Sunday, 23 June 2013


The Control Tower at Shuttleworth


How The Collection Arose
Photography Vantage Points
Specific Photography Tips for Old Warden
Climate Information
Weather Forecast
Where To Stay
Static Display
Aerial Display
Video Resources
Photo Resources


This Flying Day was held in conjunction with Father's Day- and I must say I was more than impressed.

It did start off 100% overcast, and some drops of rain threatened by 1545. Then, as the worst seemed destined to happen, the clouds melted away, giving rise to glorious sunshine. What better a finale that that?

The other thing that made the day was the smooth delivery by the airshow commentators, over a speaker system that was set up just right, without any hint of echoes.

The organisers have a great website at:

Dates for shows during the rest of 2013 are also highlighted there. Unlike places in the UK which host just one airshow a year, the Shuttleworth Collection has something going on most weekends in the summer.


To build up something this size, there has to be Old Money. Some people buy paintings and art; the Shuttleworths, being in engineering were collectors of what, in those days were the most modern engineering marvels- things that drove fast, and things that flew fast.

The next four posters give a potted history of how things came to be.

Click to enlarge.

Reading behind the lines, it seems quite sad that his father died when he was just 4 years old, and Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth himeslf died at the young age of 31. But what a full life he led, and what a Collection he bequeathed for posterity. His collection of Big Boys Toys.

It must have been a blast to have been able to come to the hangars on a summer's evening, to decide whether to take a car or a plane or a glider out for a spin.  This indicates his great wealth, I don't know of any other person who had his own collection of aircraaft, and also owned his own airfield, hangars and maintenance workshops to service them all. Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth, I salute you.


An aerial map of Old Warden is presented below:

Click to enlarge

The entrance gate is at middle top, at the open area. The stretch that is fenced to demarcate the crowd line is shown in blue. The parking area is that green area of grass between the hangars and the fence. Hangar 1 is the restoration hangar; it is right at the top, surrounded on three sides by trees. Hangar 2 houses the shop and restaurant, and Hangars 3-8 contains the Collection's exhibits. The hangars are numbered with the bigger-numbered hangars situated progressively further to the south.

The collection of buildings in the middle of the picture belongs to the Shuttleworth Agricultural College.

The control tower is that solitary building at one of the bends in the fence. I found a great photographic site at the area shown in pink. The crowd seems to be sparser there, and you can get a great view of aircraft on take-off and landing. There were probably less than a thousand people at the event I attended- which means plenty of elbow room.

This is a video of my chosen site in the morning:

This is how it becomes spectacularly beautiful as the sun reigns supreme:

Shuttleworth is not a big place like Farnborough or Fairford; it is quite easy to walk about to choose your place in the sun.

The main grass runway stretches along 03/21, but that area of fence is almost perfectly oriented North-South. As a result, it is wonderfully positioned for the afternoon light to be right behind you.

On the day I attended, the aircraft were taking off and landing using Runway 21.

Note: The fencing is made of low chicken wire just about 3 feet high; there is some other fencing on other parts the perimeter made of wood, perhaps 2 feet high. These are obviously not a barrier to crazy  people who want to walk into a spinning propeller, but that is not what Shuttleworth is all about. It is about enjoying a trip back in time, when people were self-reliant, before the birth of the welfare state, when people were responsible for their own well-being and their own actions.

The Shuttleworth Collection houses a collection of aeroplanes to allow the public to witness flying of a sort they would never otherwise see; the aeroplanes are flown not to highlight performance, as in military airshows,  but sensitively due to their advanced age and underpowered engines of their day, to maximise photographic opportunities for those at the crowd line.

The only caveat is whether the weather is kind.

I also do not know if they allow spectators to cross over the other end of the runway i the morning to  take photographs- third-party liability may not cover the risks. 


The aircraft were piston or rotary engined, so you need to keep the shutter speed down to 1/200s or 1/250s to generate enough prop blur.

One advantage is that the planes fly very close to the crowd line, so they do fill your field of view easily; the other advantage is that their speed is very low, certainly less than 100 knots with the earlier aircraft. So, with a  modicum of panning, blurred shots should be minimised. To capture the expressions on the pilots' faces, come armed with a 100-400mm.

