Sizzling Shuttleworth marks RAF Centenary in style
We are pleased to be bringing you this latest edition of Aerodrome and our regular fortnightly look at the fascinating world of aeroplanes and the historic aviation scene in the UK. At long last, it is finally here – the start of the 2018 Airshow season. In what is already shaping up to be the most memorable year for aviation enthusiasts for a long time, two events held on Sunday 6th of May had the joint honour of declaring the 2018 Airshow season well and truly open and with it, the start of the Royal Air Force centenary commemorations in earnest. In this first Aerodrome show review of the year, we will be heading down to a glorious Bedfordshire and the historic airfield at Old Warden, for the Shuttleworth Collection’s Season Premier Airshow and a magnificent display programme which got the Airshow season off to a spectacular start. We will be looking at some of the show highlights, arguably the most historic aircraft still flying in Britain today and some new colours on some old aviation favourites. We will also be asking Aerodrome readers to help us make our own RAF 100 tribute, by sending in pictures throughout the summer, which you think are effective in marking the centenary year of the Royal Air Force and what this means to you. We will try to showcase as many pictures as possible in our blog during the rest of 2018 and aim to produce a special RAF at 100 edition later in the year, which will be made up entirely of reader supplied images and stories, allowing you all to be the undoubted stars of this special edition of Aerodrome. This has the potential to be a really interesting feature, so please to get behind the initiative and send us your RAF 100 pictures, starting from now. We will have more about this a little later in this edition, but let’s begin now by declaring the 2018 Airshow season well and truly cleared for take-off!
Only at Old Warden
Shuttleworth’s flamboyantly presented Tiger Moth K2585 makes its way through the early morning crowds to the live aircraft area
It is somehow fitting that the honour of hosting the first Airshow in this significant RAF centenary year (actually, jointly with the Abingdon event) should fall to the Shuttleworth Collection and the delightful aerodrome at Old Warden. Not only is this one of the world’s most significant locations to experience historic aeroplanes, but it also charts the development of British aviation from the very early days of powered flight, right through to some of the most famous fighting aircraft to have served with the Royal Air Force. Indeed, for this spectacular Season Premier show and to commence the flying element of this year’s RAF centenary commemorations, the flying programme held the prospect of spectators being able to witness the widest interval between British aviation technology designs from the past 100 years in the skies above Bedfordshire. With both the collection’s 1912 Blackburn Monoplane, which is the oldest airworthy aircraft of British origin in the world and the RAF’s latest Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 multi-role aircraft scheduled to appear in the same display programme, this would be the only place in the world where such a diverse spectrum of British aviation types could be seen at a world Airshow event.
With fair weather forecast and a sell out crowd confirmed in the days leading up to the event, it seemed as if the UK public were extremely keen to get this RAF Centenary year off to a flying start, using the unique surroundings of Old Warden airfield as their backdrop. Despite the popularity of the occasion, one thing which is always evident at a Shuttleworth show is that despite a healthy attendance descending on this relatively small airfield, these events always manage to retain their charming garden party atmosphere, which make them enjoyable for not just committed aviation enthusiasts, but also those simply looking to have a pleasant day out – you can even enjoy a full English breakfast whilst watching all the pre-show activity taking place around you and what could possibly be more civilised than that? The sights, sounds and smells (not the breakfast this time) at Old Warden are genuinely infectious and once you have broken your Shuttleworth duck, most other shows seem to be slightly impersonal by comparison. Even though my day still began with the obligatory early start and long, arduous drive down the A1, I know that when I arrive, I will not be facing the hard slog associated with some of the other shows I attend and can look forward to a much more relaxed day. As more people continue to discover this venue, show organisers thankfully seem determined to retain the charm and atmosphere at Old Warden, however, these greater visitor numbers have ensured that the purchase of tickets in advance of the event is now the only way to guarantee you will be taking your place in the crowd for their latest show, which is certainly no hardship when you know the many delights you will be experiencing during your latest visit.
