Four Spitfires tailchasing on a summer’s evening – what more could you want? Shuttleworth’s Best of British Evening Airshow certainly provided some delightful moments!
For the last couple of years, Shuttleworth’s June evening airshow has been lumped with some fairly uncharacteristic weather for the time of year, with low cloud, high winds, chilly temperatures and rain, a great shame given it is held during some of the longest days of the year. This season, however, the run of good weather for their events continued and whilst perhaps the skies were not as clear as they had been in weeks preceding the show, it was still a delightful warm and dry summer evening, and the breeze even dropped, allowing some of the lighter types to fly towards the end of the show.
Opening the show in style was the quartet of Spitfires – thought to be the most number of Spitfires that have displayed together at Old Warden. Pleasingly these Spitfires spanned the lineage of the type rather nicely, with the IWM’s Mk.Ia N3200 flying in from Bicester joining the Collection’s Mk.Vc AR501, the OFMC’s Mk.IXc MH434 and the RRHF’s PR.XIX. The quartet formed up behind the crowd, the anticipation brewing, before running in for some passes together and then breaking into a lovely tailchase which was, to my knowledge, the most piston engined fighters that have tailchased together at the venue.
After the tailchase the PR.XIX climbed for height and performed a short solo display, which was much more impactful than the one in May, before AR501 and MH434 returned for a scintillating opposition routine, flown by Paul Stone and Stu Goldspink respectively. During such displays it pays to have a radio nearby to hear their “Tally-ho!” calls to confirm visual with each other! What a high-tempo manner in which to begin the show!
With the Comet flying later in the de Havilland slot, it was welcome to see some of the single-engine racers together following the Spitfires, with the Hawk Speed six leading both the Collection’s and Dave Beale’s Mew Gulls in a series of formation passes and a tail chase before splitting and the Mew Gulls taking the stage, with Dave Beale’s gleaming red G-HEKL being flown with particular verve by Jean Munn.
Providing the ‘joker’ slot as the Cub towed a glider to height was the Southern Martlet, flown in lovely fashion by Richard Crockett in what was his first public display on type!
Collection pilot Frank Chapman pulled triple duty across the evening, flying three different aircraft in his imitable style; the Sea Hurricane, Avro 504K and Gloster Gladiator. One of those pilots who you *always* stop and watch display, no matter what they are flying!
There was a time when the Barnstorming segment at Shuttleworth had become somewhat lacklustre, but not any more! The venerable Steve Panter takes to the commentary and brings the perfect balance of humour and energy to proceedings. Back this year is the old tradition of tethered formations, with the Parnall Elf, DH.60 and Tiger Moth being tied together with sections of ribbon and flying in formation. These were then joined by the Chipmunk and Magister for the other barnstorming antics; flour bombing and limbo, which really captured the crowd’s attention.
A pair of homebuilt Taylor Monoplanes followed, and they look like tremendous fun, even if it was hard for such small aircraft to make an impact at Old Warden.
No Best of British airshow would be complete without some de Havilland aircraft, and the show had a segment dedicated to the world famous manufacturer. Firstly a trio of biplane designs were put up together, with the Collection’s DH.60 and DH.51 were joined by the Shipping & Airlines owned DH.87 Hornet Moth from Biggin Hill.
The second part of the tribute featured the DH.88 comes and Phillip Meeson’s DH.89 Dragon Rapide. An impressive bit of flying saw Jean Munn in the Rapide following the Comet in formation for several passes before splitting for their respective solo displays.
It was a joy to see two of the Lympne Trials aircraft sharing the sky, with the Hawker Cygnet flying at the same time as the English Electric Wren doing some low level meandering. The ANEC dropped off of the list which was a shame as it’s been a few years since we saw all three active together!
The breeze was light enough to allow the Bristol Boxkite and Avro Triplane to depart down the cross runway and fly in the dusk skies. It is always a joy when some of the Eds are able to get airborne at the end of a show, especially an evening show!
The Best of British theme is so well suited to Shuttleworth, with the vast majority of the Collection being British aircraft, and often very rare or completely unique ones at that, posing the opportunity to embellish these with visiting aircraft. With so many types around, a de Havilland celebration could legitimately be completely different every year, if Shuttleworth wanted it. It would be good, too, to see different manufacturers celebrated in the same manner, such as Miles aircraft, or Percival.
For more information on upcoming Shuttleworth airshows and to purchase tickets, follow this link: www.shuttleworth.org/events/