A new theme for the 2023 season, Shuttleworth’s second Sunday airshow of the year in early June celebrated an Around The World theme – it was interesting to see how this theme translated into a show.
Aviation has quite literally conquered the world, but perhaps the most interesting period was the first 50 or so years of flight, as aviation and its technology advanced rapidly, necessitated by war, the boom in air travel and the sheer human spirit of adventure. A significant number of the Shuttleworth collection highlight these points. But there are still aviation feats being achieved in the modern day too, and it was a mixture of both that would represent the show’s theme.
A trio of Shuttleworth fighters opened the show, with the Gloster Gladiator leading Spitfire AR501 and Sea Hurricane in some big sweeping formation passes and, following a solo routine by AR501, the Sea Hurricane and Gladiator were joined by the Westland Lysander in another formation before a Bristol Mercury powered tailchase with the Gladiator leading the Lysander. An energetic opener if ever there was one!
Two very different types representing Germany (with a little bit of Spain mixed in!) were the Bucker Bu-131 Jungmann and the Hispano Buchon – both flown by two of the most revered display pilots in the world. The former, resplendent in 1936 Berlin Olympics colour scheme, was put through a marvellous aerobatic routine by owner Pete Kynsey. Chief Pilot of The Fighter Collection, Kynsey is perhaps more well known for displaying high-powered warbirds, but his aerobatics in the German biplane are second to none.
The Jungmann was closely followed by the impressive arrival of John Romain in the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Hispano Buchon from crowd left. As one of the finest exponents of warbird display flying in the world, seeing Romain fly any of the ARCo stable at Old Warden is always something to be savoured; be it the Lysander, Blenheim, Spitfire MkI, PR.XI or Buchon. Displaying the Buchon at Old Warden cannot be easy, a small but fast fighter and a reasonably small display venue, yet Romain’s flowing sequence of aerobatics seemed effortless making full use of the venue.
Whilst some of the training types the Collection boasts aren’t perhaps the most dynamic or exciting aeroplanes to watch, Shuttleworth always does well to group them in interesting ways; at this show, the Avro Tutor, Blackburn B2 and Tiger Moth performed a series of formation and tailchase passes, pleasingly all from a similar era and boasting silver in their paint schemes, as well as the Chipmunk and David Bramwell’s Magister flying a close formation routine whilst the Piston provost provided aerobatics up above. Even for veteran attendees, this can offer a new spectacle and particularly for photographers many new opportunities to capture.
Whilst the gorgeous 1935 Kirby Kite prototype was towed aloft by the SVAS Cub before its release and display, the Comper Swift entertained the crowd below. Sadly, the wind was too high for Will Greenwood’s visiting Fokker Dr.I replica and the Sopwith Triplane to get aloft for a mock dogfight.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster B.I PA474 made another stunning appearance, with a series of three impactful flypasts arcing around Old Warden’s curved display line. On one of the passes, the crew lowered the huge undercarriage, allowing the crowd to hear the roar of the four Merlin engines as the bomber climbed away with the gear retracting.
Several interwar vintage aircraft of various designs were muttered throughout the programme, with the commentary team touching on any long distance or airline flying, such as the DH.51 and Dragon Rapide, as well as the Desoutter and Spartan Executive.
The Classic Shuttleworth racing trio of Comet, Mew Gull and Hawk Speed Six of course had to play a starring role given the long distance flights undertaken by those aircraft. Without a doubt, the most famous of these is the 1934 Macrobertson Air Race winning de Havilland DH.88 Comet Grosvenor House, flying from Mildenhall to Melbourne and beating off competition from a range of other types, as well as two other Comest.
The next formation was a very special pairing, featuring two of the record holders of the London to Cape Town and return record. The long standing record setter, Alex Henshaw’s Mew Gull G-AEXF, was seen alongside Steve Noujaim’s homebuilt Vans RV-7 in which he set the latest record in 2010. Held briefly by Charles Stobard, flying the reverse route in 2009, the new record set by Noujaim stands at three days, 11 hours and 16 minutes, bettering Henshaw’s time by just over four hours. It is an incredible testament to Henshaw that his time stood for 70 years and has only been bettered by a handful of hours all this time later.
The undoubted star of the show was the unique and gleaming Spitfire G-IRTY, otherwise known as the Silver Spitfire. In 2019 G-IRTY circumnavigated the globe in what is one of the most remarkable feats in warbird flying. The Spitfire, serial MJ271, has an illustrious service history and was restored by HFL at Duxford. G-IRTY now splits its time between the Netherlands and Goodwood, where it is operated by The Spitfire Academy during the summer months.
Collection pilot Jim Schofield brought G-IRTY up for the show. Jim flies for the Spitfire Academy and also conducted some of the test flying of G-IRTY in 2020, including some of the long range flight tests, which saw him airborne for up to 3 hours.
The finale to the show was a fitting one, with a unique formation of Comet, Mew Gull and G-IRTY – all aircraft with long-distance record-breaking flight histories. We are so incredibly lucky to get to see the likes of the Comet fly on such a regular basis at Shuttleworth. Closing the show was left to the silver Spitfire. This was one of the first solo displays G-IRTY has performed at an airshow since its return to flight.
Around the World was an interesting and unique theme for an airshow, bringing in some new and interesting visitors to Old Warden as well as highlighting the exploits of many of the Collection’s own aircraft. Whether there is enough scope to make this a permanent fixture on the calendar remains to be seen, but it is really promising to see the Shuttleworth team trying new things.
For more information on upcoming Shuttleworth airshows and to purchase tickets, follow this link: www.shuttleworth.org/events/