The flying display ran from 2pm-7pm, and there were some really lovely moments - helped by the perfect lighting conditions we enjoyed for much of the afternoon. Particularly memorable was the Hurricane Mk.I and Spitfire Mk.Vc duo at the end of the day - a really tightly-choreographed pair of simultanious displays, during which it was quite hard to know where to look! Also very enjoyable was the Lunak glider solo (I've never seen such low altitude flick rolls from a glider before), the 5-ship one-off "Magic of Miles" formation and the Stampe Formation Flying Team, although having seen the latter many times I can say a little bit of the joy of their display was lost with no music. The Gladiator solo was short but intimate and very powerful, and I appreciated the DH.58 pilot's efforts, who wove along the crowdline several times to make sure everyone got plenty of changes to get some decent topside photos, where ever they were standing. The "Barnstorming" act was also enjoyable, although I question the wisdom of inlcuding such acts in "drive-in" shows, where only a small proportion of the crowd could enjoy the limbo flying and flour bombing. I was only three rows back, and most of the action was obscured by cars.
Two aircraft I'd been looking forward to were the Catalina and the DH.88 Comet. My thoughts on both displays were the same: fantastic performances by the standards of any other venue, but virtually no use of Shuttleworth's famous curve and little in the way of topside passes as a result. At a recent Shuttleworth airshow briefing I attended, it was mentioned that people in nearby villages had complained about aircraft noise, and last July the B-17 display was notably devoid of topsides, much like the Catalina today. I'd be interested to know if these are linked - and if the days of larger aircraft doing really impressive topsides as Old Warden are a thing of the past.
Of course, the Edwardians were very special, and seeing something of an opposition pass between the Bristol Boxkite and Avro Triplane was a true "only at Shuttleworth" moment which will live long in the memory. As they can't fly if there's even a hint of wind, and the weather has been less than perfect so far, it was their first public flight of the year - a real treat to see.
As a whole, unfortunately, I thought the day was rather repetitive. The "vintage" theme paid particular homage to aircraft owned and flown by Richard Shuttleworth, and others of comparable role and era. That's a lot of fairly unexciting interwar training and touring aircraft, which can do little more than fly laps of the airfield. Rare as hens' teeth, of course (I don't think I've ever been to a show with so many aircraft that are the only surviving examples of their kind), but lacking in entertainment value, particularly for non-enthusiasts. There were also quite a few repeat flyers throughout the day: the Southern Martlet flew three times, some of the Miles aircraft went up twice, and so did the DH.60. I'm all for themed, enthusiast-orientated displays, but today really alienated the non-enthusiast visitor I attended with. All it probably needed was one or two acts with a little more "wow factor" to break things up, which most other Shuttleworth air displays do generally include.
Having said that, as an enthusiast myself, I appreciated the rarity of what was on offer, the quality of the flying itself, and the unique Shuttleworth atmosphere, which has, amazingly, been retained, despite the change of format. The organisers have done a great job in very challenging times, and while I doubt I'll be able to visit one of their remaining 2020 shows, I look forward to attending either a drive-in or conventional airshow at Shuttleworth in 2021.
Highlights video below!
Aerobatic team ground crew
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