Sunday, 7 July 2019 saw The Shuttleworth Collection’s aerodrome at Old Warden host the largest modern day gathering of Hawker Hurricanes, with seven of the type assembled and flown together at the Military Airshow. This was touted by the commentators to have been the most seen together since 1946, and broke the record for the largest formation of Hurricanes in the historic aircraft preservation era.
The expectations built throughout the day as the five visiting aeroplanes arrived in a steady trickle from airshows at Headcorn and Swansea respectively, joining Old Warden’s resident Sea Hurricane and Hurricane Mk.I P3717. Significantly, this marked the first time one of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s fighters had landed on at Old Warden.
There was a tangible sense of anticipation as the pilots and ground crews readied the aeroplanes in front of the crowd, the ‘magnificent seven’ starting up in turn and taxying as a group to the runway threshold for a streamed departure into a wide downwind circuit. There they formed up into a closely coupled vic-three and a box-four as silence hung over the airfield. Airshow moments rarely hit such heady emotional heights. Watching on was Battle of Britain Hurricane pilot Flt Lt Archie McInnes, who sadly died on 31 July 2019 – his 100th birthday.
The formation comprised the following Hurricanes (aeroplane – operator – pilot):
Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.Ib Z7015 (G-BKTH) – The Shuttleworth Collection – Paul Stone
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I P2902 (G-ROBT) – Anglia Aircraft Restorations – Stuart Goldspink
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I P3717 (G-HITT) – Bygone Aviation – Frank Chapman
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I R4118 (G-HUPW) – Hurricane Heritage – Brian Smith
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I V7497 (G-HRLI) – Peter Kirkpatrick – Martin Overall
Hawker Hurricane Mk.XII P3700 (G-HURI) – Historic Aircraft Collection – Dave Harvey
Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIc PZ865 – Battle of Britain Memorial Flight – Group Captain Mark Flewin
The seven Hurricanes flew by in close formation before splitting into three segments. First up was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Hurricane Mk.IIc, Group Captain Mark Flewin putting on a punchy and close solo display, keeping the crowd entertained whilst the remaining six-strong formation repositioned for another pass before breaking. A trio tail-chase followed, Mk.I R4118 leading Mk.XII P3700 and Mk.I V7497 for a series of sweeping, arcing passes along the crowdline. The second three-ship split, with the Sea Hurricane and Mk.I P3717 flying paired passes as Stuart Goldspink demonstrated Mk.I P2902 lyrically overhead. The sequence, some 25 minutes all told, concluded with a lovely solo routine by the distinctive P2902.
Old Warden has had a truly fantastic half-year, the successive appearances of two Lysanders, seven American Dakotas and seven Hurricanes setting a high benchmark. We look forward to seeing what the UK’s finest airshow venue offers in the latter half of 2019.