The Shuttleworth Collection is home to the single largest selection of historic aircraft in the UK and puts on more display events in a single year than any other organisation. Working with the Light Aircraft Association, 15th June saw them stage a ‘Party in the Park’ airshow. Adam Duffield attended for AeroResource.
Situated to the south east of Bedford, just a short distance from the A1, lies the UKs spiritual home of vintage aviation in the form of the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden. Originally formed in 1928 by Richard Shuttleworth, today the organisation is a registered charity whose aim is to restore and keep flying as many vintage aircraft types as is possible.
Walking around the hangars shows just how many aircraft make up the collection. Despite a number being positioned out on the flight line in preparation of the airshow, an impressive number were still tucked away, out of the cloud and damp conditions of the day. From the earliest Edwardian aircraft such as the Bleriot XI, the oldest flying aircraft in the world and the mighty Bristol Boxkite up to the de Havilland DH.88 Comet racer, the aircraft on show are all kept in the best condition possible by the team of staff and volunteers. Of special note at the time of the show were two new arrivals to Shuttleworth – a pair of Royal Aircraft Factory BE2e replica aircraft that had just been shipped over from the legendary Vintage Aviator company in New Zealand. Whilst only a temporary home to both examples, one had been quickly rigged for visitors to view whilst the second was still in the restoration hangar awaiting attention next to the collections Hawker Hind.
The Light Aircraft Association is an organisation that oversees the governance of many private, homebuilt and vintage aircraft. Working on behalf of the CAA they not only grant airworthiness certificates for these types but also help provide guidance on home build projects and pilot training. With many of Shuttleworths aircraft being operated under their guidance, the LAA are an important factor in the collections ability to operate and the ‘Party in the Park’ was a perfect way to celebrate. In addition to those arriving by car, many private aircraft took place in the fly-in with types such as the de Havilland Tiger Moth, Vans RV-4, Pitts S-1 and Jodel DR1050 taking part – all examples of types the LAA are involved with.
As can be expected from a Shuttleworth show the flying display was varied and although heavily biased towards the classic end of aviation, a few more modern items were flown throughout the day. One of the most eye catching was the Edgley Optica (G-BOPO), an aircraft designed in the 1970’s as an observation platform intended to replace helicopters various surveillance roles. The unique looking bubble cockpit, from which its ‘bug eye’ nickname comes, gives an impressive 270 degree view and gives it an almost science fiction look. The ducted fan engine means it is amazingly quiet and, despite its low power, proved to be highly manoeuvrable.
Barnstorming antics at airshows are normally overlooked and dismissed by many enthusiasts as something of little interest however the settings of the show gave this display somewhat more character. A four ship of De Havilland DH-82A Tiger Moth K2585 (G-ANKT), Miles Hawk Trainer P6382 (G-AJRS), Piper Super Cub G-SVAS and De Havilland Chipmunk Mk22 671 (G-BNZC) took to the skies and provided numerous circuits of flour bombing, balloon bursting and limbo flying despite a stiff breeze blowing these light aircraft around.
Flying in from other events happening around the country, the Battle of Britain Memorial flight provided two separate displays. With mechanical issues preventing the planned Photo Reconnaissance variant from attending, a Spitfire pair comprising Mk9 MK356 and Mk16 TE311 flew close formation passes followed by a loose tail chase. Whilst only flypasts, having a pair of aircraft certainly seemed to work well for the small display line at Shuttleworth than a typical BBMF fighter solo display would have. However, it was the crew of the Dakota ZA947 that really showed their display spirit making full use of a curved display line to perform numerous topside passes with the loadmaster handing on in the back door making this one of the finest presentations of the flights Dakota seen in a long time.
Aerobatic action came in the form of three very different displays all using smoke systems to enhance their impact. The Trig Team of Richard Grace and Dave Puleston are often seen at shows and performed their usual high standard routine with the cloud cover seemingly giving little alteration to their standard display. Of similar size to the diminutive Pitts specials, the Andreasson BA-4B (G-YPSY) performed a solo display representing a true homebuilt biplane, and the roots of the LAA itself, perfectly. Finally, proving that power isn’t always required to perform impressive aerobatics, the Letov Lunak CK-0927 was towed to height by the collections Piper Super Cub (G-SVAS) before gracefully twisting and turning back to the runway. With only the background sound of gentle music the occasional noise of the glider cutting through the air could be heard as it descended.
