The Shuttleworth Collection’s Race Day and Roaring 20s airshow made for a fitting finale to the 2016 season with a great theme and an impressive selection of aircraft.
Building on previous years Race Day events 2016 saw the automotive side of racing take more of the spotlight. This year saw the first run of the “Shuttleworth Sprint” which saw a large number of vintage road and racing cars run down the runway. This sprint gave the public in attendance a great feel for these wonderful old machines. My personal highlight was the Curtiss aero engined machine, pictured below. It is powered by an engine from a Curtiss Jenny, a rare sight this side of the atlantic.
The pilot chats at Old Warden are always well worth attending and the October instalment proved to be one of the best. First we were treated to a brief history of the DH88 Comet from David Beale, builder of the Mew Gull replica before Paul Stone gave a fascinating account on handling this classic racer which provided an excellent update to Dodge Bailey’s account at the 2014 season when the Comet had done much less flying then it has now. Paul Stone was able to provide an account of taking the Comet on it’s first “away days” since its return to flight and the challenges of navigating through the busy airspace close to Farnborough. This was followed by an equally immersive talk by David Beale on flying the Mew Gull.
The Hangar 11 collection’s P-51D Mustang marked the start of the flying display and performed a typically graceful aerobatic display over the airfield in the hands of Peter Teichman. The Mustang took on the role the modified warbirds that take part in the unlimited class at the Reno Air Races every year. This appearance was very special as Col George Hardy, this airframe’s wartime pilot and a Tuskegee Airmen was on the ground watching the display.
Alongside the more popular unlimited class, F1 racing still plays a prominent part at Reno and other air races around the world. The Race Day show saw three examples of F1 racing aircraft. Leading the pack was a current F1 racer, the Taylor Titch, followed by Shuttlworth regular Cosmic Wind “Ballerina” and a Midget Mustang.
The three diminutive machines flew a race track pattern around the airfield with the Midget Mustang performing some thrilling low level passes. The F1 section concluded with Pete Kynsey putting on his trademark aerobatic display in the Cosmic Wind, reminding those in attendance that this little aircraft can do much more than air racing.
There were two more formal air races throughout the day the first of which saw the slower aircraft in the line-up take to the skies. The first race saw the Hawker Tomtit, DH60 Moth, Fox Moth, the rarely seen Sywell based Miles Messenger and the Comper Swift each launch in turn using the handicap system.
The second race of the day was a much higher paced event with some unusual groupings. This saw the Spartan Executive, Taylor Titch, Cosmic Wind, Mew Gull and Hurricane perform a dynamic battle around the track. The sight of a Hurricane and Mew Gull battling for position has to be one of the vintage aviation highlights for a number of years, an inspired idea!
After the second race Hurricane Heritage’s Hurricane broke off into a flowing solo routine as we were reminded of the Hurricane’s racing heritage (one of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s examples flew in races in the 1950s).
Other light aircraft highlights came from the Calidus Auto Gyro, a de Havilland Moth tribute and the first time three Chilton racers have been seen together which provided another unique highlight.
After the previous two shows had seen high winds preventing most of the WW1 aircraft getting into the air it was a great relief to see the SE5a lifting off from the runway in the autumn sunlight. The real highlight of this segment came with the first airshow appearance for the Sopwith Dove replica since the 1990s the sight of this stylish civilian Sopwith in the fading sunshine was a real positive note to end the season on and gave a great impression of an aircraft that will hopefully be a regular performer in 2017.
No racing themed show at Old Warden could ever be complete without the DH88 Comet. This year the crowd were treated to two displays from the iconic racer. An early afternoon display slot saw the Comet lead David Beale’s Mew Gull around in a close formation pairs display before breaking each aircraft broke off into powerful solo routines.
The Comet was rolling down the runway again after the visiting aircraft had departed leading the MacRobertson race tribute. This saw a selection of types representing machines which completed the great air race to Australia in 1934. The collection’s Comet won the race and naturally took the lead. The Comet was joined by the Dragon Rapide, Dessouter, Puss Moth, Miles Falcon and Miles Magister. Following the race demonstration the Comet performed a touch and go before performing a stunning solo display in the warm glow of an autumn sunset, an incredible finale to a wonderful airshow and a special season.
Though the Comet’s display certainly had a final act feel to it, conditions still allowed the Avro 504 to get into the air so the final note of the 2016 season was the graceful sight of a rotary powered aircraft circling the airfield, magic!
Another Shuttleworth show that proves that a well crafted theme can lift an airshow to another level. The Race Day show was especially uncompromising in this aspect, a number of classic collection aircraft were rightly omitted from this show in order to deliver a theme where almost every aircraft fitted. A fitting close to 2016 and here’s to more of the same in 2017.