Making a welcome return to the display calendar in 2017 are Evening Air Displays at the Shuttleworth Collection. The first of three such event took place in Mid May and battled with some unsettled weather. The May event took on the popular ‘Uncovered’ theme which proved so popular at Old Warden and sees the Collection’s aircraft available for close up inspection in the Paddock area.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Air Displays at Old Warden are always great events, but some of most magical and memorable have been evening air displays. There’s some much more emotive about aircraft from the 1920’s and 1930’s flying at sunset as the light drops. Sadly, the Shuttleworth Collection took a break from running these events in 2016 as the display industry adapted to new regulation.
Happily, they are back for 2017 with three events planned in May, June and July. The May event was run under the title ‘Classic Evening Air Display’ and took on the popular ‘Uncovered’ theme which saw a small section of the paddock opened up prior the main flying display allowing the public to get close up to many of the collections aircraft. These included some of the Collection’s real gems such as the de Havilland DH51 ‘Miss Kenya’, the Percival Provost T1 and the Hawker Demon.
Compared to main Sunday displays, the evening shows are much more relaxed and simple affairs. The 2017 versions of the evening air displays draw aircraft from only the small fleet of aircraft based at Old Warden. On the ground too there is much more focus on all the Collection has to offer with no side shows or trade stalls so there is far more incentive to have a walk through the hangars. In the hangars, visitors at the May event got an early chance to see Old Warden’s latest resident, Hawker Hurricane I P3717, which has just arrived following restoration at Turweston. Its arrival means Old Warden is home to three early mark Hurricanes making Old Warden a centre for the preservation for the type.
Sadly, the weather played a major part in how the afternoon panned out. Juts before the flying was due to start a very heavy line of showers passed over Old Warden. This not soaked the aircraft due to take part in the flying, but also the runway which became slightly too soft for some of the collection’s heavier types such as the DH88 Comet.
For the displays that did go head, they were framed against a very dramatic cloudscape as the rain band headed eastwards. The flying was opened by the Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib and was followed a small selection of some of Shuttleworth’s hardier types. Despite the grey skies, the actual cloudbase was high enough for another aerobatic display from Graham Saw is the Fauvel AW36 glider.
Two pairs of military trainers also braved the elements. The first saw a brace of de Havilland aircraft with the de Havilland DH82a Tiger Moth demonstrating basic handling and a touch of ribbon-cutting barnstorming from the de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk. The latter was making a welcome return to display duties after a lengthy period of maintenance.
The second pairing brought together the colourful Avro Tutor and the elegant little Hawker Tomtit. Unfortunately for the Tomtit its flight ended in slightly undignified fashion as its undercarriage bungees failed as it taxied off the main runway leaving it looking rather lopsided sitting in the long grass. Perhaps the most spirited display of the evening came from the Percival Mew Gull which powered its way around the angry looking skies.
Sadly the onset of another line of heavy rain put paid to the rest of flying as the Hawker Sea Hurricane took off again to perform with the Westland Lysander. The delay in recovering the Tomtit meant the pair had to hold off by which time the rain was encroaching close enough for them to call off their display to make a hasty return to shelter!
While it was a lot shorter than planned, it was great to see an Evening Airshow back at Old Warden. Hopefully for the next two events in June and July the weather will be much kinder, the crowds larger and the flying that bit more magical!