Report and photography by Wayne Bennett
The Fly Navy airshow is a celebration of naval aviation from its earliest days up to the 1960’s and was hosted once again in 2017 by the Shuttleworth Trust at their Old Sarum airfield.
The omens didn’t look great for the 2017 show as there were several high profile withdrawals due to unforeseen circumstances before the show, not least of which was the well publicised landing accident that may well have ended the flying career of the De Havilland Sea Vixen a few weeks earlier.
Even during the fly-in, in the morning, misfortune struck when Supermarine Seafire LF Mk.III, PP972, G-BUAR, suffered a hard landing which caused it to be withdrawn from the flying display scheduled for the afternoon.
If this sounds like doom and gloom, it isn’t, as such is the sheer brilliance of Shuttleworth, the absences were barely felt in what is always a thoroughly enjoyable day out.
Shuttleworth is much more than a flying display, because the gates open at 9am and flying doesn’t commence until 2pm, you have plenty of time to explore the whole site and not miss anything.
The hangars are a treasure trove of aviation history where you can view everything from the pristine 1909 Bleriot XI, through to the 1930’s racing pair, the Percival Mew Gull, a replica of the one Alex Henshaw flew solo to Capetown, and the restored original DH88 Comet that won the 1934 MacRobertson Trophy race from England to Australia, and much more besides.
Among the other attractions prior to the actual flying display you can explore the house and gardens, enjoy period live music, this year it was a Glenn Miller style band, and view vintage vehicles prior to their own parade. You can even get around the grounds courtesy of free rides on a pristine Edwardian era vintage Leyland bus.
The air display itself was preceded by the vintage vehicle rally which passed in procession in front of the assembled display aircraft. This featured the original Jowett which was the first car to be bought by Shuttleworth Collection founder Richard Shuttleworth back in the 1930’s, the later flying display would also feature his first aeroplane, a DH Moth, which holds the record for the oldest aircraft to be registered at one base continuously anywhere in the world. Another noteworthy exhibit was a steam driven car of the 1890’s!
Hawker Sea Hurricane Z7105 then opened up a very varied and entertaining flying display featuring various Naval themed aircraft from both Great Britain and the United States plus ‘guest appearances’ by various land-based and even civil aircraft, variants of which would also be used by the navy, such as the glosser Gladiator (Malta’s famous ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ were Sea Gladiators) and the Avro Anson which was operated as a coastal patrol bomber in the early part of the war. Among the types featured with a direct naval connection, were the Consolidated Catalina and Grumman F8F Bearcat representing the US Navy, while the various machines with a Royal Navy connection to be flown included everything from the 1914 Bristol Scout through to todays Leonardo Wildcat. More than a century of naval flying remembered on a grass field in Bedfordshire.
One of the major attractions of the flying at Shuttleworth is how close the aircraft actually are, compared to some other shows in this post-Shoreham era we are now in. This is particularly impressive with the powerful WW2 era aircraft as they sweep by, but also allows much closer views of the smaller, older aircraft too, as you can see from these shots. If you are interested in vintage aeroplanes, Shuttleworth is the place to go. If you are a photographer too, its even better.