Spits & Swallows
Damien Burke reports from Old Warden's 30s airshow, 4 July
A 1930s theme for an Old Warden show is possibly being a bit cheeky. The collection is, after all, composed of mostly aircraft from that era! So to be honest I was expecting this to be one of the 'also-rans' in the Shuttleworth season - which would still make it miles more enjoyable than most other airshows, just not up to the highest standards that the Collection can manage.
I was pleasantly surprised to be absolutely wrong. While much of the Collection's own aircraft were put through their paces, there were a number of tasty treats to make this show worth a visit even for those who think one visit to Old Warden a year will see everything worth seeing.
The unique Dart Kitten, a Stampe (quite a rarity to see one actually displaying despite how many of them there are about), a 1930s style air race (won by Rob Millinship with a fearsome performance in the diminuitive Chilton DW.1), a Pietenpol Aircamper (flown by John Diggory in his first season as a display pilot), Rollason Condor (flown beautifully - and low! - by Andy Sephton), Luscombe Silvaire and as the absolute icing on the cake... the one and only BA Swallow. This huge monoplane was displayed in a fitting and elegant manner and belied its large size with some unexpectedly tight manouevres within Old Warden's curved display arena.
Groundbound items worthy of a look included the Tutor resplendent in red/white starburst CFS aerobatic team colours (come on chaps, when's it flying?!), a rather tasty black and yellow Zlin 226 (not 1930s but the styling isn't far off - it's like an angular Chipmunk), Isaacs Fury, a Bulldog and a brace of Chipmunks.
Shuttleworth stalwarts included in the flying display were the Anson, Hornet Moth, Tiger Moth and Magister (the latter three doing the now well-practiced barnstorming and tailchasing segment), Falcon, Magister, Tiger Moth (in the air race - rumour has it this was planned as a handicapped race with everybody finishing around the same time - however competitive spirit amongst the pilots clearly threw that plan out of the window!), Humming Bird and Cirrus Moth, Blackburn B.2, Peter Holloway's newly acquired Ryan PT22 (in its second public outing), Lysander, Spitfire and Hurricane.
There was, however, a fly in the ointment. The guest commentator - Jeremy Spake - provided what was the most annoying commentary in the history of airshows. With his constants 'oohs' and 'aahs' and exclamations of '...Lsyander!' whenever his favourite aircraft moved... well, I know of at least one person who actually left rather than listen to any more. I wouldn't go that far... but I did spend a lot of time as far away from the speakers as possible! Perhaps in another setting his style would work but personally I do not think it works at Old Warden.
The weather wasn't awfully kind to us, kicking off with a brief downpour shortly before the show and hiding the sun in dark clouds for a good portion of the afternoon. The wind put paid to any chance of the Edwardians coming out to play but as is usual with airshows, the weather was gorgeous just after the display finished. All those who left at that point missed some lovely photo opportunities with some of the based aircraft taking to the sky in golden sunlight.