A Day At the Races – Shuttleworth’s Fantastic Finale

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWith IWM Duxford deciding to not hold an October air display this year; Old Warden was left with the final word in the 2014 season. This year a racing theme was the order of the day.

The Shuttleworth team certainly took the racing theme and ran with it, with most variations on air racing you could think of being well presented.

Even before the show began, Old Warden was already buzzing with activity. Brookland’s museum had brought a number of vintage racing cars to the event, which took part in the usual vehicle parade, there was also live music and even a full buffet lunch with food from each of the countries of the MacRobertson race!

The highlight of the pre-show entertainment for me was the pilots chat from Dodge Bailey about flying the DH88 Comet. Since its return to flight I was hoping a flight-test style article would appear in one of the magazines, yet here I was hearing an account on flying the aircraft from the man himself!

A fascinating half an hour followed with Dodge telling us the history of the aircraft as well as his thoughts on its handling, before letting the audience ask questions. Some of the answers, especially those regarding approach speeds of 100mph over the hedge, were quite eye opening!

Dodge Bailey giving a talk on the DH88.

Dodge Bailey giving a talk on the DH88.

Following an excellent large-scale model display, the main show began with the fastest aircraft of the day. Flying in from North Weald was the Hunter T7, following on from previous Old Warden appearances the aircraft put on an impressive display, close in to the crowd with tight aerobatics.

Hunter T7 During its display.

Hunter T7 During its display.

This was followed by the Fauvel AV-36, always a show stopper, the unique flying wing glider once again left the audience speechless as it looped and rolled its way down to earth with its distinct whistle.

Making a welcome return in what was, I believe, his first Old Warden appearance this year, was Peter Teichman, in his Mustang “Jumping Jacques”, Peter put on his usual routine combining low and fast passes with graceful aerobatic maneuvers.

The mustang’s appearance could also be seen as a quiet nod to the warbird based unlimited class at Reno Air Races, which was a nice touch.

Peter Teichman gets airborne in his P-51D

Peter Teichman gets airborne in his P-51D

Following the Mustang was one of the most impressive sequences I have seen at an airshow, the next hour of the display was filled with unique historic racers.

Starting with a re-enactment of the Mac Robertson air race, led by the DH88 Comet, the rest of the aircraft were then launched in the order they started the race in. The Comet then came round for a couple of passes down the line, followed by, a Dragon Rapide, Desoutter, Puss Moth, Miles Falcon and a Miles Hawk.

After a couple of these “laps” the Comet then joined downwind and performed a touch and go, to signify its win in the race. The rest of the participants then followed it down.

DH88 Makes a pass along the crowd line.

DH88 Makes a pass along the crowd line.

Dragon Rapide landing with another in the foreground.

Dragon Rapide landing with another in the foreground.

Once the remaining aircraft were down, Dodge Bailey brought the Comet back in for a wonderful solo display, showing the aircraft off perfectly with some nice steep wingovers thrown in, finishing with a low pass along the cross runway before disappearing into the hold.

Then came another special moment, a loose formation of the Comet, two Mew Gulls and the Vans RV7, which broke Alex Henshaw’s Mew Gull record, came screaming across the airfield as if sprinting for the finish, the roar of all those gypsy R engines together was magnificent.

The two Mew Gulls waiting for their display slot.

The two Mew Gulls waiting for their display slot.

The two Mew Gulls during their display.

The two Mew Gulls during their display.

This was followed by a number of three-ship passes from the Mews and the RV7, before the Vans split into a short solo routine. This impressive segment was brought to a close by the two Mew Gulls, performing first in formation, before flying a number of very fast passes down the runway.

I can honestly say that the whole segment, in which the Comet was in the air for about 50 minutes, was one of the most exciting and unique ideas an airshow has presented for a number of years!

Following this was an excellent World War 2 trio formation, led by the Westland Lysander, with the Gladiator and  Sea Hurricane on each wing, another sign that the organisers were really thinking of the theme when putting the show together.

While the Lysander and Gladiator have no racing pedigree I’m aware of, Hurricanes were certainly used in races post war.

The Gladiator rolling out after its display.

The Gladiator rolling out after its display.

The Sea Hurricane getting airborne.

The Sea Hurricane getting airborne.

After the WW2 section, it was time to look at F1 racing, a formula devised in the 60s with a number of aircraft being purpose built, although the Cassutt Racer and Midget Mustang were missing from the advertised line up, the Taylor Titch and Cosmic wind performed an excellent mock F1 race over Shuttleworth, showing the speed and agility of these aeroplanes.

The star display of the day came from Pete Kynsey in his Cosmic Wind, often seen displaying at Duxford it was great to see this display close up, with countless vertical rolls and fast and low loops, an excellent demonstration in a unique aeroplane.

The Lympe trials were represented too, with the Hawker Cygnet and English Electric Wren putting in great performance. This display was enhanced by the addition of a 60% scale model of the Wren, which gave the interesting opportunity to view the Wrens shape performing in a way I doubt the Wren ever could. It would be great to see this become a recurring feature at Old Warden.

Then the “main event” of the racing theme came, with the “mock” 1930s air race, though I don’t think it stayed mock very long! A host of 1930s era aircraft, from the DH60X up to the stunning Spartan executive, took part, all being flagged off at different times depending on their handicap.

This was an exhilarating spectacle, especially once the Spartan was launched a number of laps into the race, which then proceeded to carve through the field in a matter of laps, again, an inspired decision by those in charge to include the race.

The air race unfolds over Old Warden.

The air race unfolds over Old Warden.

Following the air race it was time for the World War 1 aircraft, there were only two booked for this show, which I thought strange in the build up.

All became clear however when it was pointed out that the two in question, the SE5a and the Bristol M1C, were both used as racing aeroplanes following the war, another example of attention to detail!

The show was closed by an Edge aerobatic aeroplane, which performed a free style aerobatic display across the Bedfordshire skies. This aircraft is similar to those currently used in the Red Bull Air Races, so another well thought out booking.

As always with Old warden, the show isn’t over until the sun has gone down. After the visiting aircraft had departed, we were treated to the rare sight of not 2, but 4 Edwardians flying!

The Avro Triplane During its display.

The Avro Triplane During its display.

The Bristol Boxkite takes to the skies.

The Bristol Boxkite takes to the skies.

Usually only the Boxkite and Avro Triplane display, being modern replicas and slightly better performers. But as the conditions were so perfect, the Blackburn monoplane and Deperdussin were both rolled out onto the airfield as well.

The Blackburn performed a wonderful routine in the evening skies circling high above the airfield.

The 1912 Blackburn Monoplane on final approach.

The 1912 Blackburn Monoplane on final approach.

Then it was time for the even rarer occurrence to bring an end to proceedings, the Deperdussin performed a series of brief hops along the runway, after years of coming to Old warden I’m sure this is only the first time I’ve seen this aeroplane actually fly.

The Blackburn rests after its display as the Deperdussin flies past.

The Blackburn rests after its display as the Deperdussin flies past.

All in all this show was a wonderful way to end a memorable season, Shuttleworth managed to stage a unique event with a very different theme, taking the brave move of not relying on the more famous aircraft to fill a line-up and displaying a number of rarely seen machines.

Once again I’d like to share some of Peter Baughan’s videos from the show.

Full credit  goes to Peter and the Shuttleworth Collection.

More can be found at http://vimeo.com/harrierdigital.

With more details on the Shuttleworth Collection at http://www.shuttleworth.org.

Don’t forget you can follow Warbird Tails on Twitter and Facebook.

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