Shuttleworth Season Premiere & RAF Centenary
May 6th 2018
BBMF's Lancaster and BAe Systems Anson
Shuttleworth's first show of the season season set what will be a trend for 2018 by celebrating the centenary of the RAF, so there were plenty of vintage aircraft with RAF connections - and a modern one, too.
The star of the show for many would have been the debut public display of the Collection's Mk Vc Spitfire, whose engines ran on 25 April last year for the first time in 12 years. Unfortunately that display, although forecast by the Collection, was not possible because the recent wet weather had made airfield conditions unsuitable for the Spitfire to complete its flight testing schedule.
There was, nevertheless, a wealth of other resident aircraft in the flying display, with possibly the broadest selection in terms of age range of any of the RAF100 shows, ranging from three of their Edwardians, including the Blackburn 2, the oldest British-built aircraft still flying, through to some of the Collection's post-war examples.
Visiting aircraft include the Avro Lancaster, which flew on its own and with the BAe systems Anson; the Bristol Blenheim, a brace of Spitfires and, perhaps more surprisingly for Old Warden, a relatively rare appearance by a jet, in the form of the season public debut by the RAF Typhoon, which opened the show.
Display aircraft are listed in the table. (... continued below the table)
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vc (Cancelled)|
|Blériot XI (didn't fly)|
|Deperdussin (didn't fly)|
|Blackburn Monoplane Type ‘D’|
|Sopwith Pup (didn't fly)|
|Sopwith Triplane (didn't fly)|
|Avro 621 Tutor|
|DH82a Tiger Moth|
|Miles Magister 'N3788'|
|Gloster Gladiator (didn't fly)|
|Miles Magister 'P6382' G-AJRS (didn't fly)|
|Hawker Sea Hurricane 1B|
|Hawker Hurricane Mk ll 'P3717' (late addition)|
|Avro C19 Anson|
|DHC Chipmunk T.22|
|Hunting (Percival) Piston Provost T.1|
|Avro Lancaster (BBMF)|
|Supermarine Spitfire TE311 (BBMF) (late addition)|
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXb MH434 G-ASJV|
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 N3200 G-CFGJ|
|Scottish Aviation Bulldog|
|Slingsby T.21 'WB935'|
|Additionally there were more aircraft on static display that are not flying during the show|
On the ground there were plenty of static aircraft, especially along the crowd line and beyond the air traffic control tower as well as four cockpits including a Buccaneer; a Tomahawk Flight simulator and pedal planes provided by the Joystick Club. Gliders were well represented by a static air cadet glider, a UK Junior Gliding stand and Glider and BGA gliding simulator.
Live music came from Betty Bluebird, there were the usual vintage bus rides and a veteran and vintage vehicle parade just inside the crowd line. The very popular pilot chat was on the Collection's newly restored Supermarine Mk V Spitfire, AR501. (... continued below the information box)
A review and photos of the show will be here soon
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.
For the young of all ages, there was Shuttleworth's usual and very popular opportunity to make and paint models in one of the hangars or, if you prefer your models ready-made, there was a display of Model aircraft representing 100 years of the RAF. The models were available for viewing throughout and also flew before the main displays.
The House was open from 10 a.m. and the Swiss Gardens were open for wondering throughout the event.
Shuttleworth Season Première Airshow
7th May 2017
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 Première 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. (... continued below the table)
|(tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
||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 CANCELLED|
||Sopwith Pup, Shuttleworth Collection|
||Sopwith Triplane, Shuttleworth Collection|
||Westland Lysander, Shuttleworth Collection|
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 list of the aircraft scheduled to fly is in the table.
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.
Overview of the Season Premiere Airshow, 2016
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.
|Flying schedule (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
|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|
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.
There are lots more photos of the show on our 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.
Getting to the Show
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 Old Warden or 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.
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.
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.
Expedia lists 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. They also give, and take, Nectar points.
Click the blue Expedia name for a list of hotels and guest houses near the show. The venue is already built into the link, so when the list comes up you just have to enter your dates and change the number of rooms or guests if necessary.
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
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.