Reach For The Sky veteran E3272

2019 Season Premiere

Shuttleworth Collection. Old Warden Aerodrome, Bedfordshire

Words and Pictures by Wayne Bennett

After a long, cold and mainly dark winter, airshow season is back! Sunday 4th May saw Inflight Media in attendance at the Shuttleworth Season Premiere airshow, which is rapidly becoming our customary way to blow off the cobwebs after the winter lay-off.

Although conditions were quite cloudy for the show, there was plenty of light even though photography would prove quite challenging, especially later on, as you will see in the gallery. I’m certain that everyone there who wasn’t worrying about photography was having a whale of a time! As is usual here, there was much to occupy visitors in the morning before flying commenced.

Entertainment before the show was also provided by Roger Blighty with his biplane bicycle Betsy Blue. Betsy was reportedly built after several failed attempts to obtain a pilots license and looks hilarious as it performs ‘low level circuits’ blasting out Ride of the Valkyries or the 633 Squadron theme (a favourite of mine!)

The hangars hosted a wide variety of attractions, such as Brampton IPMS (International Plastic Modellers Society) with an Airfix kit building experience for the youngsters and the Aviation Art competition from the Light Aircraft Association, for 6-17 year olds, and all kinds of attractions including historic aircraft, refreshment areas, stalls and the Bedford Town brass band. Stalls inside the hangars and around the show ground were also in plentiful supply for those wanting to buy books, models or all manner of other memorabilia. Almost unusual by comparison is the lone hangar where some actual aviation work is taking place, with the resident Hawker Demon partly disassembled for maintenance inside it. One unfortunate aircraft on display in the hangar is the Bristol Scout D, currently grounded due to piston ring issues that are proving difficult to resolve.

A major attraction for this years opening show were Dakota N147DC and Catalina G-PBYA, which both landed on the Old Warden site, impressive enough  for aircraft of their size, and were opened up for visitors to go inside for a modest fee and view their respective interiors. The Dakota is remarkable as being the lowest hour example in the world. With a global type-average airframe usage of 80-90,000 hrs being the norm, N147DC has only 4,000 on the clock! The Catalina, meanwhile, was parked most impressively with its rear fuselage actually overhanging the crowd!

The vintage vehicle parade of cars, commercial vehicles and even cycles from the 19th and early 20th century  provided the customary opening item of the display after lunch while the air display proper was opened with three fast passes from Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire TE311. There then ensued everything you would expect of a display at shuttleworth with aircraft from the First to the Second World War and all the years in between showing their best. One item worthy of note here is the EoN Primary glider trainer and its exposed pilots position, leading our commentator to introduce him to the crowd as ‘the worlds coldest man’.

Due to the inclusion this year of aircraft like the OV-10 Bronco, Bell UH-1 Huey and Cessna Bird Dog, among many similar types, the overall theme of this years display was the Vietnam War, with anecdotes relating to this conflict being spun out in a most entertaining manner for each display aircraft. The most surprising of all of these, perhaps, being the mention of the CIA operating the DH89 Dragon Rapide during that conflict!

As our commentator remarked, there is no show like this anywhere, you see aircraft here that you will see nowhere else, and when he is telling you of the fabulous and daring achievements these aircraft are associated with you often realise with a start that he isn’t merely talking about something achieved by a similar model of this type of aircraft, but the actual one that set the record itself, such is the inestimable historic value of this collection.

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