Shuttleworth Fly Navy Airshow 2017 Review

My second show of the season was one again at Old Warden for the Shuttleworth Fly Navy Airshow where the flying revolves around the theme of naval aviation. It was unfortunate that several significant aircraft could not attend including the Sea Vixen due to a belly up landing a few weeks prior as well as the Skyraider, Corsair and Swordfish. Despite these cancellations the show was a great success with some great flying displays although the weather was a quite grey and cloud for a lot of the day and too windy for the delicate Edwardians.

There was a small but impressive navy themed static display in the paddock and on the flightline including some modern rotary types such as the imposing Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin HM Mk. 2 from 824 Naval Air Squadron and one of the Royal Navy’s newest helicopters, the Agusta-Westland AW159 Wildcat HMA.2 from 825 Naval Air Squadron. The Gazelle Squadron also provided a trio of their Westland Gazelle helicopters including a HT Mk. 2 resplendent in the markings of the ‘Sharks’ display teams alongside a pair of HT Mk. 3s. Fixed wing naval aviation was also represented by a Bristol Scout D Replica, a visiting Morane-Saulnier MS.317 and Air Leasing’s Supermarine Spitfire LF. IIIC which was unable to take part in the flying display due to a technical issue caused by its heavy landing on arrival. Other types on show included the Shuttleworth Collection’s Elliotts Primary EoN and a Rans S-6ES Coyote II from The Georgia Williams Trust. Also noteworthy was Hawker Heritage’s new Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIA on display in the museum.

Opening the show was the Shuttleworth Collection’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. IB which put on a marvellous display with some great topside passes and fast flypasts and made great introduction to wartime navy flying.

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Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. IB

Rotary elements were next with the unusual pairing of a Bell UH-1H Iroquois and a Westland Wasp HAS.1 which performed some loose formation passes before the ‘Huey’ put on a solo display which greatly incorporated the unique ‘chopper’ sound. The Wasp then concluded this rotary segment with a series of short passes and hovering manoeuvres.

The Westland Lysander Mk. IIIA from the Shuttleworth Collection was up next and put on impressive display. The Lysander is not often associated with naval aviation and is better known for its role in Army Co-operation and special operations.

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Westland Lysander Mk. IIIA

Radar calibration was also an important role in wartime and was represented by the silent pair of Slingsby T.6 Kirby Kites with an example from the Shuttleworth Collection and a private example painted in a camouflage scheme. The gliders descended gently in the now overcast skies after being towed up by the Collection’s Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub.

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Slingsby T.6 Kirby Kites

Up next was the Avro Anson XIX, an aircraft type employed by the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War for training and communication roles. This particular aircraft is operated by the BAe Systems Heritage Flight and put on a great display full of sweeping flypasts.

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Avro Anson XIX

One of the highlight displays from last year’s Fly Navy event made a welcome return this year in the form of a trio of 1930’s biplane fighters. This formation included the Hawker Demon I from Demon Displays which was flanked by a Hawker Nimrod I from the Fighter Collection and a Hawker Nimrod II from the Historic Aircraft Collection. After performing a series of flypasts together, the Demon performed a short solo display before the pair of Nimrods put on a spectacular display featuring a fast paced tail chase and some great topside passes.

Training aircraft featured heavily in the next few segments of flying which began with an aerobatic demonstration by a De Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk T.10 from the Royal Navy Historic Flight. The monoplane was then joined in the air by the De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth II and Avro Tutor from the Shuttleworth Collection where the trio flew in formation before the two biplanes flew some sedate flypasts.

Another unusual pairing was featured next with the Shuttleworth Collection’s Gloster Gladiator Mk. I (representing the Sea Gladiator used by the Royal Navy) and Kennet Aviation’s North American AT-6D Harvard III, a trainer used by many air arms all around the world. The pair flew together in a loose formation before they each performed their own solo routines in probably the murkiest conditions of the day.

Concluding this series of training aircraft displays was a pair of De Havilland DH.60 Moths including the Cirrus Moth from the BAe Systems Heritage Flight and the DH.60X Hermes Moth from the Shuttleworth Collection which went onto fly a series of formation passes as well as a sedate tail chase.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight who are celebrating their 60th Anniversary also participated in the flying display with two flypasts with a pair of their iconic British fighters, the Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIA and one of their Hawker Hurricane Mk. IICs. These warbirds were also displaying new schemes to commemorate four of the ‘few’ with the Spitfire representing aircraft flown by Geoffrey Wellum and Ken Wilkinson whilst the Hurricane represented aircraft flown by Tom Neil and Paul Farnes.

Naval aviation of the First World War era were also present with a trio of different types. This began with a very spirited display from David Bremner’s immaculate Bristol Scout C Replica before making way for Shuttleworth Collection’s Sopwith Pup and Bristol F.2B Fighter which performed together in a sublime series of flypasts. All three of these aircraft performed very well despite the somewhat tricky conditions.

The display was then kicked up a notch with the arrival of Air Leasing’s Hawker Fury FB.11 which was restricted to performing a series of fast and powerful passes due to the tail wheel not retracting properly, but this didn’t reduce the impact of this impressive warbird. This example is a land-based version of the famous Sea Fury which was the last piston-engine fighter used by naval forces due to the advancement of jet powered aircraft.

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Hawker Fury FB.11

A much larger aircraft then arrived to display in the form of the Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A from Plane Sailing, a type used heavily by naval air arms during wartime in roles such as anti-submarine warfare, maritime patrol and search and rescue. The Duxford based amphibian put on a great display which featured a spectacular low flypast to conclude its appearance.

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Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A

More Duxford based warbirds arrived to display in the form of the Fighter Collection’s Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat which represented the aircraft used by the United States Navy. The pair performed some fast formation flypasts before performing their own equally fast-paced solo routines.

This wasn’t the end of the show however as a number of other aircraft took off to form up a small ‘Balbo’ to conclude the show. The first formation was led by the Shuttleworth Collection’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. IB which was flanked by the Fighter Collection’s Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat. This was shortly followed by the second formation which was led by the Shuttleworth Collection’s Gloster Gladiator Mk. I which was flanked by the Westland Lysander Mk. IIIA and Demon Displays’ Hawker Demon I. This finale was marred somewhat when the Gladiator experienced some engine trouble and was forced to land in a nearby field where the pilot was unhurt and other than the engine, no other damage was reported to of occurred. The Lysander performed a few more flypasts before landing and thus concluding the show.

The show featured a variety of excellent displays with the major highlights being the trio of Hawker Demon I and Hawker Nimrods and the pair of American naval fighters from the Fighter Collection, the Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat. Also worthy of mention was the displays by Plane Sailing’s Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A and Air Leasing’s Hawker Fury FB.11. The show was thoroughly enjoyable despite the tricky conditions and I hope to return to Old Warden again soon.  

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