Making a welcome return to the Shuttleworth Collection’s flying season was the Fly Navy Airshow. Held in conjunction with the charity NavyWings, Fly Navy was an outstanding showcase of naval aviation heritage with perhaps the biggest contingent of visiting aircraft to an Old Warden flying display this year. The 2022 event not only saw some excellent participation from piston powered aircraft, but also a large cohort of classic rotary aircraft in the display.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
When held previously, the Fly Navy Airshow has been one of the most popular events on the Shuttleworth Collection’s calendar. That certainly seemed the case in 2022 with a forecast of favourable weather and a superb line-up attracting the crowds. 2021 and 2022 have seen great change in some aspects of Shuttleworth Airshow organisation. However, getting into events has become a somewhat tedious part of the day, particularly for those arriving around or just after the advertised gate opening time. Fly Navy was perhaps the most awkward so far this year with nearly an hour wasted in two different queues before being allowed in to park. This would appear to be a temporary blip as the Shuttleworth Collection finds itself (like many other events) understaffed in terms of car park marshals, but first impressions do count and it’s hardly the most ‘environmentally friendly’ way of dealing with traffic. Getting out was a totally different story with the new entrance making the exit from Old Warden so much easier.
With no Royal Navy International Air Day this year, the Shuttleworth Collection’s Fly Navy show was the biggest event on the calendar for the NavyWings charity who were out in force at Old Warden. As well as coordinating some of the show participation, the charity had its own private area in the paddock for its benefactors. It was sad however that there was no modern-day Royal Navy participation to compliment the historic aircraft on display.
A star of the show on the ground was the Maurice Farman S7 Longhorn being restored at Old Warden by Flying Restorations. Still waiting to be covered in Irish Linen, the aircraft’s skeleton provided a fascinating insight into the earliest days of the Royal Naval Air Service. We very much look forward to seeing this aircraft take to the sky in the future. Other NavyWings affiliate aircraft were also brought in for static display including their own de Havilland DH82a Tiger Moth and the Stinson Reliant.
Despite what appeared to be quite favourable weather forecast, much of the flying display played out against some threatening skies as a line of showers passed through Bedfordshire. There was however just one rain-shower during the display which caused a slight hiatus before things brightened up towards the end of the flying. Naturally, the Shuttleworth Collection’s own aircraft formed the backbone of the displays. Solo displays came from the Avro C19 Anson, Westland Lysander and EON Primary Glider. There was also a naval themed segment of First World War aircraft which saw the Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Triplane and Avro 504K joined by David Bremner’s Bristol Scout.
A very poignant display came from the quartet of de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth, Avro Tutor, de Havilland Canada Chipmunk and Miles Magister. While they all represented types used by pilots flying with the Fleet Air Arm, the four aircraft also performed a missing man formation during their display sequence marking 10 years since former Collection chief pilot Trevor Roche was lost during a display practice in 2012.
There was an incredible array of visiting aircraft with many different links to naval aviation. This including everything from the graceful EON Olympia 2b glider once flown by Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown through to the rasping trio of Boeing Stearman N2S-5 Kaydet and two North American Harvards from Kennet Aviation and the NavyWings Heritage Flight. Adding to the ‘US Navy’ flying was Plane Sailing’s Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina which displayed on its way home from the Wales Airshow at Swansea.
One of the centrepieces to the flying was a trio of Royal Navy piston powered fighters with the NavyWings Heritage Flight’s Supermarine Seafire XVII flying alongside the Shuttleworth Collection’s Supermarine Spitfire Vc and Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib. As well as formation passes, the Hurricane performed a short solo display while the ‘Seafires’ performed a tailchase around Old Warden’s grey skies. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight added Spitfire line-up with some flypasts from Spitfire IX MK356 just as the rained cleared.
The Fighter Collection made a notable contribution to the displays. Their Hawker Nimrod I was the sole representative in the flying of Fleet Air Arm flying from between the wars. They also closed the flying with some American fighters in the form of the Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and Grumman F8F Bearcat. Sadly, the Wildcat suffered a technical issue shortly after take off and returned to Duxford early but there were superb solo displays from Brian Smith in the Corsair and Pete Kynsey piloting the Bearcat. The finale of the main display saw the TFC pair joined by the NavyWings Seafire and Shuttleworth fighters for some formation passes.
However, it was the rotary aircraft that really stole the show. The Gazelle Squadron opened the show with their new four-ship routine. For those of us that attended airshows during the 1990’s, this was a really nostalgic display harking back to the days of the Royal Navy Sharks Helicopter Display Team. That team was drawn from 705NAS based at RNAS Culdrose and frequented so many of the UK’s major airshows with their colourful display. The Gazelle Squadron’s display was a real crowd pleaser with some beautifully choreographed formation passes and dramatic breaks and hopefully will be seen at many future airshows.
Historic Helicopters also returned to Old Warden, this time with their Westland Wessex HU5 joining their Westland Sea King HC4. Both helicopters are Royal Navy veterans and represented both the Search and Rescue and Commando Helicopter forces in the timeline of Fleet Air Arm history.
The final rotary act saw three stunning examples of the Westland Wasp HAS1 flying together wearing the colours of the Royal Navy and South African Air Force. It has been a long time since so many examples of the Wasp flew together and despite the rain they put on a really nice sequence of formation and tailchase passes before a final solo display by one of the Royal Navy marked machines. Together with the Wessex and Sea King, the Wasps help marked the 40th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict in which the Fleet Air Arm was heavily engaged.
This outstanding highlight of the Shuttleworth Collection’s flying season was closed out by the Avro Triplane which just managed to get airborne before the wind speed got too much. Credit must to both the Shuttleworth Collection and the NavyWings Charity for putting together an excellent day with even some very British weather couldn’t spoil.