Old Warden is the only place where you can see a Hawker Sea Hurricane on the same flying programme as a Bristol Boxkite
The traditional classic vehicle parade is the prelude to any Airshow at Old Warden – here, we are entertained by a Hillman Minx in RAF Bomb Disposal livery
What a magnificent sight. Great War era aviation ready to take part in the latest Shuttleworth spectacular
In advance of the show starting, there is always the opportunity to almost join in with the preparations for the afternoons flying activities, as aircraft are manhandled from the safety of their historic hangars and carefully manoeuvred through the crowds to the fenced off active airfield area – on the odd occasion, you may even be invited to lend a hand, if a little extra muscle is required. With pilot talks, hangar tours, static aircraft to be photographed and an array of trade stalls to be inspected, the hours before the flying display begins pass really quickly and no matter how many times you have been here before, there is always something different to enjoy. Adding to the show experience, the flying display is usually preceded by a classic vehicle parade, where some of the collection’s impressive and extremely historic vehicles make their way along the crowd line several times for our viewing pleasure, from motorcycles to Great War buses and everything in between. Passing in front of a Bristol Fighter, Hawker Demon and Supermarine Spitfire, can there possibly any finer way to keep a crowd enthralled, even before the flying display has started?
In this Royal Air Force centenary year, there really was only one way to open the 2018 Season Premier Airshow and that privilege was bestowed upon Flt Lt Jim Peterson of RAF No.29 Squadron from Coningsby and his spectacularly capable Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4, with the spectacular 2018 RAF Typhoon solo display. It is unusual for frontline fast jets to perform in the diminutive surroundings of a Shuttleworth show, so the announcement of a Typhoon display in the days leading up to the show was certainly a significant attraction and undoubtedly contributed greatly to the eventual size of the crowd - it would also have helped to finally make up the minds of those who may have been wavering regarding attendance. Blasting into the Old Warden circuit at high speed, the Typhoon performed its full routine of high energy manoeuvres and seemingly instantaneous speed variations under almost perfect conditions, highlighting the capabilities of this awesome aircraft which follows in the historic slipstream of such famous RAF fighters as the Sopwith Camel, SE5a, Hurricane and Spitfire. Now boasting a strong social media presence, the Typhoon Display Team have adopted the rather appropriate hashtag BringTheNoise and this opening act of the 2018 Shuttleworth Airshow season certainly lived up to its self-proclaimed billing.
The Royal Air Force Display Typhoon had the honour of opening this year’s Airshow events for the Shuttleworth Collection
It is unusual for fast jets to display at Old Warden shows and the Typhoon’s inclusion in the programme will have been a significant draw for many
With regard to the presentation of the display Typhoon and certainly not wishing to come across in too negative a tone, I wonder what other Aerodrome readers think about the special RAF 100 commemorative scheme applied to the tail of this year’s display aircraft, an aircraft which is representing today’s professional and cutting edge Royal Air Force in their significant anniversary year? I am absolutely certain that many readers will remember with great fondness the magnificent scheme applied to Typhoon ZK349 for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, representing the Hawker Hurricane flown by James Brindley Nicolson during his VC winning actions of 16th August 1940. This distinctively presented Typhoon became something of an overnight aviation sensation and one of the most popular RAF aircraft for many a year, undoubtedly achieving great things for RAF public relations. With this year being arguably a much more significant anniversary for the Royal Air Force, would something a little more imaginative not been more appropriate, particularly as British aviation will undoubtedly be receiving plenty of additional exposure over the coming months? Whilst I will never be against a welcome splash of colour applied to the relatively bland presentation of today’s military aircraft (which I fully appreciate have their primary concern to keep the nation safe, as opposed to ensuring our Airshow satisfaction), but could the 2018 display Typhoon not have been given the opportunity for Airshow immortality, in the same way that the Battle of Britain commemorative aircraft was? Perhaps the RAF have something spectacular up their sleeve and I am speaking completely out of turn, in which case I take everything back and congratulate them on their foresight. I am certainly looking forward with some excitement to see what may (or may not) appear on RAF aircraft over the coming few months.
