On Sunday 7th May one of the finest collections of historic aircraft in the UK, the Shuttleworth Collection once again joined forces with the Light Aircraft Association to present the LAA Party in the Park in the wonderful surroundings of Old Warden airfield. A chance to witness some different displays to many other shows, Adam Duffield braved the glorious sun for AeroResource.
The Shuttleworth collection at Old Warden is well known amongst many enthusiasts with not only a number of airshows and events held throughout the year, but also an incredible museum with many exhibits bearing a direct historical connection to the Shuttleworth family. Not only does the museum house the aircraft collection but there is a sizeable vehicle collection covering cars, vans and motorcycles alongside agricultural vehicles – examples of which formed part of the vehicle parade prior to the main air display.
The Light Aircraft Association, known as the LAA, is a body formed in 1946 to oversee the build and operation of light aircraft types such as those typically operated by a private pilots. The importance of these should not be underestimated and for many is the only affordable route into flying. With the ability to build your own aircraft the LAA ensures that it is built to appropriate standards and quality at every step before finally issuing the all important permit to fly. With many smaller historic types now also falling under their remit, the link to the Shuttleworth collection is also of great relevance and this particular show is designed to re-enforce that within the minds of the public.
Of course, the flying display isn’t the only attraction with the planned display timetable filling approximately three hours. The LAA aspect of the show attracted a large number of “fly-in” aircraft including – amongst many varied types – a Yak-52, Sonex and Robin DR400. A number of aviation related stalls were present selling various wares with a positive note being that they didn’t noticeably take over any single area. During the morning, a flight line walk was open to the public for an additional surcharge of £8 per person. Arranged at scheduled 30 minute intervals, these guided walks offered a chance at some photographs from different angles but at a cost higher than that of Duxfords and with less aircraft it was noticeably less busy. Perhaps a lower charge would result in a more positive reaction from the general public?
Flying in to open the show was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flights Dakota with a number of passes that made full use of the dog leg display line at the venue. The Dakota was the largest aircraft in the display programme and no doubt an aircraft that will see a busy season ahead as it picks up the slack to cover the commitments of the BBMF Lancaster, grounded by an engine fire earlier in 2015.
Demonstrating the link to the LAA, there were a number of examples of aircraft that fall under their remit displaying throughout the day with commentary covering how important the organisation is to the continued running of such types. Two unique shapes representing some of the types that have been greatly helped by the LAA took to the skies together before displaying in consecutive slots. The e-Go is a low cost canard design single seat aircraft with some spritely performance to be seen. The e-Go displayed at the same show in 2014 whilst still very much in the flight test phase, and so it was interesting to hear that the first production models of the aircraft are already being built, with initial deliveries expected soon. Still seeking that vital order was the second aircraft, the ducted fan powered Edgley Optica. With its ‘bug eyed’ bulbous cockpit and distinctive sound it is an aircraft that attracted attention from many onlookers.
2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the Pitts (first flight tested in 1945!), and with celebrations taking place at a number of venues, including at Oshkosh this year, it was very appropriate to see a Pitts Special in the display – this one a S-2S flown by Rich Goodwin. However, whilst it may have started life as a standard S-2S, Rich has undertaken many modifications to both the engine and body to turn it into the ‘Muscle Biplane’ including a new rudder design for 2015 to go along with a new paint scheme. By far the most aerobatic display of the show and certainly attention grabbing from the takeoff right through to the landing.
Two other prime examples of the sort of aircraft that the LAA would have been first involved with were the Druine Turbulent and Tipsy Trainer. Both were designed as small sports monoplanes, and the Turbulent in particular is the epitome of a homebuilt aircraft.
The Travel Air Mystery Ship made its Shuttleworth debut at the LAA event in 2014 and it returned with the Mew Gull to showcase the two different approaches to air racing types. The brutish yet sublime look to the Mystery Ship contrasts well with the sleek and diminutive Mew Gull representing clear design differences between American and British engineers that is a typical design aspect in many industries, not just aircraft.
Shuttleworth has an incredible array of airworthy World War One types (and replicas), and visitors were treated to a segment dedicated to them with a number of individual displays. From the Bristol F2b and SE5a to the Sopwith Pup and Bristol M1C, all were displayed wonderfully with plenty of close passes in front of the crowd and often two in the air at the same time keeping the action flowing. The fifth aircraft in the segment, the Avro 504K, has some difficulty starting but after a brief pause also squeezed in a somewhat shortened routine.
The Collection is home to a number of interesting and varying glider designs and two graced the skies as part of the flying display using the resident Piper Cub as a tug aircraft. With what can only be described as a minimalist design, Chris Heals took to the sky in the Elliotts EoN Primary. With wind almost at the limit, the glider was only in the air for a short time before landing back on the cross runway but gave a perfect chance to see the pilot precariously perched on the seat at the front – well and truly exposed to the elements. A very different design but by no means ‘conventional’ is the Fauvel AV-36 – a tailless ‘flying wing’ glider that first flew just 5 years after the Eon Primary. A very different display, the Fauvel demonstrated its aerobatic prowess with some very tight loops whilst the crowd looked on in amazed silence.
In the most mismatched pairing of the display programme, the Fieseler Storch took to the air whilst the collections Hawker Sea Hurricane simulated attacking the much slower foe. Whist the dogfight was the main focus of the segment it was good to also see both aircraft performing solo display elements with the Storch at the start and Hurricane to finish.
A section of the show named “Aerial Carriages” saw a formation of three types that could only happen at a Shuttleworth show – a de Havilland DH60 Cirrus Moth, DH60X Hermes Moth and Southern Martlet. These 1920’s biplanes were a brilliant addition to the lineup and the three ship was the largest formation set piece of the day. The DH60X Hermes Moth was also seen performing as part of the barnstorming display alongside the Collection’s Piper Cub, Miles Magister and Miles Hawk, in the usual antics of flour bombing, balloon bursting and limbo flying.
Two very different biplanes also displayed together showing the pinnacle of twin winged combat aircraft that was achieved before monoplanes became the norm. The pairing of Hawker Hind and Gloster Gladiator, withhe silver skins of both glinting in the sun, boasted the closest formation passes of the day with some energetic solo displays performed by both afterwards.
At many Shuttleworth shows the hopes of many is for the most fragile aircraft in the collection, those referred to as the Edwardians, to take to the sky at the end of the display to close the show. However, with a moderate wind the conditions weren’t playing ball but the organisers had an item lined up that would be equally as deserving. Gracing the static lineup all day was the collections de Havilland DH88 Comet which made it’s return to flight debut at the Pageant Airshow in 2014. Not originally scheduled to be performing, it replaced the Edwardians to close the show. The 1930’s racer put on a fine display showing off its air racing performance heritage that really was a fitting end to a wonderful days display.
With great weather and some very different aircraft to other shows, the Shuttleworth LAA Party in the Park really was a great day out. An added bonus of the Comet display topped off an excellent and varied day of flying, all set in one of the most relaxed display venues in the UK.