Sunderland Airshow stars grounded: Battle of Britain Memorial Flight plans hit by safety fears

Ministry of Defence file phot of a Spitfire P7350 (front) flying alongside Hurricane LF363 (back) from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, over RAF Conningsby.
Ministry of Defence file phot of a Spitfire P7350 (front) flying alongside Hurricane LF363 (back) from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, over RAF Conningsby.

Historic aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) have almost entirely been taken out of action over engine-related safety fears.

The planes, reportedly a Lancaster bomber, two Hurricanes and three Spitfires have been grounded after the discovery of a technical defect.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight including a Lancaster bomber, a Spitfire and a Hurricane. Picture by Peter Byrne/PA

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight including a Lancaster bomber, a Spitfire and a Hurricane. Picture by Peter Byrne/PA

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are a highlight of the Sunderland Airshow each year, and flew over Wearside and the North East just weeks ago at the event.

Operated by the Royal Air Force, some of the famous aircraft were due to take part in a public display on Wednesday that was cancelled as a result.

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

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

An air display to mark the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's 60th anniversary during his visit to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. Historic aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) have almost entirely been taken out of action over engine-related safety fears. Picture by Aaron Chown/PA Wire

An air display to mark the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's 60th anniversary during his visit to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. Historic aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) have almost entirely been taken out of action over engine-related safety fears. Picture by Aaron Chown/PA Wire

The BBMF's three remaining Spitfires use different engines but are reportedly also out of action due to other reasons.

A spokesman for the BBMF told the BBC the problem is "related to the Merlin engine", which powers aircraft including the Spitfire, Lancaster and Hurricane, but "affects all current and serviceable display aircraft".

Some of the planes were due to perform a display at the Weymouth Carnival on Wednesday.

In post on Facebook organisers said: "The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight have informed us that they have identified a technical defect with one of the aircraft which has lead them to ground all three aircraft ... The safety of the teams and public during displays is of paramount importance, hence why this call has been made by the display teams."