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Shuttleworth Collection Season Premiere Airshow

Summary of Old Warden Season Premiere 2017. Review of the 2016 show

Shuttleworth Season Premiere Airshow

7th May 2017
DH88 Comet

A Shuttleworth favourite, the DH88 Comet

The first Shuttleworth Collection airshow of the year is usually the second major show of the season, following the Abingdon Air and Country Show. In 2017 the order was reversed, so the Shuttleworth Collection Season Premiere was not just the première for Old Warden, but the première major airshow in the UK.

Forecasts of grey cloud, cold temperatures and northerly winds may have reduced the number of casual airshow fans but, although the clouds did cluster periodically, blue skies and some sunshine rewarded the many who trusted the weather gods rather than the weather forecasters and came to Old Warden to satisfy their appetite for classic flying that had built up over the winter.

In the air highlights fell into two groups. The first was a public show debut and a welcome return: the debut of Peter Vacher's gorgeous DH Leopard Moth G-ACMA flown by Keith Dennison and the return after three year of the Sopwith Triplane replica 'Dixie II', which took majestic command of the skies in the care of Chief Pilot Dodge Bailey. There should have been a second debut, in the form of the collection's Sopwith Camel, but this was pulled from the flying schedule just a couple of weeks before the event. It could, nevertheless, be seen on the ground.

The second group of highlights were the combinations that Shuttleworth always does so well. Amongst them, favourites were the Leopard Moth with the Hawker Tomtit; a larger group of the Mk 1 Spitfire, Sea Hurricane & Mk 1 Hurricane R4118 and the inter-war racers; Shuttleworth's DH88 Comet which flew a number of formation passes with the Collection's Mew Gull and the visiting Mew Gull replica, before reforming into a tail-chase and then solo displays.

A late addition to the programme was a flypast by Parky (Flight Lieutenant Antony Parkinson ) the BBMF's Spitfire TE311. The aircraft is still undergoing its repaint but still looked resplendent in its black undercoat. Another Spitfire to grace the Old Warden skies was the IWM's Mk 1a N3200; this example put through its full paces with the master, John Romain, behind the stick.

A more complete review will be here soon. In the meantime, a list of the aircraft scheduled to fly is in the table below.

As well as the flying programme, on the ground there was a selection from Shuttleworth’s motor collection supplemented by a few visitors. Ground entertainment included live music from Perfect Vintage, a chance to chat with one of the pilots and a flight training simulator by Biggleswade Air Squadron. Airfix Make and Paint offered free model making for the young at heart of all ages.

New for 2017 was an educational entertainment tent, in conjunction with Coventry University, with a flat screen flight simulator, drones and careers advice for anyone interested in aircraft engineering. Visitors were also able to ride a vintage bus to the house throughout the morning and to visit the Swiss Gardens.

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.

Aircraft
Due to fly (tap / hover over icon for more detail)
Arrow Active
Calidus Autogyro
Catalina
Dragon Rapide
Leopard Moth
Mew Gull (Replica)
Miles Magister
Spitfire Mk 1
ANEC, Shuttleworth Collection
Avro 504K, Shuttleworth Collection
Avro Triplane, Shuttleworth Collection
Blackburn Monoplane Type D, Shuttleworth Collection
Bristol Boxkite, Shuttleworth Collection
Bristol F2b, Shuttleworth Collection
Bristol M1C, Shuttleworth Collection
Comper Swift, Shuttleworth Collection
Deperdussin, Shuttleworth Collection
DH60X Moth, Shuttleworth Collection
DH88 Comet, Shuttleworth Collection
Eon Primary, Shuttleworth Collection
Fauvel Glider, Shuttleworth Collection
Gloster Gladiator, Shuttleworth Collection
Hawker Cygnet, Shuttleworth Collection
Hawker Cygnet (Replica), Shuttleworth Collection
Hawker Demon, Shuttleworth Collection
Hawker Hurricane R4118, Shuttleworth Collection
Hawker Sea Hurricane, Shuttleworth Collection
Mew Gull, Shuttleworth Collection
Miles Magister, Shuttleworth Collection
Polikarpov PO2, Shuttleworth Collection
SE5a, Shuttleworth Collection
Sopwith Camel, Shuttleworth Collection CANCELLED
Sopwith Pup, Shuttleworth Collection
Sopwith Triplane, Shuttleworth Collection
Westland Lysander, Shuttleworth Collection

Overview of the Season Premiere Airshow, 2016

Anson and Blenheim

Avro Anson and Bristol Blenheim at the Season Premiere 2016

The first Shuttleworth Collection airshow of 2016 featured some heavyweights. One of the big themes was going to be bombers, but when the Lancaster became unserviceable and Sally B was not ready for the new season, it changed to heavy aircraft more generally.

The Red Arrows, at Old Warden for the first time in 30 years, and the Bristol Blenheim were amongst the visitors, joining resident heavyweights including the superb Lysander as the Shuttleworth Collection opened its new season of airshows with a sell-out première.

