The 2022 Display Season was opened at the Shuttleworth Collection with the Season Premiere Airshow on the 1st May. After a tough couple of years under restrictions, the new season opened with hopes that coronavirus restrictions are a thing of the past. While much of the Season Premiere featured many regulars from the Collection’s fleet of aircraft, it also included some debuts and welcome returnees.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
May is becoming quite a sparse month for airshows in the UK which is a great shame as it used to be a very busy month. Thankfully the Shuttleworth Collection continue to hold their traditional season opening air display on the first Sunday of the month. The season premiere not only showcased the many delights of the Collection’s fleet, but also a number of visiting aircraft many of which were making their display debuts or making long awaiting returns to the circuit.
After nearly two seasons of running a Drive-In format, many welcomed the return of a more traditional set-up for the new season. However, even with the impressive new entrance road they still used ‘dover’ lanes at the ticket check to filter cars into the aerodrome which did seem a little more chaotic than usual and no-one seemed to be scanning tickets! However, once inside it was pretty much back to normal for Shuttleworth with a busy line of traders alongside some vintage vehicles and other exhibits within the hangars. There was also the return of the traditional vehicle parade ahead of the main flying display.
The flying was opened, as it was in 2021, by Plane Sailing’s Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina flown by Derek Head under grey skies. Arriving on slot from Duxford the Catalina is always an impressive performer at Old Warden though it did have an undercarriage issue during its display. That meant it aborted its post-display landing at Old Warden and diverted back to Duxford where the Catalina made a safe landing.
The Collection’s Percival Provost T1 and Avro Tutor followed the Catalina in the first of a number of combinations involving Shuttleworth aircraft. The ever impressive ‘Racers’ slot included the de Havilland DH88 Comet and Percival Mew Gull while the Bristol F2b Fighter, Sopwith Triplane, RAF SE5a, Sopwith Pup and Avro 504k flew in various First World War slots. There also vintage glider displays from the Fauvel AV36 and EON Primary alongside ‘joker’ displays from the Comper Swift and Southern Martlet. The Old Warden based Miles Magisters also flew a very pleasing formation and tailchase sequence.
Unusually for the Collection, some of its warbirds were presented as solo items with a punchy display from the Gloster Gladiator and an elegant aerobatic routine from Supermarine Spitfire Vc AR501 now fitted with elliptical wingtips.
First of the standout moments of the afternoon came from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster B1 which conducted three curved flypasts along the crowdline early in the programme.
Ahead of the 2022 Display Season, Old Warden based Kennet Aviation completed an intensive refurbishment of Supermarine Seafire XVII SX336. The aircraft is now part of the NavyWings Heritage Flight based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset. It was therefore very fitting to see the Seafire make its debut appearance under NWHF ownership at Old Warden alongside the Collection’s Sea Hurricane Ib. Lt Cdr Chris Gotke put the Seafire through a really eye-catching routine under the overcast highlight the superb performance of the Rolls Royce Griffon powered fighter. The Seafire’s appearance was supported by another eye-catching aircraft from the NWHF, the North American (CCF) Harvard IV which wears the charity’s logo on the fuselage.
Kennet Aviation also supported further pairs displays. The ‘US Gentleman’s Aerial Carriages’ pair saw Ian Austin flying one of the Little Gransden based Spartan 7W Executive’s in company with Kennet’s Boeing-Stearman N2S-5 Kaydet flown by John Beattie. This Stearman has been based in the US for several years but has been recently been brought to the UK.
John was back in the air later in the afternoon for another American pairing bringing together Kennet’s AT-6D Texan with Arnaldo Leon’s Ryan STM. This beautiful aircraft finished in the colours of the Dutch East Indies Army Air Force is one the latest aircraft to be based at Old Warden. Despite the substantial different in size and power, the Texan and Ryan flew a close formation pass before splitting into the solo displays.
The main display was closed by the Avro Anson C19 which has recently been gifted to the Collection by BAE Systems along with the de Havilland DH60 Moth and Blackburn B2. These three aircraft have long been based at Old Warden so it is excellent news they will remain with the collection. It had been hoped the Anson would appear alongside Spitfire IX MH434 but sadly the latter was unserviceable.
As an extra treat to an excellent first airshow of the season, the Avro Triplane, Bristol Boxkite and English Electric Wren all flew in the calm conditions at the end of the display. The Wren’s flight was particularly impressive reaching some very dizzying heights over Old Warden in the hands of Richard Crockett. All in all, a superb way to get the 2022 Display Season underway.