A formation of three aircraft took to the skies representing 1930’s aviation before breaking into solo displays. The last of the RAFs biplane fighter aircraft, Gloster Gladiator MkI K7985 (G-AMRK) was very quickly overshadowed by some of the more modern monoplane aircraft although still saw action during the early stages of World War Two. A prime example of this flew just off its wing in the shape of Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk1B Z7015 (G-BKTH). A derivative of the infamous Hurricane, the navalised variant was first modified to be launched from catapults before the Mk1B had arrestor hooks fitted to allowed landing on more conventional carriers. The collections Sea Hurricane is the sole Mk1 aircraft to be in air-worthy condition. Completing the trio was Westland Lysander V9367 (G-AZWT) in its distinctive all black scheme used to enable the aircraft to fly unseen at night on incursions into occupied territory.
Miles is a manufacturer name that is long since departed from modern aviation however, in its time, husband and wife pairing of Frederick and Blossom Miles produced some stunning looking aircraft and four examples of this took to the skies for a formation display. Lead by a Miles M-3A Falcon Major (G-AEEG) the foursome was completed by Miles Hawk Trainers N3788 (G-AKPF) and P6382 (G-AJRS) and Miles Whitney Straight G-AERV. By far not the most entertaining of aircraft on their own, the chance to see four of the earliest versions of the aircraft they designed is certainly interested, especially comparing the two Hawk Trainers which both have subtle differences in appearance.
The collection is home to the largest single group of airworthy World War 1 aircraft and during the event the crowed were treated to no less than six different examples taking to the air for solo displays one after the other. With rotary engines prevalent in early aircraft design, four examples were displayed – the Avro 504K E.3272 (G-ADEV), Sopwith Pup 9917 (G-EBKY), Sopwith Triplane N6290 (G-BOCK) and Bristol M-1C C4918 (G-BWJM) whilst the V-12 Bristol F-2B Fighter D8096 (G-AEPH) and V-8 Royal Aircraft Factory SE-5A F.904 (G-EBIA) aircraft were also present. Whilst the wind direction dictated the aircraft were started at the farthest position from the crowd line all the aircraft were excellently displayed by the resident pilots of Shuttleworth with plenty of close passes enabling some incredible views of these historical machines, some of which are over 100 years old.
Billed as the most original Mk1 flying today, Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a P9374 (G-MKIA) quite possibly stole the show in terms of warbird displays albeit not getting quite as low as the Sea Hurricane did. The local pilots really know how to put on the best show and the Spitfire was flown in such a way that the left everyone watching enthralled with plenty of close, top side passes curving around the control tower.
Celebrating the LAA was a perfect example of their role in British aviation in the form of the e-Go (G-EFUN). Only taking to the skies late last year, this unusual looking ultralight won the LAA’s design competition in 2007 for a new aircraft to meet the UKs single seat de-regulated microlight class rules. Built from carbon fibre and foam, it is powered by a small rotary engine with just 30hp. Very much still in development, the aircraft was displayed with aerodynamic testing equipment still in place during its first public airshow outing. Despite its low power the handling characteristics and speed of the aircraft looked mighty impressive with fast, low passes and high bank angle turns being performed.
Another public airshow debut was that of the Travel Air Mystery Ship (G-TATR). This replica aircraft has been built up by Aero Antiques and took to the air in late 2013. Designed as an air race aircraft, its appearance exudes power and speed with its sizeable rotary engine and sleek lines. From the ground it appears to be in proportion until the pilot climbs in where the lack of visibility is clear to see as the bodywork envelopes him. Taking to the skies with a British designed racer from the same era, Percival Mew Gull G-AEXF, the two aircraft are a perfect representation of typical American muscle and British refinement. Starting with a few loose formation passes, the pair split to perform their own displays with the Mew Gull first followed by the Mystery Ship. Both are exquisite looking aircraft and the Mystery Ship will surely do well on the display circuit with those looking for something different.
The Shuttleworth Collections LAA ‘Party in the Park’ was a display unlike many others around the country. Although the conditions prevented the Edwardian aircraft from taking their rightful place in the display line-up, the aircraft that were present represented some of the finest in vintage aviation in the UK. An amazingly relaxed atmosphere and the ability to watch the show from almost anywhere within the grounds without being too far away makes it a perfect location to simply lay back and take in the atmosphere. An excellent show and collection of aircraft that everyone should make the effort to try and see.