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 will be reversed, so the Shuttleworth Collection Season Premiere will be not just the première for Old Warden, but the première major airshow in the UK.
As the first show of the season it is possible that there will be new teams, new pilots and new paint schemes. It is also possible that some aircraft may have overrun their winter maintenance schedules or have still to achieve certification. There is, therefore a need to be cautious about the full flying list, although any adjustments are sure to be reported by the Shuttleworth Team.
As well as the flying programme, on the ground there will be a selection from Shuttleworth’s motor collection supplemented by a few visitors. Ground entertainment will also include 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 will be offering free model making for the young at heart of all ages.
New for 2017 will be an educational entertainment tent, in conjuction with Coventry University, with a flat screen flight simulator, drones and careers advice for anyone interested in aircraft engineering. Visitors will also be able to ride a vintage bus and will have access to the house until flying starts as well as to the Swiss Gardens, with free tours at set times.
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.
|Mew Gull (Replica)|
|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|
|Sopwith Pup, Shuttleworth Collection|
|Sopwith Triplane, Shuttleworth Collection|
|Westland Lysander, Shuttleworth Collection|
|All appearances are subject to availability and to technical, weather and other constraints|
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.
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.
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.
There are lots more photos of the show on our Season Premiere photo page.
|Red Arrows (RAF)|
|Avro Anson (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|Polikarpov PO2 (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|Sea Hurricane 1b (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|Fieseler Storch (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|Westland Lysander (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|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)|
|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 (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|
|The Edwardians did not fly because of a strong cross-wind|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you need plenty of options, we find that, 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.
7th May 2017
in advance until the Monday before the show £24
in advance from the Monday before the show £27
on the gate £30 (if still available)
up to 4 under 16s free per adult
SVAS Members (proof required)
£17 in advance and on the gate
Sat Nav SG18 9EP
For links to travel and route planning web sites, click the 'Getting there' tab
Event closes 18.00
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