The Edwardian Pageant returned to the Shuttleworth Collection’s busy calendar of events in 2017 with a very strong line-up of home-based and visiting aircraft. It proved to be a very well attended event too with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, providing an exciting finale to the event with an early evening display over the Bedfordshire countryside.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
The first Sunday of August saw a welcome break from the unsettled weather which has plagued the UK since mid-July to offer a fine vista at Old Warden with blue skies and broken clouds. It was however a little too gusty for the Shuttleworth’s famous Edwardian aircraft. All was not lost however s the Collection laid on an impressive ground show to celebrate the Edwardian theme including a heavy-horse drawn fire engine plus re-enactors with various forms of Edwardian transport.
In perhaps anticipating that the weather may not be favourable for the most delicate Edwardian-era flying machinery, the Collection brought together a very unique range of aircraft than spanned from the First World War to the current day. The flying opened with the Rotorsport Calidus flown by Peter Davies. As always Peter puts on the most eye-catching display keeping his autogyro as close as regulations allow to the crowd at all times which showing the unparalleled agility of his craft.
As always, there were some pleasing and very unique combinations of aircraft throughout the afternoon. de Havilland DH51 “Miss Kenya” made a rare flying appearance leading a very elegant interwar formation with the Avro Tutor and Miles Magister while the de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk performed aerobatics in the overhead. Also representing 1950’s training types was the collection’s Percival Provost T1 which performed a very energetic aerobatic routine in the hands of Paul Shakespeare.
In addition to the based trainers, Anna Walker brought her Bucker Jungmann to Old Warden highlighting the type that not only trained Luftwaffe pilots, but also flew and won the only Olympic aerobatic competition during the 1938 games. Anna’s Jungmann displays are always beautifully flown with some surprising aerobatics figures such as a rolling circle that show just what a brilliant aircraft Bucker designed.
There was more 1930’s magic with a wonderful combination of de Havilland DH88 Comet, Mark Miller’s de Havilland DH89 Dragon Rapide and the DH90 Dragonfly from Shipping and Airlines. There surely could not be a more beautiful collection of aircraft to fly together and celebrate the design excellence of de Havilland Aviation. The Comet also performed a second time in the slot that should have seen the Edwardians fly partnered with the Percival Mew Gull G-AEXF. The Tiger9 Display Team added to the celebration of de Havilland designs with an excellent display of formation flying in very difficult gusty conditions. The bumpy air really tested the pilots of nice de Havilland DH82a Tiger Moths as they battled to hold postion during each pass.
Two other famous British aviation names, Auster and Blackburn, were celebrated with another very unusual combination of aircraft. The BAE Systems Heritage Flight’s Blackburn B2 was joined by Mark Miller’s Auster J1M Autocrat and Kevin Hale’s Taylorcraft Auster AOP6 The latter gave a solo display while the two former aircraft performed as a pair and solo with the Blackburn giving an impressive aerobatic display.
The only aircraft to represent World War Two in the flying were the Westland Lysander and Polikarpov Po-2. Both aircraft have very different performance but could both be considered “Special operations aircraft.” Whereas the big, powerful Lysander achieved fame for its role in flying special agents into and out of occupied France, the Po-2 was truly a multi-role aircraft. During both the Second World War and the Korean conflict it was used very effectively as a light night bomber flying nuisance raids over opposing military forces.
The First World War era aircraft provided the pageant with some of its highlights. It was lovely to see the collection’s RAF SE5a back in the air after a period of maintenance joined by the Bristol F2b Fighter. It was also a rare treat to see the Sopwith Dove back in the air flown by Stewart Luck. This aircraft resides with the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden but is privately owned. It is also flown only very occasionally so does often appear during airshows.
Two of the World War One Aviation Heritage Trust (WAHT) aircraft also made star appearances during the two Great War flying slots. Adding to the collection of Sopwith aircraft was the beautiful Sopwith Snipe reproduction. The Snipe was one of the last fighters to enter service with the Royal Air Force during the conflict and was the first ever Air Superiority fighter. Powered by a powerful (for the time) Bentley rotary engine the Snipe outperformed other combatants and continued to serve with the RAF well after the armistice. In the morning, both the Snipe and the Dove were lined up on the ground with the Collection’s own Sopwith Pup, Camel and Triplane to show off the lineage of Sopwith fighters from 1914-18. The rather stately RAF BE2e from WAHT flew in the flying slot dedicated to early war aviation. It had been hoped to fly a pair of these aircraft but alas, the second BE2e refused to start.
Completing the early First World War Aviation slot was David Bremner as his incredible Bristol Scout reproduction. The aircraft, with incorporates three parts from the original aircraft flown by his Grandfather, is now extremely well-travelled having appeared at events up and down the UK. David and his team have also taken the aircraft to Kavala in Greece where his Grandfather flew the Scout on operations and also to commemorations to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Since its first flight, the aircraft had gradually been improved and the team have managed to extract some more power out of the original Le Rhone rotary engine.
Adding some “Rock and Roll” to proceeding were the Breitling Wingwalkers with their two Boeing Stearmans. Old Warden is a perfect venue for the team and despite not landing on after their display, Wingwalkers Gina Marshall and Katie Hobbs plus pilots Dave Barrell and Martyn Carrington drew a huge round of applause as closed their display.
Another display which delighted the crowd was the “Little and Large” duo. The team of Chris Burkett flying a full sized Extra 300S and Mike Williams flying a perfect scale replica radio-controlled Extra have become firm favourites at Old Warden over the past few years. The synchronisation between model and full-sized aircraft is truly incredible and never fails to impress.
But the biggest draw of the day for the very large Old Warden crowd was the Red Arrows making only their second appearance at the venue in recent years. August is a particularly busy period for the team and by the time they appeared in the Old Warden skies they had already displayed in South Wales. Their display time was just 6pm which meant a late finish for the show, but also the chance to see the team perform in the golden rays of the late afternoon sunshine over perhaps one of the most idyllic venues in the UK. Despite a very short interruption due to a suspected intruder in their restricted airspace, the Reds performed a faultless routine. Any Red Arrows display is impressive, but over a small, confined airfield like Old Warden even a rolling display is truly spectacular and a fine ending to a great day out.
The Edwardian Pageant may have lacked the true Edwardian aircraft due to the weather, but it was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining displays of the year at Old Warden with some superb flying from both the based and visiting aircraft. The Red Arrows brought a huge crowd (though not quite a sell out this time) with them and hopefully some of the true magic of Shuttleworth has rubbed off on to a new audience.