Sunshine after the Rain – Shuttleworth July Evening Airshow.

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools

That verse from the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling encapsulates in verse the season so far at the Shuttleworth Collection. After weeks, nay months of the wettest drought on record the weather appeared to turn and it looked like there would be an airshow in the skies over Old Warden.

Just one of the planned five airshows had been successfully completed, and that was a damp dull evening in May where the airshow going public quite wisely decided to stay mostly at home. Most of the rest had fallen victim to the weather. However the worst the weather could throw at them was nothing compared to the tragedy that befell all of us on July 1st.

The accident that claimed the life of Trevor Roche was as shocking and sudden as it was tragic. Any words I write here cannot suitably convey the loss to the Collection, his friends and most importantly his family. We have all lost a friend, a mentor, a father, a husband, a son. It seems trite to say it, but things will never be the same.

A short 20 days later, we joined again at Old Warden. The Shuttleworth family may be a man down, but you can’t beat the calendar and there was an Airshow to fly. This time there was sun and blue skies and although it was somewhat damp underfoot the airfield was usable, soggy but usable. We’ll do this for Trevor.

Before the show began there was a very moving tribute by Sir John Allison, you could hear a pin drop during the minute silence that followed, as the crowd stood in silent tearful contemplation one of the resident Peacocks sang its own lament. Then the crackle of a Rotary engine filled the skies as Dodge Bailey took off from the runway extension in the Sopwith Triplane and put on a superb display in tribute. The sound of the engine and smell of Castor Oil providing more than spoken commentary ever could.

Lighter than air and lightening the mood was Christoph Zahn in the DFS Habicht glider. A wonderful display skilfully flown, the red smoke from its wing tip casting ribbons in the sky. More often than not waving at the crowd, the whoop from the cockpit on the final knife edge pass told us Christoph was enjoying himself.

Now its the turn of the trainers. First our friends from the north, Avro Tutor, Blackburn B2 together with the Collection founder aircraft the DH60X Moth. Formations and Aeros in the evening sun lifted the mood.

Barnstorming is a crowd favourite. Flour bombing, balloon busting and limbo to start off. Shakey came closest to hitting the target with his first pass, while Huck nabbed a balloon or two to add to his tally. Afterwards the Chipmunk took centre stage and cut a falling toilet roll and picked up a ribbon or two.

Things were going a bit too fast, its time to slow things down. Peter Holloway in his magnificent Storch and Frank Chapman in the Polikarpov Po2 (a bit different to an A380). Speed isn’t their thing, flying slowly and sideways is!

Let me take you back to the early part of the last century. With ground conditions somewhat reminiscent of the Salient, it was time for the World War 1 fighters. We had already seen the Triplane, so they were led off by the Sopwith Pup. Followed by the Bristol F2b and Willy Hackett making his debut display in the SE5a.

Back to the 21st Century now and Chris Burkett in the Extra 330S. A cracking display of precision aerobatics, truly gravity defying. The whoosh of the air travelling the wrong way through the prop as he came down backwards from a vertical hover was particularly striking.

Bring out the Eds!

The sun is setting behind the hangars and the wind is calm enough not to trouble the windsock. Perfect conditions to bring out the jewels in the Shuttleworth Collection, the Edwardians. With the sound of their engines reverberating around the airfield, penned in by the trees the first up is the Deperdussin, hopping (looks more like flying to me) down the runway.

The Avro Triplane and Bristol Boxkite were next, conditions were perfect and we were treated to 20 minutes, count them, 20 minutes of pure Shuttleworth magic. They normally manage about that per year, we got it in one lump, and it was bloody marvellous.

Finally, the oldest British built aircraft still flying, 100 years old this year. The Blackburn Monoplane. Another of the founding aircraft in the collection, it rounded off what was a really special evening all topped off with a round of well deserved applause for The Boss.

And that was it. I haven’t seen conditions that good for the Edwardians for the past three or four years; maybe we did have someone looking over us.
Everyone was relieved that we finally had an airshow, the pilots, staff and volunteers did everyone proud. But the flying was in some ways the easy bit and cetainly the most visible. It, for example, was a lovely day to be stuck in the restaurant kitchen cooking lunches (not), and there were heroics in the car park as the team struggled with the boggy ground which rendered the normal car parks unusable and those that remained a bit of a quagmire. But thats Shuttleworth for you, its family.



That wasn’t quite all. As the last embers of daylight died away, another of the Collection pilots became a centenarian by checking out on the Deperdussin. Well done KD.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

It was an emotional day. We’ll never forget you Trev.


One response

  1. Keith Dennison

    Just beautiful Nick. For me the emotion of the day was lost in ‘just getting on with it’; but you have made the emotion palpable. Thank you.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm

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