This was the first show at Old Warden since the interim safety changes resulting from the investigation into the Shoreham incident and the implications were immediately clear. On the audience side of the original barrier, a new fence announced the increase in the separation between the crowd and the display. An adjustment, too, in the display line meant, between the two changes, the doubling of the separation for the slowest aircraft to 150 metres and increased separation from faster displays to 230 metres. The fence had not moved very much; most of the extra distance being achieved by moving the display line.

There were howls of protest in advance of the imposition of these new rules and prophesies of consequential doom for airshows generally. In practice, although the aircraft did seem further away, noticeably for those who attend shows frequently, the change may not have had the same impact for the irregular attender, less familiar with the old distances and consequently less likely to make the direct comparison.

Aircraft
Flying schedule   (tap / hover over icon for more detail)
Red Arrows (RAF)
Bristol Blenheim
Avro Anson (Shuttleworth Collection)
Polikarpov PO2 (Shuttleworth Collection)
Sea Hurricane 1b (Shuttleworth Collection)
Fieseler Storch (Shuttleworth Collection)
Westland Lysander (Shuttleworth Collection)
Global Stars
Calidus Autogyro
Hawker Hurricane R4118
Hawker Demon (Shuttleworth Collection)
Sopwith Pup (Shuttleworth Collection) cancelled - wind too strong
Bristol M1C (Shuttleworth Collection) cancelled - wind too strong
RAF SE5A (Shuttleworth Collection)
Bristol F2.b (Shuttleworth Collection)
Avro 504k (Shuttleworth Collection) cancelled - wind too strong
Curtiss P-40M Kittyhawk (Hangar 11)
Lunak Glider
Fauvel AV-36 Glider (Shuttleworth Collection)
Mew Gull (Shuttleworth Collection) cancelled - wind too strong
DH88 Comet (Shuttleworth Collection) cancelled - wind too strong
Tiger Moth (Shuttleworth Collection)
Ryan STA Ryan STA (Shuttleworth Collection)
Miles Magister (Shuttleworth Collection)
Blackburn B2 (Shuttleworth Collection)
Avro Triplane (Shuttleworth Collection) cancelled - wind too strong
Bristol Boxkite (Shuttleworth Collection) cancelled - wind too strong
Blackburn Monoplane (Shuttleworth Collection) cancelled - wind too strong
Deperdussin (Shuttleworth Collection) cancelled - wind too strong
Dakota (BBMF - flypast only) cancelled - oil leak
Previously listed but cancelled before the event
B-17 Sally B incomplete pre-season preparations
Tiger 9 formation team (9 Tiger Moths)
Avro Lancaster (BBMF) overrunning maintenance
Mustang Jumpin' Jacques
Gloster Gladiator
The Edwardians did not fly because of a strong cross-wind

Nevertheless, the distance change was noticeable for the regular show-goer, more so in some displays than others. This early in the season it is apparent that there are different interpretations of the rules and, as an infringement may cause pilots to lose their authority to display, some are being extra cautious. The new regulations specify distances that are, in effect, starting points, which individual pilots, teams and venues can seek to alter. This early in the season everyone involved was feeling their way a little bit, and being very careful not to offend the rules or the people enforcing them, aware that their every move would be watched by the authorities. Hopefully, visitors will not have been so put off by the new distances, both horizontal and vertical, that they will abandon support for future shows. The new regulations have to settle down. When they do, and when everyone gets a better feel for how they can be interpreted, and how they can be modified, the intimacy of Old Warden will surely return.

In the meantime, and although the greater display heights and distances could be noticed, most of the aircraft were still close enough to enjoy. It may have been the pilots, rather than the crowd, who felt the changes more, as they had to fly a less familiar, less easily followed, and possibly less comfortable display line, flying over a variety of trees, hedges and even buildings, whereas the traditional line was mostly above a safe, clearly defined runway. On the day after the show Mark Jefferies, world champion aerobatic pilot and one of the Global Stars, tweeted "It's hard to fly to the new lines that's for sure".

It was not only the new regulations but also the weather that caused changes to the displays. Although a bright and glorious sunshiny day, there were strong crosswinds, which were too much for many of the older aircraft, including the Edwardians and inter-war racers that had been scheduled to display.

Photos

There are lots more photos of the show on our Season Premiere photo page.

It was the inaugural public display of the year for the Red Arrows, so their many fans had their first chance to see several new formations including the 'Wall' arrival formation and 'Tornado', celebrating that aircraft's 25 years of operational service. Last year's Revolution has also been renamed for the 2016 season as the 'Winkle Rolls' in honour of the late Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown, who held the world record for flying the greatest number of different types of aircraft - 487 - but had died in the previous February.

