Shuttleworth Collection 'King & Country Air Show'

Sunday 7th May 2023

After a long and harsh winter that never really seemed to end, it was once again Shuttleworth's Season Premiere airshow that opened the 2023 UK airshow season. Though the previous day's Coronation Flypast over London was almost a complete washout, Shuttleworth's fortunes fared much better on Sunday.

Jakub Zurek reports from a waterlogged Old Warden for UK Airshow Review, with supplimantary photography by Scott Perry.

With the Coronation of King Charles III on Saturday and an extended weekend of national celebration, Shuttleworth appropriately used this as an opportunity for the theme for their first flying display of the year. Though some planned display acts had a more dubious connection to the theme than others, the show looked like an attractive proposition on paper and frankly, after a long off-season, it doesn't take much to draw the crowds to events such as these. Especially with some planned improvements in ticket prices, parking and catering facilities, murmurs of "the old Shuttleworth is back" could be read and heard prior to the show.

The build up to the season opener was exciting as always, and none of the visiting acts were perhaps more significant than the all-red DHC Chipmunk. This Chipmunk, WP903, in which the then Prince Charles flew 101 times was one of the first attractions that could be seen on the crowdline, sparkling in the sunshine. Sadly, the planned appearance of a Jet Provost to represent another type which the King flew was scrubbed prior to the weekend and not really replaced. This meant the show perhaps lacked somewhat in the later stages of the display, though what it missed in visiting acts was made up for with the quality of what was already on offer.

The less said about the piper Cub's banner tow to open the afternoon display the better - the entire thing was upside down. Ignoring that, the start to the airshow was Shuttleworth at its usual best - a trio of 1930s racers - a display we have become accustomed to seeing at Shuttleworth, but one that still packs a punch. After a strong solo routine from the aforementioned Chipmunk and the EoN Primary glider holding away from the display area with its tow plane, it was the BBMF's turn to steal the show. Three flypasts from the jewel of British aviation heritage, the Lancaster crew seemed to really enjoy themselves, flying some of the best flypasts seen at Old Warden yet. Perhaps not as photographically appealing as its appearance at the evening show in May 2018 in perfect conditions, but certainly, some of the most magnificent turns around Shuttleworth's control tower, close to the crowd, with a final pass in what could almost be described as a knifedge pass and appropriately so - drew a round of applause from the crowd, as the smooth rumble of the four Merlin engines echoed away from the crowd.

The afternoon display also saw the public display debut of 'Project Lynx' and their Lynx AH7. This has undoubtedly been a highly anticipated restoration in the UK, and with a very spirited performance at Shuttleworth, we hope to see the display at further airshows throughout the year as the historic helicopter scene in the UK grows stronger and stronger.

The day's proceedings had a lovely tribute throughout the day with David Berry, a Second World War Fairey Swordfish gunner in attendance, interviewed in the morning and once again in the afternoon just before the display from Navy Wings' Swordfish. It was a real testament to all - the veterans who were involved with these aircraft in conflict either in the air or on the ground and their modern day counterparts which after a five year absence have managed to make this 'Stringbag' airworthy again, this time on the civilian register. A shame perhaps, that the Swordfish lacks the Vickers .303in machine gun in the rear cockpit or no longer displays with an observer to fly the white ensign Royal Navy flag that used to be a salute at the end of the display when the aircraft was last flown in 2018.

Though the pace of the day somewhat seemed to slow down as the Lancaster, Lynx and Swordifish, the main highlights of the day for enthusiasts concluded their displays, the rest of the afternoon is perhaps where the gap left by the Jet Provost could have been filled with an alternative visiting display. The waterlogged airfield conditions did not help either as it meant the Collection's heavier types such as the Anson, Spitfire and Sea Hurricane had to sit this one out. Nonetheless, a skyscape of fluffy clouds with warm spring sunshine was a stark contrast to the weather during the Coronation the day before the airshow, and very lucky indeed when looking at the forecast which anticipated a wet and grey afternoon.

Instead, the conditions were such that the crowd were treated to not one, but two displays from the Bristol Boxkite and Avro Triplane, with an interlude from the English Electric Wren, to conclude the evening's entertainment. Though the wind picked up again and stopped the Bleriot or Deperdussin from enjoying the air under their wings, it at least gave us another excuse to book some more Shuttleworth airshow tickets.

Despite slightly muddy and waterlogged conditions, a great day was had by all with a great atmosphere and long may it continue. Long live the King - long live Shuttleworth.