As the spectacular Typhoon display drew to a close, it was time to prepare for the main historic component of the show, beginning with an Old Warden regular which was making its own colourful tribute to the RAFs centenary commemorations, the graceful Avro Anson.
Smart new colours for BAE Systems Avro Anson
Old Warden based Avro Anson C.19 G-AHKX has been specially painted to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force
As one of the largest aircraft to operate from the grass runway at Old Warden, the Avro Anson has become something of a crowd favourite and can usually be relied upon to indicate whether we are all in for a good show day, or not – from an airfield operation perspective, if the Anson can operate from the grass runway, then the lighter aircraft should have no trouble at all. Representing an aircraft type which was something of an unsung hero during the Second World War, the Anson enjoyed a spectacular production run from 1935 until 1952, which resulted in no fewer than 11,000 examples being produced, many of which remained in RAF service long after the end of hostilities. This particular Anson C.19 (G-AHKX) is part of the BAE Systems Heritage Collection and was purchased and restored by former Avro officials and apprentices at their Chadderton and Woodford factories in the North West, making its first post restoration flight from Woodford in March 2001.
This popular performer looks magnificent in these RAF Coningsby Station Flight colours
The late evening sunlight only helps to enhance the stunning good looks of this Avro classic
The attractive new colour scheme applied to this beautiful aircraft has been selected specifically in commemoration of the RAF centenary and celebrates the close links between British Aerospace, RAF Coningsby and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. It is based on an Anson XIX Mk.2 which served as RAF Coningsby’s Station Flight aircraft for several years and following the completion of its winter maintenance schedule at Old Warden, it was sent to receive its handsome new colours at a specialist aviation finishers. Not only does this scheme enhance this year’s RAF 100 commemorations, it also shows off the handsome lines of this Avro classic and has transformed the appearance of this popular Airshow performer. Befitting its status as a classic RAF aircraft, the Anson was to play a major role in the opening sequences of the show and was flown in formation with another Avro classic, the Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, before taking up station next to the unique ARCo Bristol Blenheim Mk.1 – both truly memorable sights and a credit to show organisers and display pilots alike.
A season highlight so early in the year
Avro Lancaster PA474 of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight making a rare appearance at an Old Warden show
Following the historic visit of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Avro Lancaster Mk.X (FM213) during the summer of 2014 and undoubtedly one of the most memorable aviation highlights in recent memory, the much loved Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (PA474) has endured something of a challenging time. Suffering from the impact of an in-flight engine fire, numerous niggling technical issues and the constant challenge of poor weather being prevalent on planned display dates, the aircraft seems to have spent more time in its hangar than thrilling display crowds all over the country during the past couple of years. For many historic aviation enthusiasts, the opportunity to be present at any Lancaster display is always something to get excited about and for this early season event, I was really struggling to remember a previous occasion where I had seen the aircraft displaying over the hallowed aviation ground at Old Warden. This relatively small airfield, with its dog-legged display line, always offers the possibility of some unique passes from our most precious historic aircraft and we all know that the most prized capture amongst photographers is that of a Lancaster top surface – could we be in for such an aviation treat so early in the season?
This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the famous Dambusters Raid, where nineteen specially modified Lancasters targeted the great Ruhr dams
Following on quickly from the high octane performance of the Eurofighter Typhoon, everyone on the airfield eagerly scoured the skies for our first glimpse of another Coningsby resident and for the continuation of what was already proving to be a stellar opening to the 2018 Airshow season. The tell-tale drone of four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines soon alerted the crowd to the aviation spectacle which we were about to experience, followed seconds later by a glorious top-surface sweep across the display axis at Old Warden and absolute confirmation that we were all present at what was shaping up to be one of the highlight events of this RAF centenary Airshow season – quite spectacular. Clearly enjoying the good weather, the Lancaster crew seemed determined to give their appreciative audience an exceptionally good look at this magnificent aircraft and re-affirm its status as one of the most important components of the years RAF Centenary commemorations. Over the course of the next few minutes, many of the photographers on the airfield will have obtained some of the best Lancaster pictures they had ever taken at a UK Airshow, including top surfaces passes and an evocative flypast in formation with the newly repainted Avro Anson, before her unmistakable profile bade us a final farewell and headed back in the direction of RAF Coningsby.
