Old Warden Spring Air Display Report

Sunday 1st May 2011

Nothing tells you that winter is finally over quite like the return of flying to Old Warden. The Spring Air Display heralds the start of another busy summer of displays at the beautiful Bedfordshire aerodrome and home of the Shuttleworth Collection.

Dan O'Hagan braved the wind, and reports for UKAR. Michael Hall provides additional photos.

Those of you who went to the season opener at Old Warden last year will probably still be thawing out. This year our enemy wasn't the biting cold, but rather the gusting wind which sadly put paid to many of the more lightweight display items, most notably Shuttleworth's trademark Edwardians. A real shame, because apart from the wind, conditions were otherwise excellent - clear blue skies and a respectably warm sun for the time of year.

Of the aircraft which did fly, arguably the most notable was a first public display of the Collection's Polikarpov Po-2 Kukuruznik, which looked absolutely splendid against the cloudless blue skies. This example is one of a mighty 40,000 built, but is the sole flying example in the UK. While not being among the most dynamic performers you'll see at Old Warden (her top speed is a meagre 94mph), she's nimble enough, and offers a good comparison with regular airshow performers such as the de Havilland Tiger Moth (seen at this show) and the Boeing Stearman, contemporaries in the basic training role pre-World War II.

With the Russian Air Attache to London present in the sizeable crowd, further items from the former Soviet Union included the giant Antonov An-2 biplane, which was delightfully flung around, and brought to a virtual hover by the gusting conditions - a tremendous party piece. The Yakovlevs display team brought colour to proceedings with a two-ship display of Yak-50 and Yak-52 in tight formation, indeed impressively so considering the conditions.

Visiting in spectacular fashion was the North American F-86A Sabre, flown by Mark Linney. The opening Sabre topside pass was most impressive, appearing from behind the treeline almost unannounced.

Other Shuttleworth aircraft which did take to the air included the SE5a (for an anxious and brief circuit after engine temperature issues upon getting airborne), Desoutter, Tutor, Hermes Moth, the Percival Piston Provost, Sea Hurricane, Lysander, Chipmunk and Magister pair.

Admission was £25 for the first occupant of a vehicle, then £20 for subsequent passengers. On face value the prices aren't cheap, but the rarity of some of the display items does go some way to justifying the cost, as does the fact that prices included admission to the Bird of Prey Centre and the Swiss Gardens. Sadly the weather wasn't willing to give the show the break it needed.

Needless to say though, UKAR will be back for more from Shuttleworth as the season unfolds.