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2014 UK Airshows : REVIEW

Shuttleworth Classic Evening Airshow

It is shame that the Evening Air Displays at the Shuttleworth Collection seem to becoming less numerous. At their very best, they are the most magical of all the Collection's various airshows each summer providing the perfect conditions to fly and view the rare aircraft kept at Old Warden. The penultimate weekend in September saw the final Evening airshow of the year for the Collection. Late September should be the perfect time for such a show, but as it was the fickle British weather that threatened to ruin it!

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.

The uncertain economics and unpredictable weather have really started to bite airshows in the UK. 2014 has already seen the loss of the Autumn Air Show at Duxford, and it seems that the Shuttleworth Collection are looking very hard at their events when balancing the books - in 2015 there will be no evening air display! It is perhaps not a surprise considering the poor luck the Collection has had with the weather yet again this year losing displays in May and August due to strong winds and rain. Nevertheless, it is a great shame to lose opportunities to attend the evening events.

Sad to say, the omens for the final Evening Air Display did not look good either. An occluded front sat stubbornly over central and southern England bringing drizzle and misty patches. It was certainly enough to make me have second thoughts about turning round while driving up to Old Warden, and clearly had put off quite a few including some visiting aircraft. Even the commentator's announcement about an hour before the schedule start that there would be a flying display seemed rather brave considering the Sandy transmitters intermittently fading in and out of visibility!

But flying did indeed start on time in the somewhat murky conditions. First into the air were the Collection's Piper Super Cub towing the Fauvel Glider. The first full display however was the Old Warden based Hawker Demon which gave a number of close passes along the crowdline. Sadly, the much hoped for gathering of the Shuttleworth Hind and TFC's Nimrod was thwarted by serviceability and weather.

By the time the Fauvel has returned, the cloudbase had lifted enough to allow Graham Saw to perform a full aerobatic routine. The Fauvel is an extraordinary little machine. It is very close to be a flying wing design, though the twin tail fin mean it is not a true flying wing. It is also incredibly capable performing plenty of steep turns and loops before landing in front of the appreciative audience.

Further fun flying followed with one of the Shuttleworth Collection's "Barnstorming" sequences of flour bombing, limbo flying and balloon bursting. Leading the trio of aircraft involved was Chris Heames flying the Miles Magister followed by Jim Schofield in the de Havilland Chipmunk and Jean Munn in the Hawker Tomtit; the first time pilot and aircraft had appeared in the Barnstorming display at Old Warden.

The cloud appeared to be slowly lifting as the display went on. Next to fly were the Second World War duo of Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib and Westland Lysander, the latter with its landing lights shining well against the claggy background.

First of the visiting aircraft to display was the Swiss marked Bucker Jungmeister of Mark Rijkse which flew with an Old Warden based example wearing the colours of the Spanish Air Force. Both took part in some formation passes before some very nice solo aerobatic routines from each aircraft.

An unusual combination in the flying brought together the Polikarpov Po-2 and the Percivial Provost T1. While Clare Tector flew the Po-2 at low level while Chris Heames put on an aerobatic routine in the Provost at height demonstrating the cloud had actually lifted significantly during the show.

The final piece of Shuttleworth Collection flying for the evening saw many of the First World War aircraft take to the air. The sequence saw the Avro 504K, Bristol F2b Fighter, RAF SE5a, Sopwith Pup and Bristol M1c all take to the air. The Shuttleworth Collection is one of the very few locations in the world that any such spectacle and the WW1 aircraft are also a highlight of any Old Warden show.

Closing the flying was the quite incredible "Extra Duo" featuring champion radio-controlled modeller Mike Williams flying a coordinated sequence with 3/4 scale Extra with Chris Burkett in a full sized Extra 300S. The weather broke just in time for the Duo's performance which allowed the pair to perform their full display. As at venues like Little Gransden and Shoreham the crowd were left amazed and the duo rightfully got the biggest round of applause.

Despite the best efforts of the British weather, Old Warden certainly entertained those who had kept the faith! Hopefully the Evening Air Displays next year will enjoy some better luck!

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