100-Plane Flyover Marks RAF Centenary

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Few aviators anywhere are held in the kind of reverence long shown by the British for the Royal Air Force—which helped save them from the Nazis in World War II—and the country turned out to honor them on Tuesday, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the RAF. The day began with a special service in Westminster Abbey, and was highlighted by a flyover of 100 aircraft, including Spitfires from WWII, above Buckingham Palace, with the royal family and a crowd of an estimated 70,000 in attendance. Twenty-two Eurofighter Typhoons flew in formation to form the number “100” as they passed above the palace, three stealth fighter F-35 jets made their first-ever public flight, and the Red Arrows, the RAF’s aerobatic team flying Hawk T-1A jets, finished the fly-by with a display of red, white and blue smoke.

Queen Elizabeth presided over a ceremony honoring the RAF, and said “tenacity, skill and gallantry” had long been the hallmarks of the service. "I remember the Battle of Britain being fought over the skies above us, and we shall never forget the courage and sacrifice of that time,” she said. Speaking at Westminster Abbey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, said the RAF had played a "decisive factor in saving this country's independence, its democracy and its freedom; its hope of civilization and its contribution to humanity for the future.” He added: "It is also right to remember with sorrow and again profound thanksgiving the scores of thousands who have given their lives in service as part of the RAF." The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged to create the RAF in 1918.

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