Warbird Tails Looking Back – June at Old Warden

It’s hard to believe we’re already in June, though for once at least the weather forecast doesn’t look absolutely perfect for flying at the coming weekend.

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This week traditionally hosts the second Sunday airshow of the year at the Shuttleworth Collection. This event has followed a number of themes over the years, most notably in recent years as the Fly Navy show (in 2016/17 & 2018).

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In association with Navy Wings the June shows under the Fly Navy banner were amongst the best shows at Old Warden I can remember. The 2016 event arguably being the best as it was least effected by cancellations. Highlights included a wonderful show opening performance from the Navy Wings DH110 Sea Vixen which also flew with the collection’s Sea Hurricane.

The warbird activity didn’t stop there though, with the Sywell based Seafire III putting on an extended solo display early in the show and an all time airshow highlight three ship sequence from the Fighter Collection in the Bearcat, Wildcat and Corsair in the hands of Brian Smith, Dave Southwood and Pete Kynsey. It was wonderful to see these Duxford based warbirds being put through their paces so well over Old Warden.

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2017 would see the Wildcat and Bearcat return, while 2018 not only had the Wildcat and Corsair both on the flying programme but they also both operated from Old Warden. In the case of the Corsair this was an Old Warden first. Other warbird highlights from the past few shows have been two appearances from Fury II G-CBEL, marked as the prototype Sea Fury and the Navy Wings Sea Fury which displayed in 2018.

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With Navy Wings closely involved in the shows it was unsurprising that a number of associate types of the collection flew, as well as the Swordfish which flew in 2017 and 2018. The wonderful Bristol Scout and a Westland Wasp are other examples of Navy Wings associate machines that took part in the flying display as well.

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Hawker biplanes had a big role in the Fly Navy shows, with 2016 and 2017 featuring three ship performances from both airworthy Nimrod’s and the based Demon. 2018 saw “just” the Demon and Nimrod II flying a wonderfully elegant tail chase routine. One of my biggest hopes for Old Warden when shows can resume is that we get a chance to have the long awaited big gathering of Hawker Biplanes, perhaps once the Hind is in the air again.

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I’ve focused largely on visiting types at the look back at Fly Navy shows as they were certainly a more prominent feature than would be typical. Old Warden is home to plenty of relevant types as well of course with many of the WW1 types having seen naval service and the Gladiator representing the famous Sea Gladiators of Malta and other theatres. That is without mentioning the Collection’s Sea Hurricane of course!

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2018 marked the final Fly Navy show and gave way to the “Flying Festival” event in 2019. As the name suggests this show was designed to provide a wide range of aviation entertainment with no specific theme.

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However a few days before the show the incredible announcement was made that the D-Day Squadron Dakotas/C-47s over from the United States were going to be flying in on the Saturday before the show and flying out during the display.

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This turned the June 2019 display in to easily one of the most impressive events I can remember. The sight of one C-47 on the ground at Old Warden would have been unheard of only a few months earlier (the Aces High example being the first to land at the airfield only a month before) and yet there were no fewer than 7 examples sitting in the Old Warden paddock. The collection opened up the display area and visitors were treated to comfortably the most immersive and interactive viewing experience of these visiting machines, with many aircraft open for tours.

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There was great anticipation as the afternoon went on and the mighty transports started up and positioned to the far side of the airfield for power checks before departing in stream. A wonderful Old Warden highlight.

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The rest of the Flying Festival saw a great line up as well, including the first appearance of the racers at the June show for a while, not fitting in with the Navy theme of more recent years.

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Another “potted history” of a well loved show and fixture in the Calendar then. Hopefully these posts are providing some much needed aviation content during these strange times!

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