Shuttleworth – ‘the first and the last’
Welcome to this latest edition of Aerodrome and our regular delve into the fascinating world of aeroplanes and the historic aviation scene in the UK. Well, the dark nights are finally upon us and it’s time to reflect on a summer of Airshows and events which commemorated 100 years of the Royal Air Force and brought the subject of British aviation to a much wider audience than its existing enthusiast base. This month will also mark the centenary of the guns finally falling silent at the end of the Great War, allowing us all to take part in the most poignant Remembrance Sunday the nation has ever witnessed.
In this latest blog, we are not quite ready to pack away our Airshow essentials just yet and we take a look back at a unique and increasingly popular airfield location which had the honour of both starting and ending the 2018 display season and with it, playing a significant role in this year’s RAF 100 commemorations. This is also a good time to ask everyone to please continue sending in your pictures for our very own RAF 100 Tribute edition – an opportunity for Aerodrome readers to take over the blog for one edition, we are looking for people to send in one picture which most effectively represents the RAF at 100 for you. As everyone’s interpretation of the RAF centenary may be very different, your submission could be absolutely anything, just as long as it represents RAF 100 to you. A brief description of why it is significant would be greatly appreciated and we are hoping to publish this edition between Christmas and the New Year, so more people will have the opportunity to view your submissions. Please send your pictures to our usual firstname.lastname@example.org address, where we very much look forward to seeing what you come up with. It would be interesting to think that we may get submissions from outside the UK, particularly as we are fortunate to have a worldwide readership and the RAF is of interest to a great many people. I wonder, do we have any Aerodromers on the Falkland Islands? We would be grateful if you could start sending your pictures in straight away, so we can begin work on producing Aerodrome’s RAF 100 Tribute edition – thank you.
Luftstreitkräfte hijacks RAF 100
For anyone interested in Great War era aviation, there was a very specific reason for attending the latest Airshow at Old Warden
The hallowed aviation turf at Old Warden airfield has played host to many a memorable Airshow over the years and its unique setting is revered by regulars and a pleasant surprize for first timers – having attended your first Shuttleworth Airshow, other events seem remote and impersonal by comparison. The custodians of many historic aeroplanes, most of which are maintained in airworthy condition, the Shuttleworth Collection can boast aircraft from the 1909 Bleriot XI (the world’s oldest flying aeroplane), right through to the Piston Provost of the 1950s, with a host of flying classics in between. Able to stage a feature packed Airshow just using aircraft based at Old Warden, their shows usually benefit from the addition of several visiting aircraft to the display line up, with enthusiast flocking to see such aircraft as a Bristol Blenheim and North American Mustang operating from the picturesque surroundings of this delightful grass airfield.
As Old Warden and the Shuttleworth Collection have done so much over the years for both aircraft preservation and the display of classic aircraft for the general public, it was somehow fitting that they should have the honour of opening the flying display element of this significant RAF centenary year, with their ‘Season Premier’ show in May. Again, resulting in no complaints from enthusiasts, as their final display of the year was scheduled to be taking place on the second Sunday in October, they would also be bringing proceedings to a close – a 'first and last' display boast to mark 100 years of the RAF. This final display was to be the latest instalment of their popular ‘Race Day’ shows, which sees classic racing aeroplanes joined by a cavalcade of historic cars and motorcycles, all in celebration of man’s quest for ever greater speed and of course his need to finish in first place. If this popular event were not already enough to have us all setting our alarm clocks to go off early and heading down (for us in the North) to Bedfordshire, there were a couple of additional aviation developments to encourage our attendance. Firstly, if you had been present at the first show in this RAF centenary year, why on earth would you not want to be there for the last? Secondly, news had reached aviation enthusiasts that a magnificent new aircraft had arrived at Old Warden in recent weeks and whilst it would not be part of the flying display, it had now been fully assembled and may be available for viewing. As this new aircraft just happened to be an accurate (and airworthy) full scale replica of one of the most famous German aeroplanes of the Great War, I, like many others, found this opportunity just too good to miss – with cameras and sandwiches packed, I was on my way.
Standing proudly at the head of a stunning collection of Great War air power, the new Albatros was a sight to behold
It seemed as if everyone wanted to get close to the Albatros – I had to wait around twenty minutes to get this relatively clear shot
The Albatros series of fighters were some of the most successful fighting aeroplanes of the First World War and the mainstay of the German Air Service. Remarkably advanced when first introduced, the aircraft were continually upgraded throughout the conflict and with around 4,800 examples of all variants being produced by wars end, it is easy to see why many of the most successful German air aces spent time behind the controls of an Albatros. With its rather large, round fuselage, the Albatros was an extremely elegant aeroplane, but even though many Allied airmen would fall to its guns, by the time such aircraft as the agile SE5a and Sopwith Camel had been introduced, the Albatros was beginning to show its limitations.
