Shuttleworth Autumn Air Display


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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 Melbourne.

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.

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