The first Shuttleworth Collection airshow of 2018 took place on the 6th May and marked the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force. Weather conditions were absolutely perfect, with strong sunshine and hardly any wind throughout the afternoon.
The static display featured some gems to enjoy before the show, including the Bristol Scout replica, a visiting French Bleriot and two Chipmunks, which included the BBMFs newly restored example. The Collection’s latest restoration took centre stage for the pilots chat with Stu Goldspink guiding his audience through the Spitfire V AR501 which has recently been undergoing initial test flights.
The RAF Celebrations started right with the modern age with the Typhoon display starting the show with an impressive routine above the small confines of Old Warden. The Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight delivered a graceful display with the Avro Lancaster which also flew in a special Avro formation with BAE System’s newly repainted Avro Anson.
The Anson also performed a few formation passes with the Bristol Blenheim, the latter of which was another highlight of the day performing an energetic solo display. There is something truly special about the Blenheim at Duxford, especially in the hands of John Romain. The whole segment of Lancaster to Anson to Blenheim was pure airshow magic and set the bar high for the season, let alone the afternoon!
Other star visiting performances came from two Duxford based Spitfires with Mk IX MH434 and Mk1 N3200. It had been hoped that this show would see the return of the collection’s MKV AR501 but unseasonal wet weather leading up the show prevented test flying being completed. Stu Goldspink and Cliff Spink delivered a graceful pairs performance before breaking off into solo routines. I don’t think any airshow veteran spectator can watch MH434 being put through its paces without remembering the incredible legacy of the Hannas.
Old Warden based aircraft were able to play an important part in telling the story of the RAF. WW1 aviation was well covered with a number of the collection’s aircraft flying. The undoubted highlight of this segment was the debut display from the Collection’s Sopwith Camel replica which looked great in the sky alongside the original SE5a. Jean Munn’s familiar profile in the SE5a made for some memorable low level moments alongside the restrained power of the Camel in the hands of Dodge Bailey. The Camel’s debut gave a great impression of this formidable fighter.
This show was the first time I had opted to watch the show from the very far end of the display line. While you lose the classic “round the bend” moments you do get a fascinating insight into the preparation of the WW1 aircraft. Watching the Camel being prepared for its first flight after waiting so long really was a treat. I’ll be including my thoughts on watching the Camel perform its first display in an upcoming Sopwith feature.
As has now become an Old Warden tradition those in attendance were treated to a dynamic Hawker Hurricane paring combing low level formation passes with high level aerobatic sequences. Both Hurricanes joined the Blenheim for a memorable pass as it departed back for Duxford as well.
There was also a wide range of training aircraft and gliders from throughout the first 100 years of the RAF including a spectacular aerobatic sequence from the Slingsby T21.
As always Old Warden didn’t only opt for the obvious choices and by having the variation of trainers and gliders alongside the headline warbird acts made for a memorable afternoon’s flying.
The perfect finale to the days flying was the chance to see three of the collection’s edwardian aircraft take to the skies. The Bristol Boxkite and Avro Triplane replica flew together before the 1912 Blackburn Monoplane took centre stage. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is no way to end an airshow quite like the Blackburn monoplane, a true gem.
The Collection’s Season Premiere had something for everyone, ranging from the modern day with the Typhoon to an aircraft over 100 years old, there is truly no better place, or way to mark this historic landmark.