Fly Navy 2017
June 4th 2017
The organisers were no doubt hoping to repeat the success of the 2016 Fly Navy show at Old Warden, which was greeted with much deserved acclaim. Unfortunately, when they reprised Fly Navy in 2017, it didn't quite go that way.
The 2016 show was always going to be a hard act to follow. Although the rich naval aviation heritage was again the theme, and the potential was there, both to repeat and even seek to improve on the previous year's show, things didn't go according to plan.
The biggest disappointment was the Sea Vixen, which was to have been one of the star attractions. However, a wheels-up landing on return to base from the Duxford Air Festival meant that it was no longer be able to display. The Swordfish (still in winter maintenance), Kennet's Skyraider and The Fighter Collection's Corsair also fell out of the flying list and Terry Martin's Westland Wasp was also an absentee because it has taken longer than originally expected to repair damage following a heavy landing the previous September. The Great War Display Team's Avro 504 replica was also not at the show following an engine problem during the aircraft's display at Abingdon in May.
Gusty landing for the Seafire
Cirrus and Hermes Moths
As well as the pre-show cancellations and withdrawals, some of the still-listed aircraft did arrive but did not display. The Seafire caught a gusty sidewind as it landed on arrival during the morning of the show. It was due to open the show as a pair with the Sea Hurricane, but the Hurricane ended up doing a solo. The Morane also arrived during the morning but did not fill its display slot and the Gazelle in RN colours became a static, rather than a flying, display.
These withdrawals were not, of course, the fault of the organisers. Perhaps a little more notice could have been given - Terry Martin's Wasp and the Skyraider were still listed very close to the show date, even though there was not much chance either would fly - but the show was the victim, not the cause of the lost displays. To their credit, the team at Old Warden did their best to fill the gaps. There is no replacing the Sea Vixen or the Swordfish and it was also especially sad not to see the Corsair, but there were last minute replacements for lost displays and some of the late additions were amongst the stars of the show.
Two helicopters, the Vietnam-era Huey from MX Jets and CJ Marsden's rarely-seen Westland Wasp 'XT420', made excellent substitutes for the Gazelle and either of the two Wasps originally expected. The two performed very generous pairs and solo displays; especially G-HUEY which remained centre-stage and flexed its muscle for a majority chunk of the pair's allotted time, moving sveltely along the crowdline to offer all an equal chance to appreciate it. As a bonus for helicopter fans the Merlin HM2, which was on static display, could be visited in the Navy Wings area of the showground and a Wildcat flew in during the morning and, whilst not flying a display, could be seen hovering and flying out as well as being available for viewing on the static line-up.
In another bonus, not on the original schedule, the Collection's Cub towed two Slingsby Kite Gliders simultaneously into the air. The Kites then gave a pairs display and landing - all in some very tricky wind conditions. David Bramwell taking his bow by giving a little display in the Cub.
Several Aircraft resident at nearby Duxford paid their near neighbours a visit for the show. As in 2016, two of the favourites were the Wildcat and the Bearcat. Last year the Bearcat, in particular, appeared to test the then-recently-imposed flying line restrictions. This year, with the flying lines back to where they were, the pair clearly enjoyed their new freedom and the intimacy of the venue with a blend of grace and power. The Duxford Nimrod pair, too, were clearly at home offering stunning pairs and solo displays but perhaps the most surprising was Plane Sailing's Duxford-based PBY Catalina. When at Duxford and elsewhere the Catalina always offers the full variety of configurations and angles, yet at the Old Warden venue it seemed able to offer even more, ending with a low pass to beat all low passes along the entire display line.
It was a pity, really, that these displays by the Wildcat, Bearcat and Catalina; the outstanding display by the Bristol Scout and the generous 'flypast' by the BBMF's Spitfire P7350 and Hurricane LF363 were so late in the day. The BBMF's arrival had been delayed by weather elsewhere, but the other displays were scheduled for towards the end of the day when the light had all but failed and rain was threatening. By that time many in the crowd had left so the pilots will have been greeted by trail of car stop lights. Had the weather been better the lateness of the displays would not have mattered, but the combination of cloud, chill and the late hour meant that many missed what was arguably one of the best sessions of the day.
As always at Old Warden, there was some excellent combination flying. A 'trainers' session brought together the RN Chipmunk flown by Lt Cdr Gotke with the Tiger Moth and Avro Tutor, although not the originally-intended Magister: the Duxford Nimrods flew with the Demon and Shuttleworth's Hermes Moth was a late addition to the programme, flying with the Collection's Cirrus Moth. At the end of the day there was an attempted grand finale. It was a brave attempt in the gloom of the early evening but it came to a premature end when the Collection's Gloster Gladiator lost engine power in a cloud of dark smoke and slid behind the trees. Thankfully it came to the ground safely and the watching crowd were reassured that both the aircraft and the pilot were fine.
Fly Navy 2016 was a triumph in glorious sunshine. Fly Navy 2017 suffered disproportionately from cancellations, aggravated by unfortunate weather. The notion of a navy-oriented airshow, away from the obvious naval bases, remains sound and the potential for future years is real enough. The Sea Vixen will not be airworthy in time for a 2018 show but Navy Wings itself is very supportive and may have more to offer next year including the Swordfish and Sea Fury - both of which should be flying by then - and the Stinson. Add some more naval rotaries, possibly including a trio of Wasps a couple of RN-liveried Gazelles alongside the WW2 stalwarts and there is the beginning of an attractive display line-up. The Collection does change its outlook regularly so the wobbly outcome of Fly Navy 2017 may encourage thoughts of different themes for 2018. We think there is still potential for an exciting Fly Navy 2018. Who knows, the sun may even shine again.