An early season highlight rewarded the spectators at the first Old Warden show of 2018, as the BBMF Lancaster performed this stunning top surface pass to announce its arrival
With the Lancaster now clear of the airfield, the stage was set for another BBMF classic to make her first Shuttleworth appearance of the year and attempt to upstage its larger Coningsby hangar mate, in the shape of Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XVIe TE311. Having spent the 2017 season is a rather strange dark primer paint presentation, the sight of her wearing a smart new colour scheme was certainly one to behold and one worthy of further explanation. Over the 2016 winter maintenance period, TE311 was due to emerge from this work in a planned new scheme and was given a coat of primer paint in preparation of this work. Unfortunately, technical issues affecting a number of the other BBMF fighters dictated that this Spitfire would be needed for display duties throughout the season and its planned visit to the Coningsby paint shop was delayed, resulting in its rather unusual appearance throughout the 2017 Airshow season.
Not to be outdone by its larger hangar mate, Spitfire Mk.XVIe showed that whatever the Lancaster can do, her little friends are equally proficient at doing
This spectacular new scheme for 2018 features a striking ‘Boxing Bulldog’ on the starboard side of the fuselage, underneath the engine exhaust stack
As if to underline just how unusual last year’s Spitfire pictures were and how they are surely destined to become an Airshow talking point in the future, TE311 is now resplendent in her originally planned new scheme, that of the personal aircraft of Group Captain Aleksander Gabszewicz, officer commanding RAF No131 (Polish) Wing during 1945. The aircraft sports rather smart ‘Boxing Bulldog’ artwork and Polish insignia under the starboard side exhaust stack and carries the codes SZ-G on the fuselage sides, making this yet another significant highlight in this important year for British Aviation. For most in attendance, this will have been their first sight of the Spitfire in its new scheme, but thankfully for us, the BBMF pilot at the controls was determined to give us plenty of opportunities to take a good picture of his aircraft and banish the primer paint issue once and for all – such an early season treat from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Britain’s most historic airworthy fighting aircraft?
The Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a helped to secure Allied air superiority over their German counterparts during the final months of the Great War
It is inevitable that over the course of the next few months, the centenary commemorations of the Royal Air Force will bring the subject of British aviation to the attention of a great many people and may lead some to ask the question, which is the most historic aircraft still flying in Britain today? As these commemorations also coincide with the significant centenary of the end of the Great War and the first few frantic months in the birth of the newly formed RAF, it somehow seems right that the Shuttleworth Collection should have the honour of hosting the first significant Airshow of the 2018 season, particularly as it is the custodian of one of the finest collections of Great War aircraft types found anywhere in the world. With one particularly significant aircraft scheduled to take its place in the flying display, it is interesting to look at its history and to consider events which took place the day before the armistice on 11th November 1918 and a combat patrol which resulted on one RAF airmen achieving the coveted status of ‘air Ace’.
Like so many airmen before him, Charles Edward Murray Pickthorn transferred to the Royal Flying Corps from the British Army and began his flying service as an observer in reconnaissance aircraft operating over the Western Front. His flying potential was clearly illustrated during combat in June 1916, when he was forced to take over control of his aircraft after the pilot had become incapacitated, having suffered severe combat injuries. Not only did he land the aircraft safely back at his home airfield, he also had the presence of mind to send a message back by Morse code asking for medical teams to be on stand-by for his arrival.
Brothers in Arms. The historic SE5a sharing the skies with a Sopwith Camel, two of the most successful fighting aircraft of WWI
After successfully completing his flying training, Pickthorn began to hone his fighting skills and victories quickly followed. On 21st March 1917, he was involved in a dogfight with a German Albatros scout and having wounded the pilot, his adversary was forced to crash land his aircraft near British positions. The enemy aircraft was adorned with a striking skull and crossbones insignia on the fuselage and was the mount of Crown Prince Frederich of Prussia. Tragically, having survived the crash, the Prince tried to run across no man’s land towards German lines and was shot by Allied troops - he was captured, only to die of his injuries soon after.
