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2013 UK Airshows : REVIEW

Shuttleworth May Flying Day & LAA Party in the Park

Mid-May saw the third Shuttleworth Collection flying display of the year with the 'May Flying Day.' It was however an air display with a difference incorporating the Light Aircraft Association Party in the Park so featured a number of unusual airshow performers that often escape the gaze at other events.

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

2013 is turning out to be something of a weird display season so far. May has seen very few major general events outside of Old Warden with perhaps the Abingdon Air & Country Show being the only one of any note. The other major air displays have all taken place at the wonderful Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden. However, this third event promised to present a number of aircraft and types often overlooked by the more mainstream events thanks to the link-up with the Light Aircraft Association's Party in the Park.

The LAA was formed just after the Second World War (for a long time if was known as the Popular Flying Association or PFA) to assure that flying was accessible to the man in the street. It has been more than successful in representing Light Aviation in the world of ever expanding rules and regulations driven by Commercial Air Transports with over 8000 members and currently 2600 aircraft on its 'Permit to Fly' airworthiness regime. The Shuttleworth Collection and the LAA have very strong links as many of the collection's aircraft fly on LAA permits.

Weather plays a big part in flying and any airshow, and the beginning of the week before the show I did wonder whether they'd be an event at all with heavy rain and wind forecast for the weekend. Fortunately, our unpredictable North-Western European climate changed for the better and display day was dry and relatively warm, though ever so slightly hazy with broken clouds.

Opening the show was AVM Cliff Spink in the Aircraft Restoration Company's Hispano HA1112-M1L Buchon in its colour scheme from the Battle of Britain movie. It was a superb aerobatic display in this powerful fighter and it was great to see the type being put through the unique Old Warden display line.

Naturally the LAA took pride of place in the flying display with a number of items. Opening the sequence of LAA displays was Mark Miller in his Auster Autocrat representing the many classic types the LAA currently looks after. Also coming under the 'classic' description was the Druine D31 Turbulent which put on a short solo display.

Another tiny LAA aircraft taking part was the Midget Mustang flown by Jez Cooke. Originally designed as a Formula One racing aircraft, the aircraft was put though an excellent aerobatic sequence by Jez and it look superb in the sunshine with its high gloss bright red paint scheme.

One of the stars of the afternoon was the Edgely Optica flown by Francis Donaldson. The Optica rose to fame in the 1980's thanks to its very unusual looks which combines the superb visibility afforded by helicopters with the efficiency of a fixed wing aircraft. Combined with a unique ducted fan layout it is the most extraordinary looking machine but one capable of a superb display too! Despite many setbacks which prevented the aircraft become a success on the 1980's, plans are now being put together to re-launch the type as a cheap policing and border control type aircraft.

Much more modern LAA homebuilt types were represented by the Vans RV8 and the Silance SA180 Twister. The RV8 was displayed by Stan Hodgkins who gave a fast paced display in this popular type which is almost a mini-warbird in terms of looks and its aerobatic performance. The Silence Twister was display by Adrian Hatton. Adrian's Twister is powered by the 80hp Jabiru engine and also is one of the few examples fitting with a fixed undercarriage. Adrian made full use of the dog legged crowdline to show off the classic Spitfire-like lines of his aircraft which fitted with a Hercules propeller is impressively quiet!

Completing the line-up of visiting acts was the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Douglas Dakota which gave a few flypasts at Old Warden on its way home to RAF Coningsby.

Of course Shuttleworth Collection aircraft made up a key part of the afternoon. After two shows with brisk winds, it was great to have far smoother conditions allowing two of the collection's vintage gliders to perform. Chris Heames displayed the EON Primary Glider which is a very unique machine and one that the pilot is full exposed to the elements. Later in the afternoon there was also a display from the Scud II glider flown by Willy Hackett which is an elegant almost fish-like shape in the sky.

Continuing the civilian theme was Sir John Allison's gorgeous Miles Gemini which is surelyone of the most elegant designs ever to grace the skies.

The rest of the home based participation represented military flying and as ever featured a number of formations you simply don't see anywhere else. The Bristol Mercury was celebrated with a pairing of the Gloster Gladiator and Westland Lysander while Hawker Aviation was represented by the Collection's own Hawker Hind flying alongside the Hawker Demon. Sadly the planned join up with the Hawker Sea Hurricane couldn't take place after the Hurricane refused to start! The Percival Provost was also put through an aerobatic routine by Chris Heames.

Old Warden is perhaps best known for flying some of the oldest aircraft anywhere in Britain. It boasts a large collection of First World War types, tour of which took to the skies to close the main flying display. While the Bristol F2b Fighter, Sopwith Triplane and RAF SE5a were making their second displays of the year, the Sopwith Pup finally took the air for its first display of the year. The smell of Castor oil and the sound of rotary engines is very much part of the Old Warden atmosphere and is always a very welcome addition to any flying display here.

Though the winds were light, they did remain somewhat gusry which would normally mean the Edwardians would stay on the ground, but it was judged just good enough to allow the Avro Triplane to make its first appearance of the year and bring an end to the day's flying in fine style with three passes for the crowd. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of flying in some lovely summer weather thanks to the efforts of the everyone at the Shuttleworth Collection. The LAA participation too was of note presenting a number of different and eye-catching displays to public eyes.

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