May Day in Russian!
The First day of May, a big day of celebration in Russia. In fact in Russia, May Day is officially called “The Day of Spring and Labour”. This is a happy coincidence because after 8 years “Hard Labour” at The Shuttleworth Collection the Russian built Polikarpov PO2 was ready for its first display, on May Day, at the Spring Air Display (do you see what I did there?).
There were celebrations planned to mark the first display of the PO2 at Old Warden, but first there was work to do before the sell out crowd arrived at the Aerodrome.
Read on for more of the days fun and games.
At the crack of “far too early for a Sunday” the Engineers, Ground Crew and Pilots emerged, and judging by the concentrated looks on their faces, they had a plan (I think the bits of paper really give it away)
First order of business was the fine art of “aircraft wrangling”! Its a fine art to get the aircraft out of the hangar and facing the right way, then they have to be pushed to the flight line. Many hands, and a make light work though.
Most of the aircraft are unique, like the Cirrus Moth G-EBWD which was Richard Shuttleworths own aircraft and has been based here since 1932.
The Star item was parked in front of the hangars for a closer inspection before flying began, it was joined by some suitable agricultural machinery
For originality, special placards have been carefully prepared,no expense has been spent in ensuring they were translated into the correct Russian dialect!
Seriously, the work carried out on the highest quality.
To mark the occasion in style, the aircraft was christened with Vodka by the Air Attaché from the Russian Embassy in London, he also made a speech during the display before the aircraft made its début in the flying.
And on with the flying. The previously forecast winds (25kts gusting 35kts) cause a lot of problems for the aircraft. Flying was not so much to be enjoyed as endured to quote one of the pilots afterwards. Nonetheless the only acts to cancel were the fragile Edwardians which really dont like any wind and those larger aircraft that dont really like gusty conditions. The display began with Barnstorming,followed by Avro Tutor. Finally the Desoutter and G-EBWD flew in memory of the Collections founder, Richard Shuttleworth.
The Russian section of the show was bought to you by the number 2! Firstly the AN-2 from Popham, with a superb display of slow flying, turning into the wind it seemed to hover at one point. The size of the aircraft gives it a real presence over the airfield. It was then followed by the 2 Yaks of the Yakovlevs display team giving their usual polished display
Then came the star of the show, the debut of the Collection’s Polikarpov PO2, flown by the Chief Pilot, Dodge Bailey, and what a wonderful sight it was too!
The aircraft is started by the Huckski Starterski, a one off Russian built copy of the Collections Model T based Hucks (which was strangely absent for the weekend!). As big as a Stearman with the power of a Tiger Moth, its a challenge in calm conditions to display the Polikarpov well. With the gusting conditions the display was of the highest calibre!
To complete the scenario, the F-86 Sabre from Golden Apple Operations at Duxford, The F-86 and PO2 were adversaries in Korea. It was hoped to have them both in the air together (a formation would have been a step too far) but the gusty conditions put paid to that plan. Not to matter, Mark Linney put on his usual polished display.
And then, after the public had left and the stalls were packed away, it was time to put the aircraft away.
ready for the next show.
Considering the windy conditions it was a very good show. The challenging gusty cross winds tested Aircraft and Pilots alike but at the end of the day all the aircraft were put away safely in the hangar and the crowd went away happy.