About Old Warden
This is a relatively small venue, where flying feels closer to the crowd than in some bigger airfields, even since the change in the regulations. The venue also has a mansion, Shuttleworth House, which is usually open to visitors for at least part of airshow days, park-like gardens (Swiss garden) and huge children's outdoor play area.
Old Warden is home to the Shuttleworth Collection of planes from both world wars and earlier, including original pioneering aircraft such as the Bleriot (identical to the one that made the first crossing of the English Channel). There are around 40 airworthy planes in eight hangars.
The collection is on static display most days throughout the year. There are significant flying events about monthly between May and October, ranging from daytime full airshows to evening proms and additional smaller events.
|Flying schedule (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
|Hawker Nimrod Mk2: Historic Aircraft Collection|
|Hawker Nimrod Mk 1: The Fighter Collection|
|Chipmunk: Navy Wings |
||Avro Anson: Shuttleworth Collection|
||Avro Tutor: Shuttleworth Collection|
||Bristol F2b: Shuttleworth Collection|
||De Havilland DH60 Cirrus Moth: Shuttleworth Collection|
|De Havilland DH60X Hermes Moth G-EBWD: Shuttleworth Collection|
||Hawker Demon: Shuttleworth Collection|
||Hawker Sea Hurricane: Shuttleworth Collection|
||Sopwith Pup: Shuttleworth Collection|
||Sopwith Triplane: Shuttleworth Collection|
||Tiger Moth: Shuttleworth Collection|
|Westland Lysander: Shuttleworth Collection|
|Slingsby Kite (x2) (Late addition)|
|Cancelled of withdrawn|
||Sea Vixen (unserviceable following wheels-up landing 27th May)|
|Swordfish (unserviceable for the whole of 2017 season)|
|Morane MS317 (Flew in but did not display)|
||Westland Wasp (Terry Martin). Repairs not completed following heavy landing in 2016|
|Supermarine Seafire LF3 |
||Miles Magister: Shuttleworth Collection|
|Gazelle (RN colours)|
|Avro 504K (Replica). Engine problem at Abingdon|
|Chipmunk: Shuttleworth Collection|
|Bristol Boxkite: Shuttleworth Collection (Too gusty for the Edwardians)|
|Additionally, the Shuttleworth Collection and most visiting aircraft involved in the flying were on static display, as well as Merlin, Wildcat and Gazelle helicopters|
|All appearances are subject to technical, weather and other constraints|
On the ground, vintage vehicles were on view and paraded along the crowdline and there was excellent live music from the Umbrella Big Band. A regular feature of Shuttleworth shows, youngsters of all ages had the chance to make and paint Airfix kits and there were the usual opportunities to visit Shuttleworth House and the Swiss Gardens and to ride in one of two vintage buses. Altogether, a fine family day out, but not quite up to the comparable show last year, which, in the view of many, was the best show of that season.
Fly Navy 2016
Contender for the Best Show of the Season
Bristol Scout at Fly Navy 2016
Naval aviation heritage was the theme for the June airshow at the Shuttleworth Collection's Old Warden Aerodrome, when the programme featured aircraft with a naval connection dating from the early 1900s through to the 1960s.
The return of the Sea Vixen was one of the highlights of the event, generally regarded as one of the best shows at Old Warden and possibly one of the best anywhere for a very long time.
The Sea Vixen opened the show but, as always, it was also good to see the the Mk III Seafire joined by the Shuttleworth Collection's sole surviving Hawker Sea Hurricane 1B. Other highlights amongst the visitors included a return of the Bristol Scout, Terry Martin's Wasp and Guy Martin's Hawker Nimrod, flying with the Collection's Nimrod and Demon.
Gems from the local collection included their Sopwith Pup, Westland Lysander, Gloster Gladiator although the breeze didn't allow the Edwardians to fly.
|Flying schedule (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
|Fairey Swordfish (RNHF)|
||Bristol Scout (David Bremner)|
||Westland Wasp (Terry Martin)
||Hawker Sea Hurricane 1B (Shuttleworth Collection)|
||Seafire MkIII PP972 (Air Leasing: Richard Grace)|
||Grumman FM2 Wildcat (The Fighter Collection)|
|Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat (The Fighter Collection)|
||Goodyear FG-1D Corsair (The Fighter Collection)|
||Hawker Nimrod Mk2 K3661 (Historic Aircraft Collection)|
|Hawker Nimrod Mk1 (The Fighter Collection)|
||Harvard (Texan) T6 (Kennet Aviation)|
||Morane Saulnier MS317 (Tony Whitehead)|
|| BBMF Hurricane and Spitfire (Flypasts)|
||Sopwith Pup (Shuttleworth Collection)|
||Westland Lysander (Shuttleworth Collection)|
||Gloster Gladiator (Shuttleworth)|
||Gloster Gladiator (The Fighter Collection) (did not fly)|
|Tiger Moth (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|Miles Magister (Shuttleworth Collection) |
|Avro Tutor (Shuttleworth Collection)|
||Avro Anson (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|Rapide (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|DH60 (Shuttleworth Collection)|
||Hawker Demon (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|Avro 504K (Shuttleworth Collection)|
||Avro Triplane (Shuttleworth Collection) *|
||Bristol Boxkite (Shuttleworth Collection) *|
||Blackburn Monoplane (Shuttleworth Collection) *|
||Deperdussin (Shuttleworth Collection) *|
|Previously listed but cancelled before the show
|Additionally, the Shuttleworth Collection's and most visiting aircraft involved in the flying were on static display, plus:|
On the ground a Hillman Minx and Railton were amongst the vehicles on view and on parade along the crowdline.
The young at heart, of all ages, had a chance to 'make and paint', absolutely free, with Airfix & IPMS Brampton.