It is also surprising what a short take-off and landing run these aeroplanes are capable off, even on a grass strip!


This is taken from the Souvenir Programme wihicj was on sale for f3.00

(Click to enlarge)


A good resource is below:

The charts below are drawn from that website.

The maximum and minimun temperatures for June are 18.8 degrees Celcius and 10.3 Celcius respectively, with a mean of  14.5 Celcius.

There is also the Wind-Chill Factor to add in.

There is precipitation all year round; this is England, after all. One's camera gear is normally more sensitive to moisture than oneself. 


There is a great forecast here:

This changes daily, as I have found, so do check regularly id you plan to travel to Biggleswade. The forecast also changes intraday!

To understand how the weather determines whether you really want to expend the time, energy and cash to attend an airshow, this is how it went for 16-6-13: 



This is in a separate blog entry at:


I was on holiday in London, so Biggleswade was a day trip out out of  the capital. by railway. For visitors from farther afield, the Collection's website does provide a list of hotels and campsites:


This became so big, I made the decision to create a separate entry:


The display sequence was themed:


BBMF Spitfire

Westland Lysander


Miles Gemini

Miles M3A Falcon Six

Miles M14A Magister


This was a 2-plane show of a Gladiator (with a much higher stall speed) trying to take out a Storch that can just seem to hang in the sky...

Gloster Gladiator

Fieseler Storch


Piper Super Cub- aerotow

Letov Lunak LF-107 Aerobatic Glider


Avro 19 Anson

Percival Provost basic trainer


de Havilland DH82a Tiger Moth

de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk

Miles Magister

Piper Super Cub

The first off was a demo to see who could get under a suspended wire safely- kind of like a big Limbo demonstration.

The next was a flour-bombing exhibition, and finally a demo of targeting balloons with your prop.


Here's where it started to get sunny!

Hawker Hind

Hawker Demon


This is when the clouds started clearing away, revealing brilliant blue skies!


Piper Super Cub- aerotow

Abbott-Baynes Scud II



Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk

Hawker Sea Hurricane


Sopwith Triplane

Bristol F2b Fighter

Sopwith Pup

Sopwith SE5a


Extra 330SC

Piloted by Mark Jefferies.

Probably possessing more horsepower than all the other WW1 aircraft display combined!

And so, that ended the airshow, as I had to catch the bus out of the premises to get back to Biggleswade railway station. I hope The Edwardians managed to fly!


Obtainable either at the Restaurant, or from the stand near the Control Tower. 

Cokes are priced at a Pound each- not prohibitively expensive that it makes sense to bring your own. Sit-down hot meals are available at the main restaurant- a main course will set one back an average of f7.50.


Available just off the Museum shop, with alternatives at the Restaurant. As this airfield is quite compact, it is not far to walk.


This being England, wrap up warm and waterproof. Umbrellas are a necessity. The weather can suddenly turn cold and rainy, even in the middle of summer. Looking at the pictures of the spectators, nost were wearing a sweater at least, with sturdier outer gear in reserve. And these were the locals!

I wore a longish breathable raincoat, with a sweater as needed, this being June already, and was quite comfortable. If you are taking a long journey home, dress up so that you are comfortable at the beginning and ends of the journey, too!


Unlike the long lines of cars and traffic snarls trying to gain access to Cosford, this is quite a small, charming show where it is never crowded, with empty spaces along the crowd line, maximum crush perhaps one or two rows deep.

This was the most crowded area- near the control tower.

Relax. Be cool. Enjoy the sunshine.

The car parking is on the sloping field anterior to the hangar buildings. The crowd are like the aircraft- getting on in years. There were people who actually flew or maintained some of  the aircraft- still walking and into their nineties! There are much fewer children than at Cosford. No bouncy castles!

Just a bit farther down...

An extremely civilised crowd.  Just wrap up warm against the elements.


There are now many high-definition videos regarding flying displays on Youtube; just search under "Shuttleworth Collection". Two of my favourites are at:


Some galleries from past events:

I shall be posting my photo gallery for 16-6-13 here in due course.

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