After the delayed start to the 2020 season, the Shuttleworth Collection managed to add a further airshow to its season at the end of September. This event was a special occasion as it celebrated the 100th Anniversary of de Havilland, one of the most renowned and influential aviation companies. The show planned to feature many de Havilland aircraft with a focus on the wide range of aircraft produced by the company between the wars that made General Aviation accessible and broke records.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
The de Havilland Aircraft Company was formed in 1920 by Geoffrey de Havilland at Stag Lane Aerodrome in Edgeware on the then outskirts of North London. Subsequently the company moved to Hatfield which is just a few miles south of Old Warden aerodrome. Old Warden itself has been a base for a large number of different de Havilland aircraft starting with those owned and preserved by Richard Ormande Shuttleworth.
The Centenary Airshow focussed on many of the aircraft de Havilland produced between the wars. These included many of the Moth family that trained new pilots and made aviation accessible, airliners and record-breaking racers. Also included were some later products from the Canadian subsidiary. Sadly, the arrival of some very autumnal windy weather prevented many of aircraft planned to appear in either the flying display or the ‘uncovered’ static display. However, the weather improved just enough during show day for an enjoyable flying display feature many de Havilland aircraft.
The show opened with a banner tow by the collection’s Piper Super Cub welcoming the audience to the de Havilland 100th show. In the blustery conditions, the pick-up was a very dramatic spectacle. The opening display however was a spirited aerobatic solo from the first de Havilland aircraft to take part in the afternoon display, the de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk from the Shuttleworth Collection.
The 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain was also marked during the afternoon. Stu Goldspink gave an elegant display in Bygone Aviation Ltd’s Hawker Hurricane I P3717 early in the display while the Shuttleworth pair of Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib and Supermarine Spitfire Vc flew towards the end of the display. The Sea Hurricane was piloted by Rob Millinship who was flying the aircraft for the first time at a public event. Further Second World War heavy metal action came from the Collection’s Gloster Gladiator I and the Westland Lysander IIIa.
The most eye-catching display of the afternoon came from a visiting Aeronca Champ flown by Tim Barron. Known as the ‘Cheeky Champ’ this display was pure flying circus combining a 550ft ribbon tow with crazy flying plus ‘aerial marksmanship’ as Tim made low passes to take out balloons! The technicolour 550ft ribbon was a spectacle in itself as it was cavorted behind the Champ adding some much-needed colour to the leaden skies. There was also a de Havilland link as Tim’s grandfather was Charles W.A Scott. Scott was a renowned display pilot flying some very daring displays while serving with the RAF at various exhibitions and displays including the Hendon Air Pageant. He went on to make record several breaking flights including a England-Australia flight in de Havilland DH60M Moth VH-UQA before winning the MacRobertson Air Race in de Havilland Comet G-ACSS.
There was one glider display during the afternoon with Graham Saw giving another beautiful aerobatic display in the Fauvel AV26. Despite the winds, the wingtip smoke seemed to last for ever leaving some delicate red swirls in the featureless grey sky. While the Fauvel was towed to height the Collection’s Desoutter I played the joker role with a short display to fill the gap.
Despite the weather, the day still featured a pageant of inter-war de Havilland types. While the Old Warden based DH89a Dragon Rapide gave a fine solo display during the afternoon, the main event was a massed display of various ‘Moths.’ This featured the Shuttleworth Collection’s own DH60X Cirrus Moth and DH82a Tiger Moth alongside a number of visiting aircraft. This included beautiful examples of the DH60G Gipsy Moth from the Wood family, Christopher Cyster’s DH82a Tiger Moth and a DH87b Hornet Moth piloted by Mark Miller. The mini ‘Swarm’ of Moths displayed en-masse to start the sequence before leaving the stage for a solo from the Hornet Moth. The open-cockpit Moths then returned for some final formation passes with the visiting Tiger Moth performing some classic aerobatics over the top.
The finale to day was left to the stunning de Havilland DH88 Comet flown for the first time at a public display by Jean Munn. The Comet is perhaps one of de Havilland’s most beautiful designs and is certainly the pride of the Shuttleworth Collection. Considering the weather conditions, all the pilots, staff and volunteers should be very proud of the event which was a very fine celebration of the de Havilland Aircraft Company’s centenary despite the best efforts of the very British weather. As things turned out, this was the final flying event of the year at Old Warden due to the poor weather that led to the cancellation of Race Day. Shuttleworth’s innovation and superb organisations has meant the Collection has been able to host four superb airshows in 2020 which is a great achievement. We look forward to better days in 2021 and hopefully a full season of Shuttleworth flying displays.