Shuttleworth Military Evening Drive-in Airshow

Saturday 18th June 2022

Shuttleworth airshows have often been extremely easy for us to review in the past. Recently however, the Trust has come under some criticism. Is it justified or do we all need reflect on life’s realities?

Jakub Zurek reports from a rather miserable Old Warden. Photos by the author.

The saying ‘bang for your buck’ has never been more important than today. The tough times we find ourselves living in are impacting our hobby whether we like it or not - both from a personal perspective and the wider effect it has on organisations and aircraft operators such as the Shuttleworth Trust. Gripes about repetitive lineups, increasing ticket prices and an additional charge to park your car at the drive-in evening shows (which are clearly not strictly drive-in airshows with visitors free to set up camp by the fence line) it is fair to say that for the most part, criticism of Shuttleworth has been justified.

Nevertheless, the Military themed evening ‘drive-in’ airshow promised an interesting list of visiting aircraft and hopefully a sign of things to come, proving that we are getting back to some sort of healthy ‘normal’ like pre-COVID. Spitfire Mk. V EE602 was booked to fly in formation with B-17 ‘Sally B’ and Shuttleworth’s own Spitfire Mk. V as the headline act, with P-47 Thunderbolt, 'civvy' Hurricane pair R4118 and BE505 (its first airshow appearance in two-seat configuration) alongside a flypast from one of the BBMF's, LF-107 Luňák glider, Queen Bee and Tiger Moth rounding out the guest list. Considering how truly magnificent evening shows at Old Warden can be when everything falls into place, a cast of that quality is surely enough for even the most stubborn enthusiast to part with their cash.

Sadly, as good as this was on paper, the reality fell somewhat short. After a scorching heat wave in the week leading up to the show, it was a huge disappointment for Saturday’s show to be hit with a gloomy, rainy weather front, especially after the Jubilee airshow two weeks earlier suffered a similar fate. The forecast meant it took a brave soul to travel to Old Warden, as demonstrated by the sparse crowds and space on the crowdline, but, luckily, most of the afternoon saw only light passing showers. A break from the rain was forecast just in time for the start of the flying display and absolutely came true with the Flying Fortress appearing from crowd left, flanked by the two Spitfire Mk. Vs to open the show. Truly a memorable opening act, with both of these exact Spitfires documented to have escorted the famed ‘Memphis Belle’ in WWII.

Although conditions continued to be grey throughout the evening, they did remain dry, and the flying display provided a chance to see the majority of the anticipated displays allowing for a handful of changes or cancellations. The Thunderbolt was replaced with TF-51 ‘Contrary Mary’, and the weather prevented the BBMF or the more delicate home-based types such as the WWI aircraft and Edwardians from making an appearance, but the flying on the whole remained enjoyable. It was your typical Old Warden airshow and surely the airshow of choice for warbird enthusiasts when compared to the highly criticised Duxford summer airshow nearby, discussed at lengths on our forum. All the flying displays were extremely engaging, with a lack of commentary over the loudspeakers providing a perfect opportunity to fully enjoy the engine notes of some familiar aircraft.

The display finished earlier than anticipated, around 8pm when the heavens opened, Contrary Mary’s display signalling the end of the day after two and a half hours of flying action. Though one must wonder, what could have been, if we were blessed with blue sunny skies and the quality of acts that were booked to appear alongside the home fleet.

With such poor weather at both of Shuttleworth’s June airshows, one can only hope that blue sunny skies have been booked for the return of the much-anticipated Fly Navy airshow in July. The list of visiting aircraft for that one is mouth-watering. One can hope!