The Shuttleworth Collection has not been particularly lucky with the airshow weather in 2014. The main shows in August had to be cancelled, and for some other events the sun either did not want to come out or the winds were too strong for some of the aircraft to fly. However, for their Pageant Airshow in September everything went just right! And the DH.88 Comet was finally in the air again!
Where? Old Warden, Biggleswade, UK
The big highlight from every point-of-view at this particular show has been the legendary de Havilland DH.88 “Grosvenor House” G-ACSS. Though the planes might have been better known to the younger visitors as “Bulldog”, the British race plane of Disney’s “Planes” movie, the sleek aircraft is actually the winner of the 1934 MacRobertson International Air Race from Mildenhall to Melbourne“.
After more than a decade of absence from the airshow scene and following repairs and modifications after a mishap landing the Red Racer has been announced by the organizers as the big highlight for the show. After an already exhaustive show highlighting nearly all of Shuttleworth’s airworthy aircraft the Collection’s Chief Pilot “Dodge” Bailey was very hesitant to bring the DH.88 Comet in the air. As Grosvenor House” is very well suited to fly long distances at high speed, it obviously has to struggle with crosswinds during take-off and landing, especially on Old Warden’s relatively short grass runway. But to cut a long story short: the Comet’s show was just amazing: one photo pass after another in splendid evening light left the spectators speechless until the landing, when everybody hold its breath. The silence was not broken until “Dodge” climbed out of the cockpit and received standing ovations!
The Comet stole the show of every other act during the day. Even the Edwardians, usually the closing act on every airshow, were very briefly in the air. And the spectators were not disappointed about the Bristol Boxkite and Avro Triplane coming in to land early as the Red Racer was about to line up.
Amazing in this block was however the English Electric Wren that could somehow just hardly being persuaded by its pilot to do a short hop along the runway. But it worked out so fine that the aircraft was turned back at the end of the runway after the first try for another hop that could even be described as a real flight – amazing what you can do with a 8hp engine!
And just how the day ended it started off as well. With splendid sunshine, and the Hawker Hunter T7 from North Weald buzzing the flightline. It should have been the only performance by a jet-powered aircraft during the day, that was filled with the sound of radial or rotary engines until sunset. Shortly after the Hunter the BBMF (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight) formation of the Hurricane IIc LF363 in the brand-new 1 Squadron paint-scheme and Spitfire IX MK356 came for two short fly-bys.
The WW I displays were also outstanding. Whereas the Triplane was missing after a crash landing earlier that year, the very rare Bristol M1C was in the air as well as the pair of remarkable BE2e replicas, seeming to be endlessly flying up and down the flightline in close formation. During the display it was also announced that these two aircraft will not leave the UK for New Zealand, but will stay in Britain for the future with a newly founded The WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust (WAHT) “providing an enduring flying collection of World War I Allied and German aircraft based in the UK flying from heritage sites”.
The WW II flying saw the usual Shuttleworth-based aircraft Sea Hurricane, Fieseler Storch and the Lysander, with the Gloster Gladiator from Duxford flying in formation with the Collection-owned Gladiator under the title “Mercury Magic”.
Aircraft such as the Desoutter, Comper Swift, ANEC and Blackburn B2 or de Havilland Chipmunk are amongst the regulars at Old Waren and were of course also brought out during that sunny day.
In the end the Pageant show in September 2014 was a five hour long lasting display, making good use of great British weather and presenting some of Britain’s best aircraft in the air. It will be hard to beat this show in the near future, but the red Comet Racer is for sure set to be the highlight for any of the next Events.
And after more than a handful of airshow attendances at this nice place in the English countryside I am very tempted to say that this was the best show ever I have been able to witness at the airfield in Old Warden!
Shuttleworth – Best of British! You can find out anything about Shuttleworth Collection airshows on their website www.shuttleworth.org