The Collection’s SE5a F-904 can certainly claim to be amongst the most important historic aircraft still flying in Britain today
Proving to be not only an excellent pilot but also an effective leader of men, Pickthorn was given command of No.84 Squadron on 8th November 1918, where he would come into contact with Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a F-904. Built by Wolseley Motors, the fighter had only arrived at the squadron a few days earlier, but was flown on patrol by Major Pickthorn two days after assuming command of the unit. During the flight, Pickthorn managed to destroy one of the Luftstreitkrafte’s fearsome Fokker D.VII fighters near the Belgian village of Chimay in an action which proved to be one of the last aerial victories of the war – the armistice came into effect at 11am the following day. Incredibly, the aircraft used by Major Pickthorn to score his final victory of WWI and earn him the coveted status of ‘Ace’ survives to this day and is currently the only original airworthy example of the SE5a in the world. Possessing genuine combat provenance, Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a F-904 is now maintained and operated by the famous Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden and is a regular performer at the many flying events held at the airfield each year. Thrilling Airshow crowds who can hardly believe they are watching a genuine WWI aircraft performing for their enjoyment, this classic British fighter has to be considered the most important RAF aircraft still in existence and will surely play a major role in their Centenary commemorations throughout 2018.
British aviation history on display at the Shuttleworth Season Premier Airshow
The beautiful Bristol F2b Fighter is another one of the rare Great War era aircraft that thrill spectators at the regular Shuttleworth Airshows
As is always the case with any Shuttleworth air display, particularly one which is performed under almost perfect weather conditions, there are simply too many highlights to squeeze into a single review article, with each and every aircraft possessing such fascinating history that they are worthy of a dedicated feature in their own right. This was certainly the case for this first Old Warden Airshow of the 2018 season, but we cannot leave it without paying special attention to another significant highlight of the show and a particularly poignant achievement for one of Shuttleworth’s hard working and exceptionally proficient pilots. Taking its place as one of the Shuttleworth Collection’s most popular performers and a magnificent airworthy example of a famous Great War British aircraft type, the Bristol F2b Fighter is arguably the world’s first truly multi-role aircraft, with the Shuttleworth example being the only original airworthy example in Europe.
Clare Tector takes to the sky in the Bristol Fighter for the first time at a Shuttleworth air display
Mission accomplished. Clare nurses the Bristol Fighter back down to earth following her first successful Airshow performance in this rare aircraft – hearty congratulations!
Powered by the oldest working Rolls-Royce aero engine still in existence, the Bristol Fighter was certainly one of the flying stars of this Premier Airshow and was piloted for the first time Clare Tector – the first time a lady pilot had displayed this aircraft at an Old Warden show. Clare has the distinction of being the first full-time female collection pilot and has been flying Shuttleworth aircraft since 2011, however this will have been a significant achievement in her impressive aviation career and I am certain that Aerodrome readers will allow me to send Clare our congratulations on a job very well done.
The unique nature of Old Warden air displays is characterised by the variety of aircraft which take part in these events, especially the older aircraft types, many of which can only be experienced at this famous old airfield. As many of these aircraft can only be flown if the weather conditions are particularly benign, you know if you have been blessed with good weather if you manage to see any of the aircraft in the ‘Edwardians’ section taking to the air at the end of the show. For this first event of the year, the end of the show provided an aviation contrast that can only be experienced at Old Warden, replacing the cutting edge power and majesty of the RAF’s latest Eurofighter Typhoon with examples of three of the oldest aircraft types still flying in Britain today, the Avro Triplane, Bristol Boxkite and the Blackburn Monoplane.
