With the daylight hours dwindling, early October sees
the final Shuttleworth Collection of the year - The Autumn Air Display. This is
often the last chance to see the Collection's aircraft in the air before the
long winter maintenance period. As well as the Collection's superb fleet, a
number of visiting acts always feature in the Air Displays and the Autumn show
was no different with formation aerobatics and a couple of wonderful warbirds
joining in. The leafy surroundings of Old Warden Aerodrome are the perfect
place to spend a sunny autumnal day watching some of world's rarest aircraft
perform. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright
of the Author.
2009 has been an interesting year for the Collection.
Not only has the Collection had a busy season of air displays which managed to
escape the worst of the British weather, but there have been some major changes
behind the hangar doors. Trevor Roche became the Collection's chief pilot
mid-season and soon changes the style of the flying events at Old Warden. Case
in point, the September evening show saw a complete change-around with a number
of the aircraft parked on the Crowd's side of the fence for some unique
photographic opportunities and a "Meet the Pilots" theme. On the
other side of the coin, there was the quite bizarre threat against the
Collection regarding the matter of model aircraft flying at Old Warden.
Thankfully, the threat seems to have passed for now as nothing more has been
heard from the Collection.
One of the best things about a visit to an Old Warden
airshow is the relaxed atmosphere. For the most part, getting in and out of Old
Warden is a breeze and once inside there isn't the usual rush to the fenceline.
In fact, being right up at the fence is not completely necessary as the car
park is on a gentle slope facing the main runway meaning even those right at
the back have a superb vista for the flying displays. As well as a look round
the Collection's hangers, Old Warden is home to a number of other attractions
including the Swiss Cottage and Gardens and a Birds of Prey Centre. One thing
that immediately sets Old Warden shows apart from others at Duxford and other
venues is the lack of outside traders. Just a few small stalls occupy areas
near to the hangers - it is a very pleasant place to be.
The morning can be a busy time in the air at any Old
Warden flying event. There are frequent visitors, air tests and practice
displays. The aircraft are parked at close quarters to the fence so that
everyone can get a good look. For those that want to get even closer,
Shuttleworth Veteran Aircraft Society (SVAS) members offer flightline tours
too. Further to the usual Old Warden Activities, Duxford's Classic Wings
brought it it's Dragon Rapide and Tiger Moth for pleasure
flights around the Bedfordshire countryside.
Immediately before the flying displays, there is
always a parade of the Collection's vintage and classic cars, along with some more
unusual items such as bikes and tractors. There was also a taxy run by one of
the Collection's most famous aircraft, the de Havilland DH88 Comet racing
aircraft. This aircraft is airworthy, but a design flaw means the undercarriage
is very weak and it's currently deemed that Old Warden's runway is just too
bumpy to safely operate the aircraft. The aircraft opened the main theme of the
day's flying - the 75th Anniversary of MacRobertson Air Race from Mildenhall to
The afternoon's flying was opened with one of Peter
Holloway's fleet of aircraft based at Old Warden, the Miles Falcon which
continued the MacRobertson theme. This beautifully streamlined touring
aircraft was the first Miles aircraft to feature an enclosed cabin and has a
three seat configuration. This particular aircraft saw service with the Swedish
Air Force before returning to the UK in 1961. Also taking part in the theme was
a rare display by a de Havilland Puss Moth. Completing the line up of
MacRobertson Air Race types was the Dragon Rapide which is now resident
at the Collection.
The Yakovlevs are regular participants
at Old Warden Air displays and were once again on hand to perform a duo display
of Yak-50s leaving beautiful smoke trails against the clear blue skies.
As always at a Shuttleworth display, there is a great
collection of light and training aircraft on display. Representing the
American's were a Luscombe and Goodwood's North American T-6 Texan or
Harvard. The T-6 was flown by Peter Borchert who has previously
displayed his own Pitts Special at the collection. Also visiting the Old Warden
were a pair of Chipmunk and Bulldog aircraft wearing the classic
RAF Red, White and Grey training schemes.
The Collection has a wide range of training aircraft
itself. The earliest taking part in the Autumn Air Display was the Hawker
Tomtit. It was joined in formation be the Avro Tutor and De
Havilland Tiger Moth all wearing their stunning Display Team colours from
the 1930's. A further formation of trainers saw a further Tiger Moth joined
by a Miles Magister and the collection's Chipmunk. This aircraft
also appeared at the end of the show performing a barnstorming routine of
ribbon cutting and streamer catching! Another Cold War trainer in the display
was the Percival Provost which is always an impressive performer.
The Axis powers are also well represented at the
collection. A highly unusual sight was the Collection's latest display, the Primary
EoN 'Dagling' Glider which is aero-towed by a Super Cub. The Dagling
does not look the most comfortable aircraft to fly with it's pilot fully
exposed at the front of glider. It also appears not to have the greatest
gliding performance as it did seem to come down rather quickly! A more powerful
German trainer is the Collection’s Bucker Jungmann (actually a Spanish
built example) which put on a display of aerobatics.
As well as it's trainers, Old Warden is home to an
impressive range of military aircraft. Some of the most unique aircraft in the
Collection are the First World War types. Displaying at the Autumn Air
Display were the Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Triplane and the RAF SE5a. These
early aircraft have some interesting handling charateristics so the
Shuttleworth pilots have to take particular care when displaying them.
Some of the Collections most beautiful aircraft come
from the period in between the World Wars. Sadly the Collection's Hind was
undergoing maintenance at the time of the show, but we were treated to a
stunning duo of Gloster Gladiator and Hawker Demon; the latter
owned by Demon Displays Ltd. The Demon is a new addition to the Old Warden
scene and is a stunning restoration – made all the more impressive in the
glorious autumnal light!
BAE Systems has some it's heritage collection based at
Old Warden. The largest of these aircraft is the Avro 19, a post-war
airliner development of the wartime Anson. It was joined by the Collection's Lysander
as part of the Second World War themed flying display segment. The most
potent aircraft currently airworthy at Old Warden is the Hawker Sea
Hurricane Ib. The Hurricane was joined in an impressive dogfight by a Messerscmitt
Me108. The Collection's own Hurricane was joined by a second - Peter
Teichman's Hawker Hurricane IIb Hurri-Bomber. This Hurricane,
making it's Old Warden debut, is the only example flying with a 10 gun wing and
it's external stores pylons attached. Peter clearly enjoys the latest addition
to his fleet putting on an elegant display.
As always, Old Warden put on a great afternoon's
entertainment in glorious surroundings. 2010 promises to be another busy year
for the Collection with some important anniversaries and more exciting aircraft
waiting in the wings.