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Shuttleworth Premier Air Show 2019

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The beginning of May hails the long awaited awakening of the Air Show season after the winter “off season”, with the Old Warden based Shuttleworth Collection holding one of the coveted “1st of the season” spots with their season premier air show.  

Shuttleworth airshows always offers so much more than an flying display. Along with an extensive collection of air frames that can be seen in the hangars at the Old Warden Airfield and out on the flight line, the organiser also put on a beautiful show of vintage vehicles, ranging from cars, motorcycles & coaches, pilots talks and the lovely Swiss Gardens which are all included in the cost of the entrance ticket. Families are also well catered for with open top coach rides around the grounds and Airfix model building sessions.

The day saw unseasonably cool weather for early may, with low cloud and a brisk breeze, leaving the days air show goers tightly wrapped up in their coats and scarves. Despite that I’m sure one of two spectators did go home with a red face from the little sun that did appear (this reviewer included!) That being said, the day was dry and despite this weather the organisers and pilots managed a fantastic job of putting on a great job with a great line up and fantastic flying to boot!

Along with the cold weather, the photographers amongst the crowd had challenging lighting conditions to contend with, making getting “The Shot” a difficult feat. However the good thing about the Old Warden air field is that the display axis is dog legged allowing for close top side and low passes. This combined with the rare and immaculate air frames and high calibre of the pilots displaying them definitely makes Shuttleworth the aviation and aficionado’s choice

 

The flying display started a little after 2pm with a few flypasts from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in their clipped wing Spitfire Mk XVI TE311. A short but sweet display with 3 or 4 flypasts with topside passes displaying the clipped wings and low back tear drop canopy, the sound of its Packard Merlin engine roaring out across the airfield; very evocative.

The crowd line was soon filled with the sound of a pair of turboprop engines as the OV-10 Bronco fired up ready to run down the grass runway and perform its display under the control of Tony De Bruyn of the Bronco Demo Team, the first but not the last Vietnam War era aircraft of the day.

 

The Collection had committed quite a contingent of their own air frames to the flying schedule with the first of the Collections airframes next up in the form of the rather open Eon Primary glider, towed by the collection Piper Super Cub. An impressive sight to behold, with the pilot “Perched” on an open seat, with no cockpit enclosure of any kind, an extremely vulnerable (and Chilly) position.

The ability to get close to a splendid flying display at Shuttleworth is even more admirable when the collections iconic WWII aircraft come out to display, this time around in a fabulous trio of the Collections recently rebuilt Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vc, Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk 1b and the privately owned Hawker Hurricane Mk I. A truly majestic site across the crowd line grass airfield of Old Warden. The three WWII stalwarts performed a number of formation flypasts before breaking into individual displays.

 

The flying took a gentle step back to a paired biplane display from the Blackburn B2 and DH Tigermoth, quite a common site at Shuttleworth Collection but always an enjoyable site.

The season premier had quite a few treats up its sleeve from larger visiting aircraft types, with C47 Skytrain “Mayfly” first to get airborne. Its quite a rare treat to see larger airframes operate from smaller, intimate setting such as Old Wardens grass airfield. You feel close up amongst the action giving way to a humbling sense of honour, in this case to being so close to a true D-Day veteran airframe, quite apt given this year’s poignant anniversary milestone. Operated by Aces High, the twin engined troop carrier gave an amazingly energetic and spritely display; very impressive.
A Vietnam war theme held its place on the Season Premier with several display acts firmly focussed on this 1960’s era. Along with the OV-10 Bronco, the line up saw displays from the Northweald based UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” and a Cessna O-1 “Birddog”. Bell UH-1 “G-Huey” gave a relatively tame dispaly around the tight confides of the airfield shortly followed by the Birddog with accompanying Grasshopper.

Another larger visitor to the show came in the form of Plane Sailing’s PBY Catalina, another twin engine WWII airframe operating out of the personal surroundings of Old Warden. The Duxford based beauty gave a gentle display with some long sweeping turns showing off every inch of the white body of “Miss Pickup” including a fabulous long topside shot.
Older type aircraft lovers are well catered for at the Shuttleworth Collection with a large number of Bi & Tri Planes. As the afternoon went on we got see a fantastic display from the Collection’s Sopwith Camel & Triplane, the Avro 504K and a sublime display from the M1C. The vintage collection of aircraft always impress with their unexpected agility and ability to give a rousing display. The M1C gave what this reviewer can only describe as the display of the day, with a series on unbelievably low passes allowing the crowd to lock eyes with the pilot as he swept by in the almost birdlike design.

As the afternoon passed and light darkened with thicker cloud the end of the show was in sight and the Collections Lysander took to the air, sadly alone. The Lysander was scheduled to be joined by a display partner in the form of the newly brought back to flight Duxford based Lysander. Unfortunately, the ARCO operated aircraft suffered some technical difficulties and was unable to make it to Old Warden, a sad turn but that’s the nature of historic aircraft. Hopefully we will get further chances to see such a pairing as the season progresses.
Sadly the weather on the day wasn’t playing ball and the the majority of the hoped Edwardian aircraft had to remain safely in their hangars except for the Avro Tri-plane. Unfortunately further technical difficulties arose and the skilled engineers were unable to get the Avro’s engine running and there saw the end of the days flying display.

The show was another fantastic success for the Shuttleworh Collection, large crowds and brilliant flying all wrapped up in a great informal atmosphere. Events at Shuttleworth always feel personal and this years season premier was no exception. Sadly, the weather was a little cold and grey but on the positive side it was dry (something that cant be said for every UK Airshow)!

For more information on upcoming shows at Oldwarden visit the collections website at www.shuttleworth.org
 

Review by Jonathan Wintle

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