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Shuttleworth Old Warden 2017 Fly Navy airshow report and photos
Where? Shuttleworth / Biggleswade, UK
When? 04/06/2017

The „Fly Navy“ event / airshow at Shuttleworth is a close cooperation between the Shuttleworth collection and the “Fly Navy Heritage Trust”. As every flying event at the remarkable airfield in Bedfordshire it focuses on vintage aircraft, and this time it did with a special focus on the aircraft of the Naval Air Arm. This second edition of “Fly Navy” in 2017 has put a second chapter to a young, but already successful story.

Shuttleworth Fly Navy Airshow 2017

The event on June 4th was the successful continuation of this theme day, which celebrated its premiere in old Warden in the last year. With an over 100-year old tradition of the Royal Navy, the Shuttleworth Collection took the chance to dedicate one of their flying days to the British naval aviation. This new concept received such a great feedback that „Fly Navy” was once again on the schedule this year. The flying display saw any aircraft taking part that could be related in some way to naval aviation, ranging from WWI up to the early after war years.

A main topic of the air show was to collect donations and funds for the 1972 created „Fly Navy Heritage Trust“, which amongst others cares for the heritage aircraft of the Royal Navy. The wide support of the Royal Navy Historic Flight was thus assured and Biggleswade a good place to go and see them up and close and operating from a grass strip. Furthermore the air show was also supported by modern Royal Navy helicopters. A Westland Merlin HM2 was placed in the static display and open for inspection.

For the flying program the Shuttleworth Collection did not only put up their aircraft having a relation to naval aviation, but also a great number of guest aircraft had been invited. The largest attraction for sure was the announced of the RNHF Sea Vixen „Foxy Lady “.Still on weekend before she was one of the highlights on the flying program at Duxford. However, when landing back home at Yeovilton, she suffered a belly landing that would keep here on ground for a while and which was the early end of the air show season for the charismatic jet. Noticeably less spectacular to see but a very rarely presented outside its home airfield Yeovilton was the Chipmunk of the RNHF. It was flown in formation with other training aircraft in one of these special Shuttleworth formations.

As so often the the Old Warden-based Sea Hurricane opened the flying display in the early afternoon. While the commentators on the old control towers told about flying the Sea Hurricane from an aircraft carrier, the Hurricane passed up and down along the runway axis, all that with a nice sound from its Merlin III engine.

The Fighter Collection

This prelude kicked off the airshow for the afternoon, which presented the machines of the Shuttleworth Collection and the invited guests in a proven manner. Already for some years there exists a close relationship between Shuttleworth and the Duxford-based „The Fighter Collection" (TFC). As both airfields are not located very far from each other, there is a constant exchange of guest machines for each of their events. For „Fly Navy" Dave Southwood and Stu Goldspink flew in with the very fitting pair of a Grumman FM2 Wildcat and the F8F Bearcat.

Even at a faster pace the Hawker Fury, the last real piston fighter, was flown. The Fury was the Royal Navy’s last piston fighter and still saw operational use during the Suez Crisis, when the first jets were also already operational. Originally that plane flew for the Iraqi Air Force, but its current markings represent one of the British prototypes, which becomes evident from the yellow underside painting.

Supermarine Spitfire & Hawker Hurricane - the BBMF

One exception from the “Fly Navy” theme were the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF). They did not fit into the maritime slogan, but were an entertaining interlude, when they approached in very close formation for their fly-by. Unfortunately the sky was long filled with clouds at that time, and they even changed their colour from blue to grey at the beginning of the flying display.

The highlight towards the end of the flying display was of course the big white Consolidated Catalina coming over from Duxford. Seeing this huge flying boat nearly touching down on the runway was a real thrill.

A ‘mini Balbo’ at the end of the show saw the formation fly-by of the Gladiator, Lysander and Hind, accompanied by a strange, sputtering engine sound. As the Gladiator left the formation in a shallow dive and disappeared behind the trees, the reason for this unusual noise was unfortunately clear. Fortunately the aircraft came to a stop with only minor damage and no injuries to the pilot.

Old Warden's Fly Navy Airshow

Though the missing Sea Vixen and the Gladiator towards the end weighed heavy on some minds, the Shuttleworth Collection once again put up a strong program. It was a varied flying program with aircraft from WWI up to post WWII and there remains no doubt that “Fly Navy” will most likely see a third edition in 2018. And for the gray sky please on't blame the weatherman, but instead keep a close look at www.shuttleworth.org

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