Every airshow at Shuttleworth is special, but every now and then there is a true classic, where the weather is just right and the essence of Shuttleworth comes to the fore. The 2023 Vintage Airshow was just one of these.
A truly beautiful early September day with blue skies and wispy clouds was set to be the backdrop for a bumper show focussed on aircraft more typical of Shuttleworth – vintage aeroplanes, many of which you’re unlikely to see at other more generic airshows.
A mix of Shuttleworth types I can’t recall seeing together before opened the show, with the Avro Tutor leading DH.60 Moth, Blackburn B2 and Hawker Tomtit
Something slightly more unusual for Shuttleworth was up next, with a trio of interwar American biplanes from three of the mainstays of US aviation from that time. Peter Kuypers’ Beechcraft Staggerwing was joined by Nigel Finlayson’s Waco UFPS-7 and the now Old Warden based Travel Air D-4000. The Comet also led a formation with the two Mew Gulls, with the latter showing their real racing pedigree with a high speed pairs display and tailchase.
Richard Menage’s wonderful Focke Wulf FW-44 Stieglitz gave a wonderful display of aerobatics, as we have been able to enjoy several times at Shuttleworth in recent years. Without his example gracing our skies it is a type we would seldom see otherwise. Currently being rigged in the Shuttleworth engineering hangar is Richard’s second FW-44, making the potential for a Stieglitz pair in future a tantalising prospect!
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight made an appearance with a pair of fighters, with Hurricane PZ865 in its night fighter scheme contrasting with their desert schemed Spitfire Mk.IX MK356. A more unusual pairing came by way of Polikarpov Po-2 and the Navy Wings associate Avro 504K replica from Sywell. Sadly it appears that this could be the Avro’s last display unless more funding can be secured to keep it airworthy.
It was a delight to see Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship replica G-TATR display for the first time since it moved to be based at Old Warden. Oozing American art deco elegance, the Mystery Ship was paired with the Miles Hawk Speed Six, showing the difference in the type of designs being made on either side of the Atlantic Ocean in the early 1930s.
The vintage themed shows at Shuttleworth often allow some of the more unusual or rarer types to take the limelight and as such we had solo displays from the Comper Swift, Parnall Elf, Desoutter, Gloster Gladiator and Chipmunk.
It wouldn’t be a vintage show at Shuttleworth without a variety of de Havilland types in the flying display, and that was certainly the case at this show. Along with the DH.60, Comet and Chipmunk elsewhere in the programme, Richard Crockett made his first public display in the DH.51 as he has been flying more of the Shuttleworth aircraft having officially joined as a collection pilot – and very good it was too! The Tiger 9 Team also performed a lovely display as well as a superb Dragon Rapide pair, including formation, tailchasing and opposition passes, from the Old Warden based example and the stunning Scillonia Airways Rapide.
Several World War One types flew during the show, the first of which was the Nieuport 17 replica owned by John Gilbert, who gave a very nice display, starting a carousel with the Sopwith Pup and Triplane. Later in the day the Bristol F.2b and SE5a flew in some lovely afternoon light.
It was left to the Spitfire and Sea Hurricane to round off the heavy flying for the day, both with wonderful displays against the deepening blue sky. It was a joy to be able to see the Lympne trials English Electric Wren and Hawker Cygnet in the air at the same time, something which we haven’t seen for a number of years, although sadly the ANEC II was not able to join them as it had a snag. With the weather as calm as it was, we were also able to see the Bristol Boxkite and Avro Triplane airborne, as well as the Deperdussin making some hops for the first time in the season.
Whilst visiting warbirds and helicopters will always be much sought after, the Vintage Airshow encapsulates the true core of the Shuttleworth spirit.
For more information on upcoming Shuttleworth airshows and to purchase tickets, follow this link: www.shuttleworth.org/events/