The airshow season of 2017 was kicked off in elegant style at the Shuttleworth Collection with their Season Premiere Airshow with a wide variety of vintage aircraft displays. The majority of aircraft at the show revolved around the main theme of the show, the exploits of the record-breaking pilot, Alex Henshaw who passed away around ten years ago, whose influence in aviation is well represented by the Shuttleworth Collection.
Weather conditions on the day were very good with warm sunshine and fluffy clouds despite the wind being too strong for the more delicate display items such as the ANEC II, the pair of Hawker Cygnet Replicas and the Edwardians. There was a nice selection of aircraft on static display including the Shuttleworth Collection’s Avro Tutor, Comper C.L.A.7 Swift and Southern Martlet which appeared alongside some interesting visitors, a Nieuport 17 Replica, a Percival P.10 Vega Gull and a Ryan SCW-145.
The show was opened by Plane Sailing’s Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A, the first visitor from Duxford. The amphibious aircraft performed a graceful routine with some beautiful sweeping passes along the countryside backdrop, a perfect start to the show and the season.
Next up was a more potent warbird in the form of the Hawker Demon I courtesy of Demon Displays which put on a fast based display with some glorious topside passes, giving us a great view of this biplane fighter from the 1930s.
The first of two glider displays then took to the air with some assistance from the Shuttleworth Collection’s Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub, which towed up Graham Saw’s Fauvel AV.36 which then descended to the ground while performing some impressive looping manoeuvres.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are celebrating their 60th Anniversary and participated with their Supermarine Spitfire LF. XVIE for two flypasts. The fighter is yet to be fully painted and was still in its black primer colours with only its serial number being visible.
We then moved onto a series of displays which showcased aircraft that were flown by Alex Henshaw during his career as test pilot. Up first was the Shuttleworth Collection’s pairing of De Havilland DH.60X Hermes Moth and Miles M.14A Magister I which flew together for some formation flypasts before performing some sedate circuits around the air.
Next came the striking shape of a visiting De Havilland DH.85 Leopard Moth displaying alongside the Shuttleworth Collection’s Hawker Tomtit Mk. I, a type that Alex Henshaw used as a hack aircraft. The unusual pairing flew together in loose formation before performing their own individual flypasts.
Anyone in the crowds who attended airshows in the 80s and 90s may have recognized the two shapes in the next segment as being reminiscent of the famous Miles Duo. The pairing featured a Miles M.38 Messenger 2A from the Sywell Messenger Trust and a Miles M.65 Gemini 1A owned by Sir John Allison. The pair flew together for some formation flypasts before putting on their own short solo performances.
A pair of larger transport types then took to the air, consisting of Mark Miller’s De Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide and the Avro Anson XIX from the BAe Systems Heritage Flight. The two aircraft flew together before putting on their own sublime routines.
The pace of the show then stepped up a gear with a trio of Merlin powered aircraft which represented types flown by Henshaw during his test flying during the Second World War. The trio including a Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IA from the Imperial War Museum, Hawker Hurricane Mk. I from Hawker Heritage and the Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. IB from the Shuttleworth Collection. The iconic British fighters flew information before the Spitfire put on a solo routine whilst the Hurricanes flew a series of formation flypasts before concluding this display segment with two consecutive solo displays by the Hurricane and Sea Hurricane.
The next segment showcased Alex Henshaw’s racing career with a trio of sleek air racers including the Shuttleworth Collection’s De Havilland DH.88 Comet “Grosvenor House” which was joined by the Collection’s Percival E.2H Mew Gull which originally belonged to Henshaw in which he set the Cape record alongside David Beale’s Percival E.2H Mew Gull Replica. The racing trio flew in formation before the Mew Gulls performed some fast passes and was finished with a short solo display by the Comet.
A pair of biplane trainers concluded the displays honoring Alex Henshaw with the Shuttleworth Collection’s De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth II and the BAe Systems Heritage Flight’s Blackburn B.2 which performed some sedate formation and solo flypasts.
More gliding action was represented by the Shuttleworth Collection’s Elliotts Primary EoN which descended to the grand in graceful fashion upon being towed to height by the Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub.
Some energetic rotary action was also featured with the RotorSport UK Calidus flown by Peter Davies which has become a regular and popular attendee at Old Warden due to its dynamic routine.
The Shuttleworth Collection also operates a selection of warbirds from the First World War era. For this show we were treated to some displays from three of them, starting with the Sopwith Pup which was later joined by the Bristol F.2B Fighter. This section of flying was concluded by a solo display from the Sopwith Triplane Replica which was making a welcome return to the display circuit since being repaired after a landing accident in 2014.
It was down to the home team of the Shuttleworth Collection to provide the finale. This display consisted of a pair of aircraft used in Special Operations, beginning with the Russian built Polikarpov Po-2 which flew a series of gentle passes before being joined by the Westland Lysander Mk. IIIA which performed a far more potent series of passes which greatly showcased the unusual wing shape and thus concluded the first show of the season.
The Shuttleworth Season Premiere Airshow provided a great taster for the 2017 display season with some spectacular displays including the trio of Merlin powered fighters; the Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IA, Hawker Hurricane Mk. I and Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. IB as well as the First World War era fighters including the return of the Sopwith Triplane Replica. Also worthy of mention was Plane Sailing’s Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A and the nostalgic pairing of the Miles M.38 Messenger 2A and Miles M.65 Gemini 1A. I will be returning to Old Warden again very soon for their Fly Navy event.