Following all the festivities of Christmas it was a nice change of pace to travel up to Old Warden for a mid-winter event at the Shuttleworth Collection. The Engineering Open Weekend has been run for a few years now and has built in popularity in each year. This year certainly seemed to draw a bumper crowd, with parking at a premium on the day I attended (Saturday).
This event provides the public with unique access to the collection’s engineering workshop hangar, in which the usual museum barriers were removed. This allowed the public to walk amongst the rare aircraft undergoing maintenance in the hangar, including the collection’s Spitfire, Lysander and English Electric Wren.
The Spitfire, AR501, has been under restoration to fly since the aircraft last displayed with the collection over a decade ago. This project is now entering the final stages with both wings and fuselage now painted, though void of squadron codes. Great access was given to the Spitfire project with stairs available for a look in the cockpit and parts such as the seat and undercarriage, which have not yet been installed, were on display around the aircraft.
The Lysander was a notable absentee for the 2015 airshow season, due to corrosion found in the landing gear spar. As a result of this the aircraft could not be flown and spent much of the last year at the back of the workshop. With the airshow season over work started in performing the work needed to get the Lysander flying again. At the the engineering event the Lysander could be seen without its undercarriage, an unusual sight! Work is progressing well on this project and the Lysander is on the list for the first show of 2016, so fingers crossed!
Alongside these major restoration projects the Collection’s Bristol fighter was also on display with the Cowlings off, allowing up close examination of the Rolls Royce Falcon Engine up front.
Two non-collection aircraft completed the line up, in the shape of the Bremner brothers’ Bristol Scout and the Battle of Britain veteran Hawker Hurricane R4118.
While the aircraft are a major part of the event it is really the people who make the event shine. Collection Pilots, Engineers and staff were all on hand to answer any questions and happy to chat about the aircraft in their care. The Bristol Scout and Hurricane teams were also in attendance and were kept busy by plenty of interested members of the public throughout the day.
It was my pleasure to meet David Bremner from the Bristol Scout and Matt from the R4118 team, both more than happy to talk about their aircraft and Shuttleworth in general.
Alongside the aircraft in the hangar there were also number of the collections vintage vehicles on show outside, many of which carried out demonstrations throughout the weekend.
As well as the special events in the workshop hangar, the rest of the extensive collection was also open throughout the weekend. It is always a pleasure to wander around the famous hangars and take in some familiar sights. A notable highlight from the other hangars was Peter Holloway’s latest acquisition, a very shiny Ryan ST-A, I look forward to seeing this fly soon. There was also the opportunity to see the progress made on the Sopwith Camel and Triplane, both have moved on considerably since last years event.
Though the planned Hurricane engine run didn’t go ahead, visitors on the Saturday were treated to an aerobatic display from a Pitts Special in the hands of Stu Goldspink, a welcome surprise on a murky Saturday!
The engineering open weekend was an excellent event, it provides a much needed opportunity for enthusiasts during the long months of the off season and gives the people and stories behind operating these aircraft well deserved time in the spotlight.