In this centenary year of the Great War Armistice, news that a new airworthy Albatros replica had arrived at Old Warden was met with great excitement amongst aviation enthusiasts, especially when they learnt that it would be based in the UK and displayed at Airshow events during 2019. Built in 2017, this beautiful fighter is a product of the renowned Vintage Aviator Limited (TVAL) workshops in New Zealand and has been sent to the UK on loan to the WWI Aviation Heritage Trust (WW1 AHT). It arrived at Old Warden in a shipping container during September and a team from Flying Restorations engineering assembled the aircraft in time for it to be one of the undoubted highlights of the recent Race Day Airshow - there was certainly plenty of Albatros love in evidence on the day. It is thought that the Albatros will remain at Old Warden until it is granted a permit to fly, but then it is a little unclear as to whether it will stay in the care of the Shuttleworth Collection, or take up residence at Stow Maries aerodrome, an authentic Great War defence of London airfield. As both locations have unequalled WWI aviation credentials, I don’t suppose it would surprise too many people if it were to spend time at both, but the most important thing is that we should get the opportunity to see it in the air – that will be yet another essential trip to Old Warden required.
Many UK enthusiasts will be hoping that the Albatros will be staying here for many years to come
The Albatros has been finished in the colours of a machine flown by 20 victory ace Otto Kissenberth
UK aviation enthusiasts have been fortunate enough to see two previous Albatros replicas flying in British skies, with Old Warden once more playing host to both. Also built by TVAL (The Vintage Aviator Limited), but back in 2011, an Albatros in the colours of Jasta 61’s ace pilot Karl Freidrich Kurt Jentsch was flown during the late summer of 2012, before being transported by road the RAF Museum’s Hendon site, where the aircraft is currently on public display. In 2015, another TVAL Albatros replica was operated by the WWI AHT from Stow Maries and took part in Airshows at its home airfield and also at Duxford and Old Warden. This aircraft wore the famous colours of celebrated 43 victory Luftstreitkräfte ace Paul Bäumer, whose aircraft carried a large Edelweiss emblem on its fuselage sides.
This third TVAL replica Albatros DVa has been finished in the distinctive colours of Otto Kissenberth, commanding officer of Royal Bavarian Jasta 23b. In its sinister black scheme, this fighter also displays a representation of the Edelweiss flower on the sides of its fuselage, however, it will look very different to the other two flying examples many of us have seen previously, when it is a star attraction during next years Airshow season. Interestingly, Kissenberth ended the war with a score of 20 aerial victories but did not take part in any combat from June 1918 onwards. As Commanding Officer of his unit, he was given the opportunity to fly a captured Sopwith Camel and managed to crash it during this first flight, sustaining some quite serious injuries in the process. He would not be cleared to fly again until the war was over.
More Great War aviation news from Old Warden
Just a stone’s throw away from the Albatros, an interesting second SE5a had also recently arrived at Old Warden
Although the Albatros was very much the centre of attention during the latest Shuttleworth show, the eagle eyed amongst us noticed that the collections SE5a inventory appeared to have doubled overnight. Displayed in the same hangar as the Albatros and positioned next to the collection’s classic SE5a, a second attractive aircraft appeared to have taken up residence and news recently posted on the Shuttleworth website confirms that 2019 is going to be an interesting year for fans of Great War aviation types. This privately owned SE5a replica was built to exacting standards in a Yorkshire workshop during the late 1980s and was intended to be an accurate copy of a machine flown by Canadian ace Henry John ‘Hank’ Burden of No.56 Squadron, who managed to down eight of the feared Fokker D.VII fighters in a three day period late in the war.
This impressive SE5a replica has been finished as an aircraft flown by Canadian ace Hank Burden
The aircraft spent many years in France, following a deal to see a Hispano Engine owned by the French Memorial Flight attached to the aircraft, on the proviso that it could be flown on the European Airshow circuit for a period of ten years, after which time it would return to its owner. The aircraft has since changed hands again and undergone a concerted period of renovation, all the time increasing the authenticity of this magnificent replica. This has seen the SE5a fitted with many original parts, including an original fuel tank, Lewis gun and magazine, control column ring, Aldis sight and instrumentation. The wheels and tyres were sourced from those impressive TVAL people in New Zealand again and a much needed dry sump oil tank was copied rivet by rivet from an original unit, to create an impressively authentic full scale replica of this famous fighter. It has now been announced that this magnificent aircraft will be based at Old Warden throughout the 2019 Airshow season, a development which brings with it the prospect of seeing two SE5a fighters in Bedfordshire skies at the same time, possibly hot on the tail of a certain black Albatros. We look forward to bringing you pictures of this, if and when this magnificent sight occurs.
