The 2015 airshow season was shocked by the crash of a Hawker Hunter at the Shoreham airshow last August, which resulted in eleven people losing their lives. This unfortunate event sent a shockwave across the aviation community and an immediate investigation was launched by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA introduced new measures of safety for future airshows, which would come into effect for the 2016 airshow season. These new safety protocols have to be met by the airshow organisers.
The team at the Shuttleworth Collection have naturally abided by the new safety measures, by building a new fence along the original flight line, to compensate for the new display line that the slowest aircraft can perform at. Previously it was set at 75 metres, now it is double the distance at 150 metres. Aircraft that have speeds above 150 knots display at the 230 metre line. This has unfortunately meant that the closeness you felt with the aircraft at Old Warden is not what it used to be.
With that being said, Shuttleworth still has that special feeling. You will not find any other place on this planet to see such rare and unique aircraft fly. This is supported by the fact the Season Premiere Airshow was a complete sell out.
I was surprised to see the number of cars already parked up when I arrived at 9am. Spectators of the show had already started filling up the front of the flight line. The cars kept rolling into the car park, who were marshalled and guided exceptionally well into the venue. The crowd continued to grow over the next few hours, with the flight line now beginning to become very busy.
The weather as expected was glorious sunshine and remained throughout the day (my sunburn can definitely back that up!). With plenty of trading stalls and the hangars open for people to wander around, and take in the sights that Old Warden has to offer, there was a real buzz to the atmosphere and you could see everyone was enjoying themselves taking the opportunity to get close to the aircraft that were sitting out in the sun.
The organisers had a vast and varied range of aircraft scheduled to display. From the famous Edwardians to the modern day world-renowned Red Arrows. Of those scheduled to fly, the following aircraft were sadly declined to perform due to heavy winds. The Avro Triplane, Deperdussin, Blackburn Monoplane, Sopwith Pup, Bristol M1c, Avro 504k, De Havilland DH88 Comet and the Percival Mew Gull were all victims to the strong winds. However there was still plenty of action to be had from some great participants.
The air display kicked off with the P-40M Kittyhawk of the Hangar 11 Collection flown by Peter Teichman. This particular aircraft was used in the filming of the World War Two film “Red Tails”. A film that is about African-American pilots who flew for the USAAF. They are known as the Tuskegee Airmen. This display by the P-40 was the first to use the newly implemented display line. Although it may have seemed to be fairly distant compared to previous airshows at Old Warden, it was still a very good performance. Some photographers whose lenses weren’t above the 300mm mark may feel hard done by this. But regardless of how big your lens is, it doesn’t detract from what was a great display. A good opening to what would be a really splendid day of flying.
The second act to perform was the Polikarpov Po.2, a Russian World War Two biplane: a lovely unique aircraft to see fly in the skies of the UK, and proudly put in a pleasant display. This was followed by a unique and agile looking glider, the Fauvel AV-36 Glider. Looking at this glider on the ground you wouldn’t think it was capable of performing such tight loops and turns, but I was happily to be proven wrong when she was being displayed, and showing the crowd how agile she is. There really is no other place in the world to see such unique flying instruments.
Up next was the commonly known trainer from World War Two, the T-6 Harvard from Kennet Aviation. A lovely looking livery is painted on this aircraft that blends in well with a lovely blue sky for the background for those enjoy taking their photos. Back to the skies after an absence was the Westland Lysander. A lovely looking aircraft that graces the skies when she performs. The Lysander was used during the Second World War to drop off, and pick up agents that were on a mission, mainly in occupied France. The reason for this is that the Westland Lysander had a great Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) performance, meaning that it could be flown into enemy territory and use small, or sometimes unprepared runways. It was the ideal role for the Lysander. It’s great to see her back flying where she belongs.
The very light and dainty Fiesler Storch quietly took off and started its performance. Demonstrating the capabilities it possesses against the troublesome wind that was still present at Old Warden Aerodrome. This is a beauty to watch, as it’s another aeroplane than can perform the STOL very well, it’s very quiet and it has incredible agility.
Up next was the inspiring and patriotic Royal Air Force aerobatic display team, the Red Arrows. In they came all nine Hawks about to perform their display. The Red Arrows require designated air space enable to perform their display. Despite the weather being glorious sunshine which allows the Reds to perform their full display routine, were only permitted to a rolling display due to the air space required for Luton airport.
