Elementary, my dear Shuttleworth!
Evening Air Display & Miles Aircraft Evening, 24 August
Driving down the well-worn road to Old Warden we reflected upon how lucky Shuttleworth were with the elements when it came to getting good weather for their evening shows, recalls Damien Burke. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and all was right with the world... for a while, anyway!
Sadly Lady Luck was about to go all fickle on us... and she has been a cheeky bint at Old Warden this year, starting with this very day. Flying kicked off in fine style with zero wind meaning the Bristol Boxkite replica could take to the air, complete with manically grinning pilot. Watching that collection of wood, wires and canvas drift around the display line was, I have to admit, quite captivating. It just doesn't seem right that this is a real aeroplane and not some badly drawn kite!
The natty little shape of the Southern Martlet took to the air next, and put on a creditable display for such a small machine. Red and silver paint schemes do seem to suit things with airscrews... they should get a Spitfire in the air racing scheme up with it next year, that'd make a nice formation (I hope you're taking notes guys). Following the genteel routine of the Southern Martlet, it was time for some serious contrast - first of all the brutish power of Tony Haig-Thomas's Avenger, swiftly followed by the quiet grace of the RAFGSA glider pair!
One of the themes of the show was Miles aircraft and it had been hoped to have a Gemini taking part. Sadly this wasn't to be - on a flight shortly before the show one of the aircraft's propellers parted company with the rest of the airframe! Thankfully Sir John Allison, pilot and owner of the aircraft, managed to land safely at Old Warden with no harm to done himself or his passenger. A Messenger that had turned up stayed firmly ground-bound too. Still, we did get to see the resident pair of Magisters flying, in formation with the also-resident Miles Falcon (this and one of the Magisters being owned by Peter Holloway, who was Sir John's unlucky passenger earlier on). By now, though, the weather gods had woken from their slumbers and realised an airshow was going on. Time to put a stop to that, they must have thought... and clouds began hiding the sun from view, and reducing the assembled crowds to shivering souls full of regret for leaving those woolly jumpers back in the car!
As a huge 'n' horrible grey cloud bank marched across the horizon behind us, Denny Dobson did his best to brighten up proceedings with his full display - including the limbo and ribbon-cutting section denied to us all by adverse winds at the May evening show. In ever-worsening light the Gladiator fairly leapt into the air next, the gorgeous silver finish of this example not having much luck at catching any sunny reflections this time round. This was followed by a formation of the Hawker Tomtit and Avro Tutor (presumably the excuse being the initial 'T'!), and then a quick dash to the car for some warmer clothes. Surely that big cloud would stay away for just a bit longer...
Sweeping in as I returned to my spot on the crowdline was a newcomer to Old Warden's shows - a Jet Provost from nearby Cranfield. Now there are those who would disapprove of a jet aircraft displaying at this venue, but if there is ever one that can get away with it, it's the trusty old JP. After all, it's just a Piston Provost with the propellor buried in the rear fuselage... honest guv! Anyway, a nice graceful routine kept the aircraft close to the crowd and showed just how similar its layout was to the next act - which was, of course, the Piston Provost. As the odd spot of rain began to activate umbrellas all down the crowd line, the Provost completed its display while the Bristol Fighter and MC.1 took to the air for solo displays and some formation passes.
With the Lysander rolling down an increasingly damp runway, it was time to retire to the car before the rain got any heavier, and heavier it certainly did get. With the Lizzie's lights shining through the murk as it came in to land, the final two displays were from the Hurricane and Spitfire, both forming up for a few passes and then breaking away to perform their separate routines in increasingly poor conditions Much kudos to the pilots for continuing long past the point where the crowd had given up! Unfortunately the Hurricane suffered a brake failure in the wet grass and a ground loop ensued resulting in damage to the port main gear.
As we drove away cursing the fates for sending that mucky weather, they had the last laugh - the sun came out again just as we got to the imposing airship sheds at nearby Cardington... isn't it always the way? Thankfully we got to see just about all of the expected participants flying, and despite the cold and the rain towards the end, it was an enjoyable show - as it always seems to be at Old Warden!
- the damage to the Hurricane turned out to be fairly minor inasmuch as
it was mostly the wheel and door that suffered - thankfully the pilot
was unharmed and the aircraft was back in the air a few weeks later.