Sharing the season opener with Abbingdon, Shuttleworth Premier got the nod with a steller line up and the perfect setting for an airshow. Coupled with the promise of perfect weather conditions, a long awaited return of the BBMF Lancaster and the first appearance of the RAF Typhoon at the venue the show sold out several days in advance. Thankfully the weather kept its side of the bargain and as we arrived to an already busy crowd line shortly after 8.15 the sky was clear promising a great days flying. One of the highlights of the show was to be the collections recently restored Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vc AR501 but sadly it only made a static appearance after the earlier wet weather prevented it from gaining enough hours to certify to display.
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the RAF, Shuttleworth Premier was opened with the debut performance of the 2018 Typhoon display flown by Flight Lt Jim Peterson. Restricted by Luton and Stansted airspace the display was limited to a rolling one which was expectedly distant but still managed to bring rather more noise than usual to the sleepy English countryside.
The inclusion of a modern jet was controversial amongst some Shuttleworth purists but this was a celebration of the RAF’s centenary so i think the inclusion of the RAF’s current front line fighter was justified. With the noise and minor controversy over it was over to more traditional flying with a trio of DHC Chipmunk T.22, Hunting (Percival) Piston Provost T.1 and Miles Magister celebrating monoplane trainers.
Making a welcome return to Shuttleworth after a 4 year gap, many of the expected crowd were discussing the big question. Would the BBMF Lancaster make full use of the unique Shuttleworth dog leg and come “round the bend”. Appearing crowd left pilot Tim Dunlop didn’t disappoint as he put in a superb long top side pass to delight the crowd in one of the highlights of a long and memorable day.
The Lancaster then went out into the circuit to meet up with the Old Warden based Avro Anson who was already airborne awaiting her display partner. Whilst the Avro pair formed up the BBMF’s recently repainted Spitfire LFXVIE flown by BBMF chief Andy Miliggan. Again making full use of the Shuttleworth layout to put in three superb topside passes. Sadly the BBMF Hurricane which had displayed with the Lancaster and Spitfire at Abbingdon had a technical issue and returned to Coningsby before it got to Shuttleworth. The BAE owned Avro Anson is another aircraft showing off a new paint scheme for the RAF Centenary. With the blue BAE vintage blue scheme replayed by a recreation of TX176 of RAF Coningsby station flight, it was fitting that she should display with Coningsby resident and fellow Avro designed aircraft in the BBMF Lancaster.
Seemlessly flowing from one display to the next, the Anson joined up with the Bristol Blenheim before John Romain put the Blenheim through an outstanding display with enough topside passes to keep any photographer happy. It would also be a memorable day for the crew after the Lancaster returned to Conningsby on 3 engines with her number 4 engine shutdown and feathered as a precaution after a high oil temperature warming light.
With the collections DH82a Tiger Moth and Blackburn B2 filling the biplane trainer slot and the Hawker Demon and Tomtit representing the 1930’s Silver Wings Stu Goldspink and Cliff Spink took up the spitfire pair of Spitfire Mk1 NS3200 and Supermarine Spitfire IX MH434, both visiting from nearby Duxford.
With a well timed departure of the Bristol Blenheim back to Duxford ahead of a paired display by Shuttleworth resident Sea Hurricane Z7015 and Hawker Restorations MkII conversion G-HITT, the trio did a three ship formation flypast before paired and solo displays from the Hurricanes.
Taking the RAF back to its very beginning were the Shuttleworth Collections aircraft from the Great War including the debut of the Sopwith Camel. Frank Chapman in the Avro 504 paired up with Rob Millinship in the Bristol M1C whilst Clair Tractor put in her debut display in the Bristol F2B.
Then it was the turn of chief test pilot Dodge Bailey to take to the air in the Sopwith Camel. This famous fighter type from WWI was the final machine from Northern Aeroplane Workshop who also produced the Sopwith Triplane and Bristol M1C for the collection before they disbanded in 2013 as the lease on their workshop expired. The Collections engineers then completed the build at Shuttleworth before her maiden test flight on May 2017.
Dodge put in a steady display of this difficult to fly aircraft alongside Jean Munn in the RAF SE5.
With still conditions as the main program completed there was a rare opportunity for the Edwardians to fly. These mix of original and replica aircraft from the very early days of flight can only be flown when the wind is calm so it’s a real privilege to see them take to the skies. Paul Stone took the Bristol Box Kite up. This 1965 replica of a 1910 design was made for the film Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines and was joined by Dodge Bailey in the 1912 Blackburn Type D monoplane.
This was a great season opener, with some classic debuts and return to flights alongside Shuttleworth regulars all putting in some great flying and making full use Old Wardens photogenic display lines. The RAF as well as sending the Typhoon and BBMF displays also provided a Puma HC.2 on static display which made an excellent departure at the end of the show and the chance to see the Edwardians take to the air was the icing on the cake to this celebration of 100 years of the RAF.