The September Air Displays at the Old Warden have traditionally focussed on the Shuttleworth Collection’s own heritage. This year that heritage had added poignancy as the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust marked 80 years since Richard died in the flying accident while serving in the Royal Air Force. The Vintage Drive-In airshow showcased many of Richard’s own purchases for his collection as well as the aircraft subsequently operated by the collection.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
The Drive-In format is now well established at Old Warden and continues to work well. However, there were a few signs of things slowly returning to normal with more of the usual attractions returning to show day with the hangars opened during the morning, vintage bus rides, flightline tours, Shuttleworth House tours and access to the Swiss Garden. Even the Trust’s Shuttleworth & Clayton Traction Engine, ‘Dorothy’ was out and about steaming around the hangars.
A great variety of historic aircraft from the Collection and other operators were brought together to celebrate the Vintage theme. The largest aircraft in the show was the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina from Plane Sailing. Not only was its display a superb spectacle over Old Warden, it also operated from Old Warden making for an impressive sight as it taxied, took off and landed on the grass strip.
A very rare visitor to Old Warden was the Civilian Coupe Mk2 from Shipping and Airlines. The type is the first British two-seat enclosed cockpit monoplane. G-ABNT is the third of five such aircraft that were built and first flew in 1931. During the display she flew with the Collection’s Southern Martlet as both aircraft share the same powerplant, the Armstrong Siddeley Genet Major engine.
It was also great to see the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight back in public action at Old Warden. Flt Lt Andy Preece gave some spirited flypasts in Supermarine Spitfire Vb AB910 before heading back to RAF Coningsby. Further historic military visitors represented the Army Air Corps with Kevin Hale flying his Auster AOP6 in company with a de Havilland Canada Chipmunk T10 flown by Simon Tilling.
But perhaps the standout visiting display of the afternoon came from the Stampe Formation Team. With their four very colourful Stampe SV4 biplanes, they looked superb in the sunny skies and their beautifully choreographed routine was really well suited to Old Warden. Their display was concluded by a scintillating solo aerobatic routine by team leader Chris Jesson which highlighted just why the Stampe was such a highly regarded aircraft both in the competition aerobatics world as well as an airshow performer.
The vintage glider displays also caught the eye as well for different reason. The Fauvel AV26 is a regular performer at Old Warden with some elegant aerobatic routines. However, for this event Graham Saw flew a very unusual and innovative formation display leading its Piper Super Cub tow aircraft piloted by Richard Crocket through a series of tight turns back down to the ground. Graham also displayed the aerobatic prowess of Letov Lunak glider later in the afternoon which including some elegant loops and some very punchy flick rolls.
The Collection’s own aircraft featured in a number of combinations. The Westland Lysander and Polikarpov Po-2 both reprised their Special Operations display while the pair of Miles Messengers, the Southern Martlet, Piper Super Cub and DHC-1 Chipmunk performed in the traditional barnstorming display. Other combinations included an Inter-war trainer duo of de Havilland DH60X Moth and Avro Tutor plus the traditional racing combination of de Havilland DH88 Comet and Percival Mew Gull. Five World War One aircraft took to skies over two slots which featured the Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Triplane, Avro 504K, Bristol M1C and John Glibert’s Nieuport 17. Adding to the combinations were solo displays from the de Havilland DH51 ‘Miss Kenya’, the Gloster Gladiator and the Percival Provost.
Three other combination displays really stood out. The first was a celebration of the Miles Aircraft Company. This brought together a memorable formation of the Southern Martlet, both of the Old Warden based Miles Magisters, the Miles Hawk Speed Six and Stuart Blanchard’s Miles Gemini. With Gemini following on, the other four aircraft flew in a box formation which was no mean feat considering the performance differential between the different types. Both the Gemini and the Hawk Speed Six also gave very fine solo displays to complete the sequence.
A particularly special moment for the Shuttleworth Trust was a formation reuniting three of Richard Shuttleworth’s original aircraft, the de Havilland DH60X Moth, the Desoutter and the Spartan Arrow. The Moth has been based at Old Warden since 1932 which is a record for the number of years an aircraft has been based at one aerodrome. Richard learnt to fly in the aircraft at the Brooklands School of Flying before purchasing it as his first aircraft. The Desoutter was purchased by Shuttleworth in 1935 and he had it considerably modified. It subsequently left Old Warden only to return again in the late 1970’s. Restoration to its original Mk1 standard started in 1985 and it now flies in its original National Flying Services colours. The Spartan Arrow was registered to Richard Shuttleworth at the end of 1936. Since 1946 it has been owned by a number of different people before being acquired by the Blaine family in 1964 who still own it to this day.
The main section of the flying display was concluded by the Second World War fighters. Sadly, the Collection’s own Sea Hurricane Ib went unserviceable, but the sight of both Supermarine Spitfire Vc AR501 and Hawker Hurricane I P3731 performing elegant aerobatics in the late afternoon sunshine was a fine way to close the main flying display.
Very fortunately, conditions at the end of the main flying display were perfect for some of the Edwardian fleet to get airborne. Those that stayed into the early evening were treated to sight of the Avro Triplane, Bristol Boxkite and Blackburn Type-D Monoplane flying as the sun set to cap off another fine day at Old Warden. While the Vintage theme may have brought together what some may have considered a niche line-up, this was Shuttleworth at it very best presenting rare and beautiful aircraft from a bygone age in relaxed surroundings. A perfect way to escape the challenges of 2020.