Little Gransden Air & Car Show

Sunday 29th August 2021

With a choice of aerial events during the August bank holiday weekend, many regular devotees and newcomers were convinced to make the journey to attend the Little Gransden Air & Car show. With the promise of a varied aircraft line-up and once again raising money for BBC's Children in Need following a forced cancellation in 2020, could the show deliver in these testing times?

Jakub Zurek reports for UKAR on a typically underwhelming overcast British bank holiday weekend.

It was easy to make the decision to attend the Little Gransden airshow this year. The idyllic grass airfield is the perfect location and with a varied aircraft line-up promising early to late WWII-era warbirds, trainers, solo aerobatic displays, formations and even a classic jet in the form of Vampire T.11, the hunger to see this unique selection of acts, often not seen elsewhere, was difficult to ignore. For £20 per adult in advance (up to a week before the show) or £25 on the gate, this represented great value for a full day of entertainment - whilst also raising money for a good cause. In a much-changed COVID-19 climate in which airshows nearby have raised ticket prices considerably, LGAS should be commended for managing to keep theirs down. Additionally, year upon year, the airfield is witness to a unique selection of airshow participants; despite this author's previous reservations about the show in 2019 it is for this reason the event is worth attending as it really does offer something different to the copy and paste line-ups seen at other events across the country.

Early birds at the showground this year were treated to a heap of aircraft arrivals, to the extent it felt like a well organised vintage aviation fly-in. Various types such as Chipmunks, Moths, Norvigie, Anson, Gemini and even a second, unexpected, Hurricane flew in soon after gates opened and taxied close to the adoring crowds. At this point in time, it was anyone's guess as to whether these were surprise additions to the flying programme or simply visiting the show for static display. There were also a couple of impromptu interviews with Guinness World Record holder Travis Ludlow and Hurricane R4118 owner and pilot James Brown, which made for a thoroughly enjoyable morning. Though aircraft on static display such as the unique all-red Chipmunk in which HRH Prince Charles learned to fly in were difficult to see up close due to the stacked lines of parked aircraft, opportunities for good views of take offs and landings were aplenty.

With a short interlude for the D-Day darlings around lunchtime, Mark Jefferies promptly opened the show in a Yak-50 nicknamed 'Mad Russian', followed by a couple of other aerobatic types including Rich Goodwin's muscle biplane. Following the memorial service and right on cue, the first warbird of the day in the form of a single BBMF Spitfire replacing the Lancaster still stuck at Duxford buzzed past at exactly the right moment. Though what felt like a short, distant and high display, the BBMF and the organisers should once again be applauded for the timing which could not have been any more perfect following a service dedicated to all service men and women and in particular local WWII veterans.

The flying display for the remainder of the afternoon could be described as hit and miss, with anticipated highlights such as the newly repainted Spitfire Mk. XVI in USAAF markings displaying particularly high. Other participants however, such as both Eskil Amdal and John Dodd in the Mustangs, Harvard 'Wacky Wabbit', Gemini and Navy Wings associate aircraft Stinson Reliant to name just a few were perfectly close, in what could have easily been mistaken for a Shuttleworth-esque display line.

Though the Yale, Vampire and Lancaster were unable to fulfil their planned displays, there were unannounced appearances from aforementioned aircraft such as Hurricane Mk. I V7947, Spartan Executive and even the Tiger 9 display team. With Hurricane R4118 also in the flying programme, it was perhaps a shame not to see both Hurricanes take to the air together. Moreover, the website and social media channels were not updated with aircraft bookings and cancellations leading up to the show, which enthusiasts would have appreciated. For many though, unquestionably, the best display of the day - a particularly sprightly and photographically pleasing routine showing off the design to perfection - was one of these surprise acts: Miles Gemini G-AKHP in the hands of owner Stuart Blanchard.

In a heavily Anglo-American orientated airshow circuit, it was also a pleasure to see the display debut of a Yak-3 UTI, performing an energetic routine and making use of the full display line, at times orbiting all the way around the back of the crowdline. The Gypsy pair consisting of two de Havilland Gypsy powered aircraft also deserve a special mention. The pilots perfectly demonstrated the agility of the Chipmunk and Auster and is a display ideally suited to a venue like Little Gransden.

Following the frustratingly cloudy summer of 2021, as soon as the nine Tiger Moths officially closed the airshow, the clouds parted, making way for a beautiful evening. With the showground now occupied by sparse crowds, a lack of commentary (as excellent as it was this year thanks to Ben Dunnell) and a tranquil atmosphere at the airfield, the two Battle of Britain veteran Hurricanes started up and departed in tune to a Rolls-Royce Merlin orchestra, back to their home bases and were certainly worth staying around for.

The show was over in the blink of an eye for this particular author in what can only be a testament to his overall enjoyment and the constant stream of aerial activity. Next year sees LGAS host their 30th show and it will undeniably prove to be one to remember if this year is anything to go by. Long may the show continue and keep raising money for a good cause, it was certainly good to be back amongst such a variety of aircraft.