A prospect of Edwardians – Shuttleworth Evening Display
One could be forgiven for thinking Shuttleworth Air Displays were like buses, you dont have one for weeks then two turn up almost at once! Thankfully though, they are more punctual than public transport and are an altogether more pleasant experience. The August Evening Display at the Shuttleworth Collection provided a cornucopia of air-borne delights, some almost as old as manned flight itself.
To twist another analogy, as far as Shuttleworth is concerned, you cannot have too much of a good thing. Especially when the wind drops and the Eds come out.
To begin at the beginning. While at the back of the hangar in Spifire corner, work progresses steadily upon intricate silvered wings. More being added now than being removed. Their time will come soon enough.
Outside, overlooked by many save when they leave; the Firemen stand proud and check their steeds before the show. Hopeful that they wont be called again this year.
Along the Waterfront, while lords and ladies gaily take the summer air, powerful beasts of land and sky move amongst the throng to take their bow. Meanwhile, their work still to be done, the “Collectioneers” go about their business, their happy faces hiding an impending madness wrought by missing air bottles and Harold on the Gate and his walkie talkie.
Swift by name and by nature, we await our turn to see the day. Meanwhile the flight line fills with men-o-war from a different age. They rest, awaiting their grooms before leaping skywards like thoroughbred horses.
And then, a gate opens and through burst horseless carriages, beautifully turned out they strain at the leash while. Now for show, their working days long past. But they could…if they wanted.
The main event. Unleashed into the sky, fly four priceless aerial conveyances. Swift, Desoutter, DH51 and Elf. All are rare most are unique. The Desoutter, a founding aircraft, has been here since before the beginning. The Elf an art decco aircraft, while the buzzing Swift is dwarfed by the magnificent Moth, its propeller glowing bright in the early evening sunshine.
The Wirralled tones of the Commentator call the next flight to the fore. And here they come, two English gentlemen and a roaming Cossack, like the Devils Horsemen they stay tight to the lead before wheeling around the sky in a lazy tailchase before our Russian friend flies past to end the private tournament
Machines of war take to flight. The crack of sparking plug and sweet, sweet scent of castor oil drift across the crowd. For this is the essence of a rotary engine. The dogs of war of ages past are let lose towards the sky. Pup, Bristol Fighter, SE5a and Sopwith Triplane all take their turn, now to entertain where once was the desperate struggle of combat. Their beauty now to the fore.
Another joust. This time a Gladiator and Storch, once adversaries above a desert. Now rural bedfordshire provides their battleground. Speed is not always king.
And then, two children of Sidney Camm. Hawker’s finest take a bow. Hind and Hurricane, moved by Kestrel and Merlin. Now the wind is dropping and their music dances from tree to tree like sirens singing to tempt passing sailors.
At Old warden, when the wind drops the sky becomes alive, patience is rewarded as the crowd counts each diminishing knot of wind speed, each degree of wind sock drop. And then, they come. The Edwardians are alive. A century has passed since some of them first flew, now fragile as a butterfly they lift on wings of lace to grace the skies.
A circuit or a brief hop, it matters nought the crowd are silent. They stand agog, all thoughts of frippery put aside as such beauty takes to the air.
Old Warden sleeps now, all aircraft are abed while volunteers sit drinking beer and telling tales of engineering heroics. Until next time.