Shuttleworth Collection Family Airshow, Old Warden

Shuttleworth Collection Family Airshow, Old Warden

The Shuttleworth Collection opened the second half of their display season with the “Family Airshow.” The summer holiday show brought together a number of colourful visiting aircraft joining a varied selection of the Collection’s own aircraft for a fun afternoon of flying. On the ground, the entertainment theme continued with a vintage fun fair and other family entertainment.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.

The Shuttleworth Collection’s August airshow ties in perfectly with the start of the English summer holiday period. In recent years it has been termed as the “Edwardian Pageant” but the weather has never quite been on side to allow the ‘Eds’ to fly. Sadly, a strengthening wind prevented them flying this year but the show weekend coinciding with the return of the UK heatwave with blue skies and temperatures topping 28ºC! It has been a spectacular year for air displays weather wise, particularly at Old Warden which has been lucky with all of its events so far.

The theme of the event ran through the ground attractions as well as the choice of flying display participants. The paddock was dominated by a vintage fun fair which was very much in keeping with the feel of Old Warden. There was also live music, exhibitions from various youth aviation organisations plus the usual vehicle parades.

The flying was a veritable feast of colour with a little bit of everything in the air. Opening the display was a Second World War formation led by the Westland Lysander flanked by the Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib and the Supermarine Spitfire Vc. The three warbirds gave three passes together before splitting into their own solo displays.

As well as the Second World War, there were segments of the programme devoted to the First World War as well as the interwar years. Amongst the Great War Flyers were the Sopwith Triplane, Avro 504K, Sopwith Camel, Bristol F2b Fighter and RAF SE5a. The latter trio which represented some of the ultimate first world war fighters all flew together in formation for the first time at the Family Airshow.

The Cold War would have featured too in the form of the Collection’s Percvial Provost T1. Unfortunately, the Provost was forced to return early after getting airborne with a mechanical issue.

Many of the displays reflected Barnstorming, Flying Circus and air display history. The Shuttleworth Collection’s own contribution reflected in the 1930’s Central Flying School display teams pairing the unique Avro 621 Tutor with the de Havilland DH82a Tiger Moth. Both aircraft wear the colourful scheme of display teams that would have appeared at the RAF Pageants between the wars. The 1938 Olympics at which competition aerobatics saw their one and only appearance as an Olympic Sport were marked by a superb display of graceful aerobatics by Anna Walker in his Bucker Jungmann.

No barnstorming airshow would be complete without a wingwalking display. The Aerosuperbatics Wingwalkers sent a “Super-Solo” display to Old Warden featuring wingwalker Nikita Salmon and pilot Steve Hicks. As a solo display, Steve was able to perform more aerobatics than the pairs routine with loops, rolls and stall turns over the Bedfordshire countryside.

More smoke and noise came from the AutoGyro Calidus flown by Peter Troy-Davies. Peter’s display are always eye-catching wherever he flies, but Old Warden suits his display like no other venue. What really grabs the attention during his display is the agility of the gyroplane which Peter puts through some really tight, fast turns as well as flying sideways and performing some really impressive spirals.

Shuttleworth Collection Family Airshow, Old Warden - Image © Paul Johnson/Flightline UK

Making the short hop from nearby RAF Henlow was Captain Neville’s Flying Circus. The team fly some of the real classics of aerial circus including “flour” bombing, streamer cutting, limbo flying and balloon bursting which always looks fantastic at an intimate venue like OId Warden and is very engaging for the audience. The team also fly a diverse range of aircraft which include a de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk, Thruxton Jackaroo, de Havilland DH82b Queen Bee and Piel CP301B Emeraude.

Another colourful team making their Old Warden debut were the Stampe Formation Team flying a trio of Stampe SV4 biplanes. The Belgian Stampe has been a very popular training and aerobatic biplane in military and civilian ownership. Today, despite increasing costs, the Stampe is still a sought after vintage aircraft for pilots thanks to its good looks and aerobatic performance.

A break from the aircraft displays came in the form of the Royal British Legion’s Jump4Heroes Parachute Team. Unusually, the team jumped from a Bell Jetranger helicopter for their display. The team dropped in with four parachutists trailing smoke and large union flags.

An unusual display participant was a Rans Coyote II. The aircraft came from the Georgia Williams Trust and was part of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s “Build-a-plane” project for schools. Georgia was involved in the build from the start, but was murdered in 2013. The Trust set up in her memory supports young people to access adventure, outdoor activities and volunteering. The aircraft is kept at RAF Cosford as part of the STEM hangar and in used to inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers and pilots.

Vintage gliders are now a traditional part of any Shuttleworth air displays. For the Family Airshow, the Collection’s EON Primary Glider was joined by Graham Saw’s own Letov LF-107 Luňák. The Luňák is a very pretty aerobatic glider produced in the former Czechoslovakia. Though only 75 were produced, the Luňák remains a feature of glider aerobatic competitions to this day.

Transport aircraft of the 1930’s and 1940’s also featured with two pairs displays. The “Transatlantic Twins” display brought together the BAE Systems Heritage Flight’s Avro C19 Anson wearing its RAF Coningsby Station Flight colours with Nick Houghton’s Beech 18 for some sweeping passes around the crowdline. Contrasting with the powerful radial engine monoplanes was the grace of the de Havlland DH89a Dragon Rapide pair led by Mark Miller in the Duxford based G-AGJG.

Sporting and racing aircraft featured well in the programme. The Comper Swift gave a short display mid-afternoon but the star turn of the display was the pairing of Percival Mew Gull and Miles Hawk Speed Six. The Miles is the Shuttleworth Collection’s latest acquisition and was making its debut display at Old Warden as a member of their fleet. Like the Mew Gull, it is a purposeful looking machine built for speed and gave a spirited display in the late afternoon sunshine. The Shuttleworth Collection’s gaggle of racing aircraft is an important reminder of 1920’s and 1930’s aircraft development which was so important come the start of the Second World War.

Closing the Family Airshow flying was the “Little ad Large” duo from G-Force Aerobatics. The display sees Chris Burkett fly his Extra 300S alongside a model Extra 300 flown by champion pilot Mike Williams. Mike’s model perfectly mirrors the full size flying of Chris in the full-sized aircraft to the point that at distance they can be difficult to tell apart. It was a perfect ending to a exciting and fun afternoon of flying in the wonderful surroundings of Old Warden Aerodrome. The good weather brought in a big crowd with lots of families attending. Hopefully it inspired a few into an interest in aviation and perhaps return to another one of the Shuttleworth Collection’s excellent events.