Report and photography by Wayne Bennett
Phew! What a scorcher! As the tabloids might say. The first Shuttleworth Evening Airshow of 2018 was blessed with absolutely perfect conditions. A strong selection of the collections’ incredible veteran and vintage aircraft were able to be showcased as the wind stayed away and the sky remained clear and blue for the duration of the display.
The evening airshow is a unique event which combines the usual welcoming and relaxed atmosphere of Shuttleworth with the opportunity to see some of the worlds oldest and rarest aircraft being flown in the beautiful idyllic setting of Old Warden on a warm English summer evening. Perfection.
The gates opened at 12:00 while flying commenced at 18:00 and continued until the very last of the light was gone. If you go to the June event, and the weather plays ball, expect to be at the airfield until around 22:00! This is what enables the pre-WW1 aircraft to be displayed. As the sun sets and the temperature drops a little, there is no thermal activity to disturb their sensitive controls and they can be displayed safely.
If you think six hours is a long wait to see anything flying, don’t worry. There is plenty to keep you occupied in the meantime. Onsite refreshments include cooked meals and even a licensed bar (excellent!) while the other attractions are manifold.
The Shuttleworth house and Swiss garden are well worth a visit and you can be shuttled there and back, free of charge, on an Edwardian double decker motor bus, which is pristine and fabulous. ‘Uncovered’ is the name given to part of the day, before the flying begins, where public access is allowed to the display aircraft and their pilots. You can get up close and personal, take detailed photos and ask questions about the aircraft, which often have interesting individual stories behind them. A favourite of mine is G-ACSS, the De Havilland DH88 Comet that was designed and built for the 1934 Mildenhall to Melbourne air race and won it. Having been converted to a static exhibit and hung from the ceiling for the 1951 Festival of Britain, it took a massive effort and many years to restore this stunningly beautiful aeroplane to flying condition. The rest of the collection is available to view in the various hangars on site too
The days flying was preceded by two different vintage vehicle displays, comprising some of the collections own vehicles, bolstered by some visiting vehicles from the 1066 Country Classic Car Club, a few of which are shown in the gallery.
Following this the airshow programme was opened by three flypasts from the BBMF Lancaster, with one of the crew, appropriately for the day, giving us a ‘royal wave’ from the cockpit, then the Spitfire and Hurricane followed up with joint and individual displays. These are the Shuttleworth Collection’s own aircraft and Spitfire Vc AR501 was making its show debut following a lengthy restoration. This aircraft in particular gave a very spritely and impressive display.
More sedate was the next item on the menu, a beautiful three ship formation comprising the Desoutter I, DH60X Moth and Southern Martlet. All three are unique aeroplanes and the Moth holds the world record for being based at the same airfield for the longest time, having been resident at Old Warden continuously since 1932. The Martlet in this trio was once the personal mount of FG Miles himself, the founder of Miles Aircraft and himself the producer of some of Britains finest aircraft.
The evening continued with many more rare and historic aircraft, while part of the display featured a ‘Barnstorming’ section where a Tiger Moth, Magister, Super Cub and Chipmunk competed in various challenges which included ballon bursting, flour bombing and aerial limbo. It was all great fun and I’m not entirely sure who the winner was at the end of it.
After an ‘interlude’ where the crowd were treated to an aerobatic display from a visiting Pitts S2 the evening moved on to the first world war section. Possibly the most impressive aircraft of all, being examples and reproductions (in every minute detail) of aircraft that fought a world war a century ago. Powered by genuine rotary engines and emitting the authentic smell of burn castor oil, the Sopwith Triplane and camel were a highlight for me. The promised Edwardian aircraft then rounded off the show with the Blackburn Monoplane and Deperdussin being of particular interest.
And so the curtain came down on a thoroughly enjoyable evening of classic aircraft. I cant wait to do it all again next month!