As the season draws to a close there is the usual sense of desperation to see as much flying as you can before everything gets put away for the long winter ahead. Well, there is for me at least. It was said desperation that led to leaving for an airshow 2 hours away, which had a reported cloud base of 200ft and poor visibility.
It was forecast to have cleared by 3 o’clock, an hour and a half before flying got underway, though it didn’t really start improving until about an hour after the show started.
Arriving at Old Warden we made the most of the atmosphere, watching the engineers get aircraft out of hangars and on to the flightline as well as taking a walk through the hangars.
We weren’t really expecting to see much, given the conditions, but sure enough at half past four the familiar sound of the Kestrel engine filled the air. The beautiful Hawker Demon performed a solo display to start proceedings.
We had been due, earlier in the week to see the Hawker trio of Hind, Demon and the Fighter Collection’s Nimrod. However the Hind appeared to have tech issues and the Nimrod was, I assume weathered in at Duxford, but it must be said, at no point did it feel like anything was missing.
The unbelievable Fauvel AV-36 flying wing glider followed. Given the cloud base, I assumed it would remain on tow for a few passes before releasing to land. So you can imagine the surprise when the aircraft was released from tow and launched into a full aerobatic routine with countless tight loops and rolls as it came back down to earth. A surreal experience in the gloomy conditions, especially as where we were standing was so quiet that all we could hear was the faint whistling coming from the glider.
Next was the barnstorming section, I must admit this is one Shuttleworth act that I have never fully engaged with, perhaps as it was such a regular feature at the early shows I attended. But I hadn’t seen it for a few years so kept my mind open.
To my surprise the Hawker Tomtit lined up with the Magister and Chipmunk, which then went on to perform the usual tricks of flour bombing, balloon bursting and of course “limbo” flying. Certainly something I never thought I would see the Tomtit doing! An inspired choice.
Then came the heavy’s of the display, with both the Sea Hurricane and Lysander putting in excellent low level displays. It is always fitting to see the Lysander display at twilight, given its wartime role as night-time “spy taxi.” It was also nice to see the Lysander showing its slow flying capabilities as it climbed for height mid display, not a part of its flight envelope often seen at shows.
A mid show surprise came in the form of the Bucker Jungmeister pair, putting in a tight formation display followed by two solo routines. The latter of which was jaw-droppingly good, with tight low level loops, stall turns and flick rolls, undoubtedly the highlight of the evenings flying.
Then came the unique pairing of Polikarpov Po-2 performing a low level display, with the Piston Provost performing aerobatics overhead. It was fortunate that the cloud ceiling lifted throughout the display allowing a “two tiered” display to happen.
The First World War types took up most of the final half hour. With the Avro 504, Bristol F2b, M1c, Sopwith Pup and SE5A displaying.
The stars of this segment were the Pup and SE5A, performing a number of close formation passes, it was the first time I have seen the collections early aircraft so close.
It was a case of “and now for something completely different” to wrap the show up for the night, in the form of a “little and large” display. This consisted of an Extra 300S displaying with a 40% scale model of itself.
A unique synchronized routine; making good use of perspective to trick the eye into thinking there were two full size aircraft displaying, a fitting finale and nice to see something different in the Old Warden Skies.
Oh and during this display we did get the first and last sighting of the sun at this “sunset” display, so that’s something!
Overall, another great display from Shuttleworth and full credit to all the pilots for going up in such challenging conditions and putting on a great show as well!
With more details on the Shuttleworth Collection at http://www.shuttleworth.org.