2021 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Light Aircraft Association, an organisation that represents much of the UK’s general aviation sector. The LAA plays a vital role in promoting recreational aviation in the UK and also oversees the airworthiness of many home-built and vintage aircraft. The LAA’s knowledge has been vital in many aircraft restorations and that includes much of the Shuttleworth Collection’s fleet. It was therefore highly appropriate the association’s anniversary was marked during the mid-July Evening airshow under the theme ‘Flying for Fun.’
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
The Light Aircraft Association (previously the Popular Flying Association) is a very important cog in the UK’s recreational aviation sector. Its knowledge base is huge and has helped many pilots and aircraft into the air throughout its 75-year history. Its influence extends into the airshow world with its efforts to inspire the next generation of aviators plus its vital role in assuring airworthiness of some of the lighter vintage aircraft including many of the Shuttleworth fleet.
After two rain-affected evening airshows, ‘Flying for Fun’ enjoyed perfect conditions with clear blue skies and little wind throughout. That good weather ensured a very good turn out from LAA members and their aircraft. Many of these aircraft were displayed in the LAA uncovered paddock where visitors could get up close and personal with them. These included the recently restored Beagle Pup Prototype which was on its second visit to Old Warden having performed in the flying display during the main June show.
The show opened with the Supermarine Spitfire Vb from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight which performed three flypasts over Old Warden on its return to RAF Coningsby. It was not the only warbird action of the evening either with the Collection’s own Spitfire Vc performing in company with the Westland Lysander IIIa.
The First World War was also represented in the display with the Collection’s own Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Triplane, Sopwith Camel, Bristol M1c and RAF SE5a taking part in two sections of the flying programme. The latter was making its first airshow appearance for sometime following some quite substantial work on its Wolseley Viper engine. Joining the Shuttleworth aircraft was the Great War Display Team which was making a welcome return to public display flying with a pair of Fokker Dr1 replicas and a single RAF SE5a replica. All of these genuine, reproduction and replica aircraft fly thanks to the support of the LAA and were there very appropriate additions to the flying line-up.
However, the evening really belonged to the sports and recreational types. Shuttleworth pilots Stu Goldspink and Jean Munn opened the main flying displays flying a very attractive pair of Pitts Specials through a sequence of formation and synchronised aerobatics. Bringing the aerobatics theme right up to date were James Hepnar and his mentor Diana Britten who flew very punchy solo sequences in the Extra 300L and Mudry CAP232. In contrast to the powered aerobatics, Graham Saw flew an elegant routine of glider aerobatics in the Fauvel AV36.
The sporting theme continued with a section devoted to air racing. The regular Shuttleworth trio of de Havilland DH88 Comet, Miles Hawk Speed Six and Percival Mew Gull were joined by David Beale’s Percival Mew Gull for a salute to the 1930’s racers. Adding more colour to the air racing theme were the Formula 1 racer pair with Trevor Jarvis flying his very striking green and yellow Cassutt IIIR and an aerobatic masterclass from Pete Kynsey in the Le Vier Cosmic Wind.
It was great to see the Lympne Trials aircraft back in action in the Old Warden skies with the ANEC II and English Electric Wren displaying. The trials were held to promote and develop affordable light aircraft for civilian pilots. With fuel economy a key factor, the aircraft entered were very light and powered by the smallest possible engines. The Wren is powered by an 8hp engine and maybe the least powerful self-launching aircraft ever to fly! In the warm conditions experienced during this display, it was perhaps at the limits of its performance to complete a couple of circuits of the airfield.
The centrepiece of the celebrations for the LAA’s 75th Anniversary was a very varied cavalcade of aircraft with close links to the association. Leading the way was Richard Ellingworth flying the very distinctive Nord NC.858 Norvigie. This French light aircraft was designed in the late 1940’s for the civilian market, but was also used by the French Army as an air observation post. Following the Nord were the Tipsy Trainer from Jonathan Pollard, Mark Petit’s Piper L4 Grasshopper and the blue Chilton DW1 flown by Matthew Boddington.
Closing out the main displays was the Shuttleworth Barnstorming display featuring the DH82a Tiger Moth, both Old Warden based Miles Magisters and the DHC-1 Chipmunk. The routine is often seen as part of Shuttleworth shows with a variety of different and always provides great entertainment with flour bombing and limbo flying, particular as part of the evening displays.
With little wind and clear skies, it was perfect for an Edwardian finale. The Bristol Boxkite, Avro Triplane and Blackburn Type-D Monoplane all took to the darkening skies while the Deperdussin managed a handful of hops up and down the runway. It is evenings like this that the Shuttleworth Collection can show off the true magic of its air displays and be the perfect tonic to the ills of the world.