Flying displays at the Shuttleworth Collection really are classic events. This is even more valid for their evening displays that usually provide a well balanced selection of the Collection’s extensive collection presented in the last hours of sunlight. And with the wind being mostly calm around that time the chances are high to see the famous Edwardian aircraft doing their circuits over the airfield.
Where? Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden Airfield, Biggleswade, UK
When? 14 July 2018
Shuttleworth’s evening airshow on July, 14th coincided with the big airshow week-end in the UK. In a somehow strange move Shuttleworth, Duxford and Fairford hosted their events and made a difficult choice for the enthusiast. Though aimed at different types of aircraft, this clash was a bit unfortunate. But on the other hand it provided a great opportunity to combine the attendance at any of these shows. With Shuttleworth being only a stone’s throw away from Duxford an early leave from the Flying Legends airshow was just fine to arrive at the Old Warden airfield just in time for the start of the flying display at 6pm.
Picnic time at Shuttleworth!
At that time the parking lot was well filled and people have prepared their tables, chairs and blankets along the fence line. Looking at the progress of their picnic and the already emptied bottles of wine was a clear indication that the major part of the crowd arrived well before and enjoyed a great day out. But the final highlight was yet to come!
Classic Show Openers: Hurricane and Gladiator
Traditionally the Gloster Gladiator and the Hawker Sea Hurricane opened the show, and was followed by the Miles Magister and the Desoutter. Typically for the air displays at Old Warden the aircraft were presented nice and low during excellent passes, low and topside in front of the tree-line that always provides a nice background.
The Blackburn B2 and Chipmunk were up next, with the latter one doing some aerobatic flying and catching ribbons from a pole, thus passing closely to the ground just in front of the spectators. An excellent view and the then finally blue and cloudless sky was the 3-ship formation of the ‘Moth’ biplanes.
WW I: Avro 504K and Bristol Fighter
This was followed by the planes from WWI, always a special favorite of your author. Unfortunately the previously announced types were cut short and from that era only the Avro 504 and the Bristol B2 Fighter took to the air.
WW II: Lysander and the Polikarpov
A quick jump to the era of WWII saw the Westland Lysander and the Polikarpov Po-2 displaying, and it has to be mentioned that very rarely I have seen the Lysander in such a beautiful light. Usually very difficult to photograph in the distinctive black scheme for those clandestine night missions, the low sun was just perfect to get nice photographs of that special airplane.
Pure flying pleasure and the Mew Gull raceplane
At about that time it became clear that the wind was calm enough to fly the Edwardians. As this really takes place with the last rays of sun and sunset was at around 21:15, the gap in between was bridged by the Provost and the Eon Primary SG.38 glider, which must be really adventures to fly as a completely open aircraft without engine. It was released from its towplane at a rather impressive altitude and must be one of, if not the purest way of flying!
If it would not have been enough, the Mew Gull race plane was also sent in the display circuit. Streamlined to the maximum with a rather small fuselage dictated by the engine installation and small wings for high speed one had to wonder about the pilots sight out of the cockpit. But of course he did his job perfectly well and the topside passes were just gorgeous.
Sunset and the Edwardians
After this speedy display the airfield fell silent and only the sound of the Bristol Boxkite’s engine was heard at the Old Warden airfield. It is always a sight to behold when these seemingly fragile constructions take off and fly their pattern. Obviously the pilots have to account for the wind and these machines are flown very very gently around. Though it appears rather dangerous with the pilot sitting at such an exposed position, the enjoy every second of it and seem not wanting to stop. Thoughtful the spectators were gazing at the spectacle of the Boxkite, which was then joined by the Avro Triplane.
After a seemingly endless number of patterns in the sky both planes came back to the ground in the dark. The until the silent airfield changed into an enthusiastic cheer and applause for those brave pilots in their fragile machines. Obviously this also goes to and is than very well earned for everyone at Shuttleworth for keeping those planes alive.
What a perfect airshow moment that was! Shuttleworth really is a special place – and during such a magical evening air display even more so!