Racing aeroplanes, Shuttleworth style
Early morning Race Day scene as the ground crews prepare the aircraft for their starring roles
Although it proved difficult for some of us to tear ourselves away from the new Great War arrivals at Old Warden, this latest Shuttleworth show and their final one for 2018 was all about classic racing aeroplanes and as you might expect, there was an impressive selection gathered on the airfield. There is one thing that has always captivated aircraft designers and airmen alike since the early days of powered flight, an almost insatiable desire for greater speed. When not designing the latest warplanes capable of outrunning enemy fighters, aviation companies were producing racing aeroplanes that could break records and push the boundaries of current aviation technology. These fascinating aircraft were at the cutting edge of aviation, flown only by the most accomplished airmen of the day, with their skills needed to tame the often unforgiving handling characteristics of these speed demons. It is not hard to see why stories of these intrepid airmen and their flying bullets managed to capture the imagination of the general public who became infatuated by these futuristic looking machines and the charismatic pilots who flew them.
The de Havilland Comet is just one of the many classic aeroplanes to be found at Old Warden
A scene reminiscent of the aircraft touching down in Melbourne at the end of its epic flight back in 1934
Even though the Shuttleworth Collection can boast a unique collection of aircraft which is the envy of the aviation world, there is one very special aeroplane which has to be described as their ‘Jewel in the crown’, the magnificent de Havilland D.H 88 Comet racer. Developed specifically to take part in the 1934 London to Melbourne MacRobertson Air Race, this distinctive looking twin engined aircraft only made its first flight eleven days before the start of the race. Wearing a smart scarlet red and white colour scheme and carrying the name ‘Grosvenor House’ (promoting the aircraft owners London hotel) on both sides of its forward fuselage, this was actually one of three D.H 88 Comets that took part in the race. Posting an impressive time of 71 hours and 18 seconds for the journey, this aircraft ,G-ACSS, emerged victorious, winning the £10,000 prize and with it, a place in aviation history – it was also quite a proud moment for the design engineers at de Havilland.
A beautiful autumnal scene, Shuttleworth style
The end of another Airshow season, G-ACSS bids farewell to the Old Warden crowds for another year
It is almost too difficult to comprehend, but the beautiful aircraft which took part in the Race Day Airshow at Old Warden is the very same historic machine which won the MacRobertson Trophy back in 1934. After its victory, the aircraft was passed to the RAF for evaluation, during which time it suffered a number of mishaps and was later sold for scrap. Rescued and restored, it went on to post more aviation records, before being left abandoned on an airfield and slowly falling into disrepair. G-ACSS came into the hands of the Shuttleworth Collection in 1965, when it became the subject of a long term restoration project, taking to the air once more in 1987. The aircraft suffered an undercarriage collapse on landing back at Old Warden in 2002, which would result in the Comet spending another extended period in the workshops, whilst Shuttleworth engineers obtained CAA clearance to incorporate modifications to the original de Havilland undercarriage design. Finally, de Havilland DH.88 Comet G-ACSS made her latest post restoration flight in August 2104, gracing the Bedfordshire skies with her iconic shape and stunning good looks, but more importantly, marking another magnificent aviation achievement for the Shuttleworth Collection. An extremely photogenic aeroplane, the Comet has gone on to be one of the stars of the UK Airshow circuit and although she is always most comfortable when displaying to a home based crowd, she will also venture a little further afield when a display organiser wants to add a little aviation culture to his show. One of the most significant British aircraft still flying today, the de Havilland Comet is a real crowd puller and will always ensure a healthy gate when she is listed on the display programme.
Here is a selection of images featuring some of the other racing aeroplanes which took part in this final Shuttleworth Airshow of the 2018 season, which also marked the end of this RAF Centenary year:
The Comet leads an eclectic formation of racing aeroplanes down the Old warden crowdline
Percival Mew Gull G-AEXF was used by famous pilot Alex Henshaw on his record breaking flight to Cape Town and back in 1939
Two for the price of one, Mew Gull G-HEKL is a newly build example of this diminutive racer
The tiny Miles M.2L Hawk Speed Six is a beautiful little racing aeroplane
This Travel Air Mystery Ship brought some American air racing style to the show
Just because we can, a little Warbird action for all those who prefer their aviation a little more military – North American TF-51D Mustang ‘Contrary Mary’
There is always so much going on at a Shuttleworth show that a single blog never seems to do it justice, so this is where we will leave this latest visit to Old Warden. Thankfully, we have a full winter to negotiate before we can all take our place on the crowd-line again, so we will have plenty of time to feature more aviation delights from this magnificent venue.
I am afraid that’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Aerodrome, but we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with more aviation related features for your enjoyment. If you have any ideas for a future edition of our blog, or if you would like to supply a feature of your own which will be of interest to our worldwide aviation readership, please send your suggestions to our regular contact e-mail address at email@example.com, where we will be only too pleased to hear from you.
As mentioned earlier, we would also be extremely grateful if you would use the same e-mail address to send in your RAF 100 tribute edition pictures. This is every readers opportunity to take over the blog for one edition and prevent me from filling it with my own photographic offerings. It will be interesting to see from where in the world our most exotic RAF 100 submission comes from.
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