Airshow Moments 2020 – “Planes Movie Tribute” Piper Pawnee/ DH88 Comet at Old Warden

2020 has been full of surprises, I think we can all agree with that!

One such surprise was the inclusion of a pairs display slot from a Piper Pawnee and de Havilland DH88 Comet at the second drive in airshow at Old Warden in August. It’s not the most obvious duo, one of the most beautiful aircraft ever designed and well….


More familiar too many as a glider tug, having made a few appearances over the year as part of the glider FX team, I am not sure a Piper Pawnee has publically displayed in it’s own right at a UK airshow before (though I’m happy to be corrected). I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the airframe as it’s heritage as a crop duster/agricultural machine is something of an alien concept in the UK these days.

Screen Shot 2020-12-13 at 14.01.40

All became clear though with a bit of a “memory jog” as the flying programme was announced on the day. Some of you may have seen Disney’s “Planes” cartoon from 2015, which stars a crop-dusting aeroplane with ambitions of winning a round the world air race! The Pawnee certainly captures the starring role well and was even fitted with “eyes” as windscreen covers whilst on static display ahead of the show.


As the meaning for the pairing was announced it occurred to me that I’ve long maintained the collection could certainly make more of the Comet’s links to the film, particularly with younger visitors. The Comet takes on the role of “Bulldog” in the film, voiced by John Cleese if I remember correctly. A fine choice for a machine for a round the world race of course!

Screen Shot 2020-12-13 at 14.01.56

The display itself as a pairing was, unsurprisingly, short-lived as the Pawnees top speed is probably a little low for the Comet’s liking so it was limited to a single pass. The sight of the Pawnee forming up with the Comet behind the airfield was a great novelty though, it must be said. Both machines then flew equally graceful displays and the sight of the Pawnee going round the bend at Old Warden was certainly a one-off! Apologies for the lack of pairs shots in this post, I said it was short-lived!

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