southern England in 1940.
Some of the veterans also attended the celebrations on Tuesday, including Wing Commander Paul Farnes, who flew in the Battle of Britain, and Air Commodore Charles Clarke who was shot down over Germany during the war.