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2012 Airshows : REVIEW

Shuttleworth Military Pageant Air Display

There’s nowhere else quite like Old Warden in the world and it is always a pleasure to visit an air display there. However this year this year has been a particularly difficult year for the Shuttleworth Collection. There have been precious few opportunities thanks to the poor weather experienced by the UK during the early part of the summer which led to the cancellation of a number of shows. However those cancellations paled into insignificance following the tragic accident that claimed the life of respected pilot Trevor Roche just before the July Military Pageant.

Traditionally Old Warden air displays are held on the first Sunday of the month which meant the August Military Pageant Air Display was one of very few events to take place in Southern England during the Olympic period. Thankfully more traditionally British Summer weather also returned with Sunny intervals interspersed by showers

Paul Johnson/Flightline reports. All photography copyright of the Author.

It was very heartening to see such great support from the public at the August Military Pageant Air Display following the Shuttleworth’s difficult start to the second season – the car park was certainly very full by 11am with visitors still coming in. The Military Pageant Air Displays are traditionally some of the most popular events held at the Shuttleworth Collection not only including aircraft from the collection but some impressive visiting displays.

Early August 2012 was an interesting period in which to hold an airshow. The London Olympic Games brought with them the largest peacetime security operation ever mounted in the UK. As part of that operation, Aviation was notably restricted across a large swathe of the South East with military controllers taking over from the normal civilian system under the name ‘Atlas Control’ which only allowed flights to take place following the filing of ‘flight plans’ in advance. While it did not prevent flights or airshows taking place, it certainly curtailed a lot of aviation!

The show started on a sombre note. On the Thursday prior to the event, one of the Collection’s pilots, John Morris, passed away after a short fight with cancer. Sir John Allison gave a short tribute to John before a moment of silence.

The Olympic Restrictions however did not stop Old Warden planning a very full flying display with everything from gliders through to Second World War ‘heavy iron.’ Sadly the advertised Vampire was unable to attend due to radio failure and the display had to be rejigged due to some of the heavy showers dotted around the area but that did not stop a very entertaining flying display.

One of the most unusual visiting display aircraft was an Olympia 2b glider. The ‘Oly’ was designed and built for competition when gliding briefly appeared as an Olympic sport and therefore a very apt addition to the flying. As in previous shows it was towed by the Collection’s own Piper Super Cub G-SVAS and displayed by Pete Hackett. The ‘Oly’ on show also has military connections wearing the markings of the Empire Test Pilots School.

As well as the Olympics, 2012 marks some important aviation anniversaries including the 100th anniversary of the Central Flying School. With trainers forming an important part of the Collection, it was good to see an impressive formation of Avro Tutor, De Havilland Tiger Moth, Blackburn B2 and De Havilland Canada Chipmunk. There was also an aerobatic solo display from the later Percival Provost.

There was also a celebration of trainers from overseas with the collection’s stunning Polikarpov Po-2 joined by Tracy Curtis-Taylor in her Ryan PT22 and Jez Cooke in the Bucker Bu133C Jungmeister. The latter aircraft also has Olympic connections having been used in the Olympic aerobatic competitions of the 1938 games in Berlin.

Old Warden always presents a number of great and unique pairings. It is always good to see the Collection’s Hawker Hind fly with Demon Display’s Hawker Demon, particularly when the silver dope so well illuminated by glorious sunshine. Peter Holloway’s Fiesler Storch and the Collection’s Westland Lysander are always impressive performers and it was good to see them in the air for direct comparison of these very different aircraft who performed very similar and daring roles.

However one of the outstanding highlights of the afternoon was a rare pairing of BAE Systems’ Avro Anson 19 airliner and the Classic Aircraft Trust’s military Avro Anson T21. To see both Ansons together is very rare and a superb sight against the cloud dappled Bedfordshire landscape.

The Ansons were not the only ‘heavies’ in the display. Amongst the touring displays were Plane Sailing’s PBY-5A Catalina and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster B1. To see such large aircraft perform around Old Warden’s dog-legged crowd-line is always an impressive spectacle.

Completing the line-up of visiting displays was Peter Teichman in the beautiful Spitfire PR XI. Peter gave a quite magnificent display of the Spitfire’s elegance and power over Old Warden with graceful loops, wing-overs, rolls and low passes which true applause from the crowd as he shut down on the flightline.

Though the return of poor weather at the end of the show prevented the First World War and Edwardian aircraft taking to the skies and some last minute cancellations no-one could deny this was a classic Old Warden show full of variety and some great flying. Hopefully this show will mark the start of some happier, sunnier times at the Shuttleworth Collection’s flying displays.

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