Because of the proximity of Old Warden to the Luton flightpath, and without height clearance from air traffic control, the Red Arrows were restricted to a rolling display, despite the clear skies. However, the main display limitation came when a stray Gazelle helicopter wandered into their protected airspace. The Hawks were forced to retreat and reform, returning with enough time and fuel just for a break to finish. [Update: on 9th August 2016, Mr Kane pleaded guilty at Luton Magistrates Court to 2 offences - inadequate preparation for a flight and entering restricted airspace - and was fined £2,500 with £500 costs. His licence had been suspended between the date of the offence and the hearing].

The show's full flying list is in the table and will not be repeated here, but of special note are the combinations that the organisers of the Old Warden airshows are so good at assembling. One such displayed the recently arrived new Shuttleworth resident, Hurricane R4118, alongside its older sister, the Hawker Demon and the Gloster Gladiator. Another showcased an trainer foursome: the Blackburn B2, Tiger Moth, Miles Magister and Ryan ST-A and there was a unique pairing of the Shuttleworth-based Avro Anson with the Bristol Blenheim. It also was good to see a different four-ship aerobatic team. The Global Stars had been due to display at Abingdon, but a commitment in India forced them to cancel. They returned in time for the Shuttleworth Premiere, flying a variety of Extras each piloted by a British aerobatic champion and sporting a synchronised pulsating smoke system.

On the ground the Shuttleworth Collection's Jowett and A B C Motorcycle featured amongst visiting vehicles including a 1941 White M3 Half Track PFO 220, 1942 Dodge WC56 Command Car, 1942 Ford GPW, two GMC CCKW lorries, 1945 Willys MB Jeep and 1942 Ford GPW Jeep. As usual for the venue, the vehicles were on static display and also paraded along the crowdline before the flying displays began.

There was also live music from Perfect Vintage and four flightline tours half-hourly between 10.00 and 11.30, whilst the young at heart, of all ages, got a chance to 'make and paint', absolutely free, with Airfix & IPMS Brampton.

Location

Local area

Getting to the Show

By car

Shuttleworth's Old Warden Aerodrome is about two miles to the west of the A1 near Biggleswade. It is about 20 miles from junction 13 of the M1 and from the south it is about 30 miles from Junction 23 of the M25. It is signposted from the A1 at Biggleswade. The Post Code (for sat nav) is SG18 9EP but, as with all shows, ignore the sat nav in favour of local show signs as soon as you see them.

By coach

National Express do not go to Biggleswade. The nearest stops are in Bedford (4 miles), Letchworth (8 miles) and Royston (6 miles) with services to Luton and Heathrow airports as well as Cambridge and London. You can book seats online. Click the National Express name to go to their web site.

By Train

There is a train station at nearby Biggleswade, which is about 40 minutes from London Kings Cross and about 30 minutes from Peterborough. There is no bus service from the station to the aerodrome but there is a taxi rank close to the station.

Click here to create a pocket timetable for your journey between any stations on the National Rail network.

The variety of rail tickets and fares can be very confusing. Trainline and Raileasy web sites list all ticket and fare options for the time and day of travel you choose, but they both levy an admin fee. Click either of the blue ticket agency names to go to their web site.

Travel Advice

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Coaches
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DIY pocket timetable
Journey planning by public transport
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Bing (Microsoft)

Accommodation near the show

It is best to book as far as possible in advance. This is not only because nearby hotels and guest houses tend get booked up well before the date of an airshow but also because prices can be better when you book early online.

There are plenty of booking agencies. We find that many of the well known ones are better at finding hotels from international or larger UK chains and may suggest hotels in main towns or cities quite a distance from the show site.

Between them, LateRooms and Expedia list a good selection of smaller, as well as bigger, hotels and will find accommodation in villages and small towns as well as the main centres. Expedia also give, and take, Nectar points.

Click either blue agency name for a list of hotels and guest houses near the show. The venue is already built into both links, so when the list comes up you just have to enter your dates.

Trivago will list competitive prices for a range of hotels, but they might not necessarily find them all, because some chains do not subscribe to their service. You may also get a better rate if you book direct with an hotel, especially if you are a member of a loyalty or rewards scheme.

The International Hotels Group have a Holiday Inn about 4 miles away and Holiday Inn Express hotels about 12 miles away near Bedford and Stevenage; there are two Premier Inn hotels in Bedford about 8 miles away, another two in St Neots and one in Hitchen, all about 10 miles away.

Weather for the show area

UK Met Office Forecast

A full 7 day Old Warden weather forecast from the UK Met Office

The Met office seven-day forecast includes maximum, minimum and "feels like" temperatures, the likelihood of rain, wind direction, gusts and visibility: the latter can have an impact on the viability of displays.

The BBC's five-day forecast has overall conditions including temperatures, UV range and a description that may help to determine how pleasant the day will be for the visitor.

Click the blue-text link to go to the forecast. The location is already built into the links.

 
2017 Show
Date

7th May 2017

Airshow links

Show's web site

Travel

Sat Nav SG18 9EP
For links to travel and route planning web sites, click the 'Getting there' tab

Photos

Photos taken at Shuttleworth airshows