The Red Arrows are known for their tight and close formation flying. It was their first display of the 2016 airshow season, and with it they brought in new manoeuvres such as the “Shotgun” and “Tornado”. Last years “Revolution” manoeuvre has been renamed “Winkle Brown” after the late Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown who sadly passed away earlier in the year. The Reds always put on a great display wherever they go and everything was going according to plan until a helicopter, later confirmed to be a Gazelle, entered the Red Arrows’ designated air space. This incident sadly meant that the Reds had to stop their performance in order to prevent a possible collision with the Gazelle helicopter. Whilst the Red Arrows reformed and began their run in for the final show piece, Squadron Leader Mike Ling (Red 10) had reassured the crowd and notified them that pilot of that helicopter should have read and abided by his NOTAM, Notice to Airmen. Pilots receive a notice in their cockpits to alert them of any potential hazards on their route or location that can affect their safety. Red 10 stressed to the crowd that we should pass on the message to anyone who knows pilots that they should always check the NOTAM, so all of you pilots out there, make sure you check your NOTAM. Otherwise you may find nine very irritated red Hawks passing by.
After the Red Arrows regrouped, and made their presence felt to the pilot of the Gazelle. They headed towards the crowd for their finale break. A great day for everyone to see the Red Arrows again at Shuttleworth for the first time in over 30 years.
Throughout the day the spectators were given some unique formation flying. One of these formations was a four ship display, made up of a Tiger Moth, Blackburn B2, Miles Magister and Ryan ST-A. This was a pleasant formation, and sums up what the Shuttleworth Collection is all about.
The next formation to flight would be a 1930’s fighter formation. This consisted of the Hawker Demon, Gloucester Gladiator and Hawker Hurricane R4118, the sole surviving Hurricane of the Battle of Britain. After a flypast they broke off one by one to perform a solo display each, the Demon and Gladiator put on a good solid show. Then everyone had their cameras ready to take photos of the lovely top wing passes that was provided by the Hurricane. Peter Davies was up next on the schedule to fly the Calidus Autogyro, a gyrocopter. A nice little machine that has great manoeuvrability. Peter always puts on a show wherever he performs.
Many of the First World War aircraft are subjected to appear depending on the weather conditions, as previously mentioned. Wind is a particular factor, listed above are the aircraft couldn’t fly that day however the crowd were given the wonderful sights of the Bristol F2.b and the Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a. One by one they took to this skies over Old Warden and performed a display routine each. The displays from both aircraft were gently flown, with some amazing top side passes to show off the wings of these great biplanes.
Another glider introduced itself into the Season Premiere Airshow. This time it was a more dramatic piece of flying, with plenty of loops, barrel rolls, and tight turns. On the tips of the wings the crowd was treated to smoke, orange smoke to match the livery of the Lunak glider. After the performance she landed softly on the grass and the next act was soon to step up.
The Global Stars took to the stage, made up of four British champion pilots. Mark Jefferies was in control of the Extra 330SC, Tom Cassels flew the Extra 300L, Chris Burkett piloted the Extra 300S, and finally Steve Carver controlled the Extra 260. They had a special smoke system attached to their aircraft, the “Dotty Smoke” system. This system adds a different yet effective way of dispensing the smoke. It creates short bursts of smoke instead of one continuous streak. This undoubtedly makes them and their routine stand out from other aerobatic teams, to that of those around the UK and around the world. It’s safe to say a group of four British champion pilots certainly put on a good show.
The Shuttleworth Collections very own Avro Anson took to the skies to do a solo display. Shortly after the Bristol Blenheim opened up the throttle and took off to join the Anson and form up, for what was a very unique flypast. The crowd at Shuttleworth were delighted to see such a lovely sight of two beautiful twin engine aircraft, and then there was the sound of them as they both roared past with the sun behind the crowd, it gave them a great chance to capture this moment forever. A fantastic display by the Blenheim shortly followed. She was flown extremely well and really showcased the aircraft and got the 2016 airshow season at Shuttleworth off to a brilliant start.
Overall with everything involved, in terms of organisation, car parks, trade stalls etc. the new safety measures set out by the CAA, which have caused controversy over the last few months and many airshow goers will be unhappy with the new display line, particularly some photographers as the aircraft didn’t fly as close as previous shows; they will have to deal with the fact that aircraft are going to be further out. Don’t get disheartened by this as the airshow at Old Warden was brilliant.
Please go to the airshows you love and go and support all the charities, enjoy the days out your with family and friends and above all else, go and help maintain the aircraft we love to see fly in our skies.
Roy Gore is a UK based amateur aviation photographer. He runs Gore Photography. and his work can be viewed on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.