The Shuttleworth Collection’s April Flying Day was the first British airshow of 2013, and the order of the day was, rather predictably, low temperatures, high winds and 8/8 cloud cover. Nevertheless, the Collection’s pilots and ground crew rallied together to deliver another entertaining Old Warden airshow. Greg Marsh reports for GAR, with photographs by Shaun Schofield.
It’s fair to say that the Shuttleworth Collection’s 2012 season was a testing one. The persistent inclement weather and tragic loss of Trevor Roche cast a shadow over the first half of the year. However, the Old Warden family recovered in sensational style and held a number of memorable events from July to October.
For 2013, the Shuttleworth Collection’s event schedule has undergone a facelift, with a greater emphasis on the Sunday afternoon shows, which have been re-named Flying Days. In total, there will be nine of these between April and October. The Saturday evening shows have been reduced to three events from May to July and the Flying Proms retains its traditional mid-August slot. In all, this is the busiest Old Warden season for many years, perhaps ever.
Being the first proper airshow this year, I’m sure many visitors will have eagerly monitored the weather forecast in the run up to the show. Sadly, the forecast sunshine and light winds gave way to overcast skies (albeit with a high cloud base) and a chilly breeze, which had been the order of the day for much of April!
Unfortunately, these factors heavily impacted the flying programme, causing the cancellation of the World War One fighters, vintage gliders, Lympe Trials machines and the Edwardians. Strong crosswinds at RAF Coningsby also kept the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Dakota on the ground. Still, let’s focus on what did appear, and kudos to the Shuttleworth Collection for adding a number of aircraft which are less susceptible to the wind to the programme.
Kicking off proceedings in fantastic style was Peter Teichman in Hangar 11’s P-51D Mustang ‘Jumpin’ Jacques’. Warbirds are always good value at Old Warden and Peter’s display showed the aeroplane off perfectly. Very welcome was the extended routine, to make up for the loss of the EON Primary Glider. Sadly, Peter couldn’t operate from Old Warden itself, as the runway is still rather soft following the re-seeding over the winter. This hasn’t really set in fully, due to the poor weather in recent months. Hopefully, conditions will soon improve to allow heavier warbird operations.
Unusual formations are a regular Old Warden fixture and this show was no exception. Tracey Curtis-Taylor’s Ryan PT-22 formatted with the Comper Swift in an interesting 1930’s combination. Keith Dennison kept in close formation with the Comper, impressively battling the elements.
Quite possibly a first time pairing was the Polikarpov PO2 and visiting Auster AOP11 in a very impressive sight and sound. Dale Featherby’s routine in the Auster was also spirited, and showed that these aircraft are deceptively agile.
Only at Old Warden would you see the Parnell Elf, Avro Tutor and Blackburn B2 flying as a trio. These are the last flying examples of these types and as unique as you will get. Peter Holloway and Stu Goldpsink displayed the Elf and Tutor respectively for the first time at a public display, whilst BAe Test Pilot John Hurrell aerobatted the B2 with gusto following the formation sequence, albeit rather distantly from the crowd.
Speaking of aerobatics, Little Gransden-based Chris Burkett tore the sky apart in his lively Extra 300S sequence. I hope we see more of Chris this year; he deserves to be seen more widely. This was a terrific display, combining punchy aerobatics with photo-passes, all flown low and close to the crowd.
The final visiting act was another Little Gransden based machine. Boeing Stearman G-AWLO is another rare item at shows and was displayed by Bob Morcon, who has often flown one of the beautiful Spartan Executives at previous Old Warden events. Indeed, I can only recall seeing this machine displaying at Little Gransden in the past.
Shuttleworth always invokes the spirit of the barnstormers and the April Flying Day saw flour bombing, balloon bursting and limbo dancing from intrepid aviators Rob Millinship in the Tiger Moth, Chris Heames in the Super Cub and Clare Tector in the Chipmunk. Later in the show, Chris Huckstep took the Chipmunk aloft again for a spot of toilet roll cutting to fill in the gap caused by the cancellations.
Chris earlier performed a stunning sequence in the Hawker Hind, with a series of low, striking passes along the crowdline. For my money, Sir Sydney Camm may have designed the most beautiful biplanes ever and it is a real privilege that we can still enjoy the likes of Demon, Hind, Nimrod and Fury in the skies.
Making its first public display since 2011 was the Gloster Gladiator. This has been beset with engine problems since April last year, and it was a real joy to watch Chief Pilot Roger Bailey cavort around the air. The Bristol Mercury sounded as smooth as ever and with the Fighter Collection’s example due to take to the skies again imminently, a pair of Gladiators in formation is looking a real prospect this season.
Having been unable to take the EON glider aloft, Willy Hackett contented himself with a lively Piston Provost display, combining higher-level aerobatics with lower-level, close passes to good effect. Punchy and dynamic with a real stage presence, the Provost is the perfect ‘heavy’ fit for Old Warden shows and its display is often a highlight of the Shuttleworth Collection’s shows.
It felt great to be back at Old Warden after six months’ absence, and even better to catch up with so many people again following the off season. Admittedly, it was a relief when the show was over, only because it allowed a chance to thaw out!
Remember, the next event is this Saturday 4 May – the first of the Evening flying displays. Let’s hope conditions are a little calmer to allow the elderly statesmen of the UK airshow scene to get air under their wings.
I’ll be back at the Shuttleworth Collection in June – will you?
no images were found