The Shuttleworth Collection’s ‘Race Day’ once again was the final major UK air display of the airshow season. The event celebrates Richard Shuttleworth’s passion for motorsport and aviation on and over Old Warden Aerodrome. Both period racing cars and motorbike took part in the ‘Shuttleworth Sprint’ alongside flying displays which celebrated some of the famous air races around the world.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Weather forecast watching is a favourite pastime amongst those who attend, organise or participate at airshows. During the week leading up to Race Day, the weather looked like it would end in a total wash-out with a band of heavy rain straddling the UK for much of the day. However come the day itself that rain had passed through much more quickly than expected leaving a largely dry day if very breezy. Though the weather was far better than was expected, Old Warden was still really rather damp under foot!
The first main piece of action of the day was the Shuttleworth Sprint on the main runway. This was a chance for the huge gathering of classic racing cars and motorbikes to stretch their legs along Old Warden’s grass runway. The sight of so many cars and bikes queued up around the live side of the Old Warden paddock was particularly impressive as was the diverse range of different machines on show.
The strong winds meant that the flying programme for the afternoon had to be significantly re-jigged as many of the lighter and more sensitive aircraft would be unable to fly in the brisk winds. Sadly, the winds did mean several elements were chopped from the flying displays and some themes curtailed.
The show was opened by the ‘Glider Race’ featuring the beautiful EON Olympia 2b wearing the markings of the Empire Test Pilots Schools and the very modern sleek Schleicher ASW 28. The pair were towed into the sky by the Collection’s own Piper Super Cub G-SVAS and a visiting PZL-101 Gawron. The Gawron is a Polish licence built derivative of the Yakovlev Yak-12M and is not a common sight in the UK. The ‘race’ was a graphic illustration of how far aerodynamics and glider construction techniques have evolved with the handicap system leaving the Olympia just two laps to fly while the ASW 28 had to fly four. While the more modern glider had to fly further, it simply ate up the sky compared to it wood and canvas counterpart.
Following on from the unpowered race was a more traditional ‘Mock Air Race.’ The field was somewhat reduced by conditions but featured the Shuttleworth Collection’s de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk, a Cessna 180, a Scottish Aviation Bulldog T1 and a Spartan 7W Executive. As in previous years the format was a handicap race around a rectangular shaped circuit over the Bedfordshire countryside with the ‘home straight’ down Old Warden’s runway. The gusty wind disrupted the handicap somewhat with the Bulldog just managing to overtake the lower Chipmunk just before the final lap with the more powerful Spartan unable to make much impact.
Formula One Air Racing was marking by a solo display by Trevor Jarvis in his Cassutt IIIM Racer ‘Kermit.’ Trevor and his aircraft are competitors in the Air Race 1 World Series which has revitalised F1 Air Racing and putting it on a world stage.
Piston powered fighter aircraft have long been a feature of various Air Race events and the Race Day flying display marked this with a combination of the Collection’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib and Anglia Aircraft Restorations’ North American TF-51D Mustang ‘Contrary Mary.’ The Hurricane was a feature of the King’s Cup Air Race while the Mustang remains a favourite mount in the US unlimited pylon air races seen at Reno this day. The pair performed a formation pass before splitting into a tailchase. Unfortunately, a tailwheel issue cut short the TF-51D’s appearance which was operating from its base at Sywell.
There was just one aircraft able to fly from the MacRobertson Air Race section of the flying. This was the de Havilland DH80A Puss Moth owned by Robert Williams. The blustery conditions allowed the Puss Moth to demonstrate its ability to fly very slowly as well as making some very graceful passes along the crowd-line.
The last Shuttleworth Collection aircraft of the afternoon was the Percival Provost T1. The Provost is one of the Collection’s more rugged aircraft and was able to perform a full aerobatic sequence in the blustery conditions.
The penultimate flying act of the afternoon was Tom Cassells flying his Mudry CAP232. Tom is a well-known champion aerobatic pilot and demonstrated some of the extreme gyroscopic figures that the CAP is capable of and which mean it is one of the most successful competition aircraft ever. In keeping with the air racing theme, Tom completed his display by slaloming around ground based pyrotechnic ‘pylons’ tribute to the style of competition seen in the Red Bull Air Race.
The flying display was brought to an end by the Schneider Trophy salute with a solo display from the Cessna 172F float-plane G-DRAM. It has been hoped to repeat last year’s salute to the Schneider Trophy with the Collection’s Spitfire flying a display over the top of the Cessna but the winds were out of limits. G-DRAM has completed in the modern incarnation of Schneider Trophy and was the first float-plane to do so since the Supermarine S6!
It is a great shame that after such a successful season of airshows, the Shuttleworth Collection’s final event should be curtailed by poor weather. However, credit should go to the entire Shuttleworth team including all the pilots on putting on such a great display of flying if difficult circumstances. We look forward to seeing what 2020 brings at Old Warden.