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Old Warden Spring Air Display 2011

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Breezy Start to the Season puts the wind up pilots and organisers alike!

The start of the Season arrived with the Spring Air Display at Old Warden. The weather forecast was good – 6 mile visibility with temperatures around 64F. The only concern was an easterly wind of around 15 knots, gusting to 25 – 30 at times.

And, the wind proved to be a significant problem on an otherwise perfect day for flying and photography.The flying program promised non-stop aircraft traffic with many of the Shuttleworth Collection aircraft taking part. The highlight of the day – the first Display Flight of the recently rebuilt Russian Polikarpov Po-2 bi-plane.

The Po-2 holds the distinction of being the most produced biplane, in aviation history, and the second most produced aircraft, (some 40,000) in the world. Built between 1928 and in 1953, they were still being produced in Poland until 1958! The aircraft even saw active service in the Korean War when it was used by the North Korean Peoples Air Force.

With the start of flying at 2.00pm came an unfortunate increase in the frequency of wind gusting. It soon became apparent that many of the aircraft, due to display, were unlikely to fly. In the interests of Pilot and Crowd Safety, together with the potential damage to, and even loss of, irreplaceable examples of aviation history.

In the true spirit of “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”, the Shuttleworth pilots accepted the challenge and still managed to display those aircraft deemed capable of coping with the windy conditions.

The two Miles Magisters, the Tiger Moth and the Chipmunk took part in a barnstorming competition. Hitting the target with flour bombs proved a mission to far and the balloon bursting was an impractical “ask” in the conditions. Nevertheless, the pilots displayed the aircraft to great effect and their difficulties were demonstrated during some of the landings which had the commentator at a loss for words and the ground crews scampering around the runways, hastily wing walking aircraft back to their stands.

The Po-2 was not a casualty of the weather, however, and went on to make a great success of its first display event. Not, in my opinion, a pretty aeroplane, but certainly a unique addition to the Display Circuit for 2011.

As so many other aircraft were unable to display, the Sopwith Pup was used to demonstrate,to the crowd, the difficulties in starting these early engines and the intricate and delicate balance of fuel controls that are required.
The Avro Tutor looked beautiful in flight with the sunlight accentuating the colour scheme against a perfect blue background.

Despite the wind, the Yak 50 and Yak 52 pair performed a polished aerobatic display and the pilot of the Chipmunk took it upon himself to do some aerobatics, of his own, to fill some time and entertain the crowd.

Another newcomer, certainly to myself, was the piston engined Provost which gave a good account of itself during its display.

One of the real highlights of the afternoon was the F86 Sabre which flew in from Duxford and added jet excitement. The weather afforded photographers some great opportunities and, no doubt, we shall see the results on various forums and website over the next few weeks!

For obvious reasons, flying finished very early but I don’t think anyone left regretting their visit or the £20 entrance fee. There was still time to visit a few memorabilia stalls and, a different type of wind was put to entertaining use by the jazz band who had stomped their way through the day to entertain the crowds.

Old Warden hold numerous flying events throughout the year. Too many visits could give a feel of sameness, no matter how strong your affection for vintage aircraft so, additional displays by visiting aeroplanes are an integral part of a good day out – pity the newly liveried BBMF DC3 didn’t appear as programmed.

I am praying for a continuation of the sunshine this summer, excellent lighting conditions but a lot less wind!

Review by Dave Briers - click HERE for Daves Showcase