FLY NAVY 2016   -  Old Warden Aerodrome / UK

On the Sunday 5th June The Shuttleworth Collection at the Old Warden Aerodrome near Biggleswade held its second show of the season. Fly Navy was the title and theme, the line up was both ambitious and optimistic, but with a little help from their friends the team at Old Warden pulled it off with style. Airshows in the UK are going through a period of change due to the reaction of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the insurance industry to the tragic crash of Hunter T.Mk 7 (G-BFXI) at the Shoreham Air Show last season. The insurers are charging higher premiums to cover shows and the CAA is introducing new and amended rules for display organisers. Several shows have already been cancelled this year due to these changes and some regular spotters sites won’t be open this year at RIAT. The change that most of us will notice is the display line moving further away from the crowd line, comments have been made about this from the Abingdon Show and Duxford and it was evident at Old Warden too. It is worth mentioning that although the Shoreham crash caused the loss of 11 lives and a further 16 injured, none of them were in the Air Show grounds.


A great part of the charm of Old Warden is the intimacy and proximity of the aircraft and flight crews, that has been retained as the aircraft parking is still next to the fence line. So some interaction with pilots and crews is still possible and watching the flight preparations and checks is very interesting and helps make for a great atmosphere. The day was well supported by the Royal Navy who had a Westland MERLIN Mk.2 from No. 824 Naval Air Squadron  and a Westland LYNX from No. 815 Naval Air Squadron on static display. The MERLIN arrived the day before the show to take a position behind the crowd line and the LYNX fly in just before the display started and overcast sky cleared to leave hazy sunshine for the afternoon.


In a general reversal of the usual running order at Old Warden the show opened with some heavy metal in the shape of the DeHavilland DH. 110 SEA VIXEN FAW (Fighter All Weather) Mk.2 from the Fly Navy Heritage Trust flown by Commander Simon Hargreaves OBE RNR. The Rolls-Royce AVON Mk.208 announcing the arrival of the cold war carrier based fighter. After a couple of formation passes with the Shuttleworth  Collections Hawker SEA HURRICANE Ib Z7015 the SEA VIXEN performed a solo display incorporating clean and dirty passes and several very good top side passes.


A great opening for the display, the display went on with several Shuttleworth Collection regulars and a distinctive number of guests including aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF), Royal Navy Historic Flight (RNHF), Richard Grace (Supermarine SEAFIRE Mk.III), Tony Whitehead (Morane Saulnier MS 317),  David Bremner (Bristol Scout Replica), Historic Aircraft Company (HAC), The Fighter Collection (TFC), Terry Martin (Westland WASP HAS1) and Kennet Aviation (North American AT-6 HARVARD). The action was none stop from there on with interesting formations including a Hawker trio of two Hawker NIMRODSs Mk1 and Mk2 with Shuttleworths own Hawker DEMON  making for a distinctive formation indeed. And the Fairey SWORDFISH, Gloster GLADIATOR and the North American HARVARD for another distinctive trio.


The Fighter Collection (TFC) provided their Grumman WILDCAT, Grumman BEARCAT and Vought CORSAIR in formation and solo displays plus one of the two Hawker NIMRODS and a Gloster GLADIATOR. Supermarine SPITFIRE and SEAFIRE were provided by the BBMF and Richard Grace who flew a solo display. The Shuttleworth Collection fly a number of their own vintage aircraft including the Bristol Fb2, Avro TUTOR, Avro ANSON, Westland LYSANDER and the Cirrus MOTHh who flew with the French Morane MS 317. The day was however stolen by the Royal Navy Historic Flights Fairey SWORDFISH W 5856. The Stringbag, as the type became known as, has a three man flight crew and although it was considered obsolete at the start off WWII it still went to war and gave a good account of itself whilst tacking heavy losses. The Bristol PEGASUS 9 cylinder radial supercharged engine provided the backing track to a majestic display, not fast or aerobatic but ominous and unrelenting. The SWORDFISH is best remembered for its attacks on the Italian fleet at Taranto and against the German Battleship Bismark and during the famous Channel Dash when the obsolete biplane faced the pride of the German Navy with unflinching resolve.


The day at Shuttleworth was a great success and the flying displays were outstanding showing that even with the new rules a well thought out program on the ground and in the air can provide a great show. So well done to the team at Old Warden, there was just one advertised display missing and that was the BBMF Douglas DC 3 that’s currently unserviceable. The team host air displays regularly over the season and full details of the display programme and the other exhibits can be found at

For our readers outside of the UK it’s worth noting that Old Warden is only 40 minute’s drive from Duxford so if you are planning an aviation visit to the UK this venue should be on your itinerary.

Will Moore / Checksix UK


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