No Shuttleworth show is complete without an appearance from the ‘Edwardian’ aircraft, with this Bristol Boxkite replica being perhaps the most impressive
This replica Avro Triplane presents an aircraft from around 1910, but was actually built much later than this to star in the 1965 film ‘Those magnificent men in their flying machines’
The historic Blackburn Monoplane is the oldest airworthy aircraft of British origin and brought this enjoyable event to a fitting close
As we saw earlier, the Blackburn Monoplane provided the most dramatic contrast to the show opening Typhoon, as this historic aeroplane is the oldest airworthy aircraft of British origin in the world and as such, commands just as much attention as our latest air superiority fighter. The sight of these three aircraft elegantly gracing the evening skies at Old Warden really does highlight why UK aviation enthusiasts are incredibly fortunate in having access to such events and why Old Warden is such a popular venue in the world of historic aviation. Although this was just the first event of this significant RAF centenary Airshow year, things could hardly have gone any better and the sell-out crowd were treated to one of the most enjoyable starts to any Airshow season I can remember. Although they certainly managed to set the display bar extremely high and this will undoubtedly be a difficult act to follow, something tells me that we are heading for a special year of aviation and the coming Airshow season holds plenty more highlights in store for anyone fortunate enough to witness them. I am, however, very much looking forward to my next visit to Old Warden and another helping of Shuttleworth aviation magic.
Aerodrome RAF 100 tribute edition
The Supermarine Spitfire will surely feature heavily in any article charting 100 years of the Royal Air Force
As many Aerodrome readers would probably describe themselves as proficient photographers and will no doubt be aiming to attend at least one RAF Centenary related event over the summer months, we are perhaps ideally positioned to produce our own significant and extremely personal tribute to the RAF at 100 and bring this to the attention of a worldwide audience of likeminded enthusiasts. With this in mind, we are planning to produce a very special edition of Aerodrome later in the year, showcasing our own tribute to this year’s commemorations and we invite readers to send in their contributions for inclusion. Based around the theme of the RAF at 100, we are looking for pictures and/or stories which you feel most accurately describe your interpretation of this centenary year, be this a particularly enjoyable display you may have witnessed during the Airshow season, an RAF aircraft with which you have a particular affinity, or even something which reminds you of a friend, relative or loved one who served in the Royal Air Force. Each and every picture and story we use will include the full details of the reader who kindly supplied it and will be circulated to our huge worldwide readership in a special edition of Aerodrome as this RAF centenary year draws to a close. We have an opportunity to produce something really special in support of RAF 100, something which tells the human story of the force, even if this just happens to be why a particular picture of an RAF aircraft means something to you.
I am already thinking about my own contribution, but I would be extremely grateful if you would join me in helping to create a unique and lasting tribute to the centenary of the Royal Air Force and what this occasion means to us. Please send your contributions to email@example.com and I will endeavour to reply to each one I receive – I will also keep reminding you at the end of future Aerodrome blogs, as I really believe we can produce something special here – if an RAF 100 job is worth doing, it is certainly worth doing well. I am really excited to see what our readers come up with and I am already confident this is going to be an interesting success.
I am afraid that is all we have for you in this latest edition of Aerodrome, but we will be back with more aviation related news in two weeks’ time, as we march inexorably towards our own significant centenary – the 100th edition of Aerodrome, currently scheduled for publication in early August. This might be a good time for readers to let us know what you think of our blog, how it could be improved and what you would like to see covered in future editions. Please send any suggestions to our regular contact e-mail addresses at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com where we will be only too pleased to hear from you.
For those who enjoy time spent contributing to social media, all the latest Aerodrome and aviation related discussions are taking place right now on both the Airfix Aerodrome Forum and Corgi Aerodrome Forum and your contributions will be most welcome. Again, if you have any specific comments, questions or suggestions for future editions of Aerodrome, please do feel free to drop us a line and let us know your thoughts. We also have our popular Airfix Facebook and Corgi Facebook pages, along with Airfix Twitter or Corgi Twitter accounts available for viewing – please could we ask that you use #aerodrome when posting about an aerodrome topic.
The next edition of Aerodrome is due to be published on Friday 1st June, where we look forward to bringing you more interesting aviation related features then.
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