On 3 July 2016, the notoriously bad English weather made way for some sunshine for a spectacular Military Pageant at the Shuttleworth Collection Museum, located at the Old Warden Aerodrome in Bedfordshire, England. Dedicated to recognising the ongoing contribution to the Armed Forces in the United Kingdom, the air show and displays in numerous hangers gave spectators the chance to get close and personal with some very iconic aircraft, many of them the sole survivors of their kind, including the Hawker Tomtit and the Avro Tutor.
Founded by aviator Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth in 1928, the collection of aircraft and vintage motors has grown immensely. Starting with Shuttleworth's passion for restoring aircraft to flying condition, the collection has become one of the most distinguished in the world, being home to the largest number of airworthy First World War aircraft in Europe.
Funded by a large family inheritance, Shuttleworth was able to live out his passion and bought his first aeroplane, a white DH60X Moth that is still part of the collection today.
Killed at the age of 21 while flying a Fairey Battle on 2 August 1940 during a RAF cross-country training exercise, Shuttleworth's mother, Dorothy, formed the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust to keep his memory and enthusiasm for motorcars and aeroplanes alive.
Nine permanently employed engineers take on the responsibility of maintaining and restoring the collection's aircraft in the Engineering Workshop, supported by many volunteering members of the Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society that has grown to approximately 3 000 members.
Visitors can enjoy about 17 air shows in 2016, the most of them still coming up until October during their summer flying season. A special flying day is arranged once a year for children from schools in the local area and model-flying events are also a regular occurrence.
Gates to displays and stalls selling a large variety of food and drink and of course hundreds of aeroplane related toys, shirts, books and maintenance materials and items opened at 9am. At 2pm, the flying displays started with Spitfires zooming past, leaving some serious goose bumps in its trail.
The collection's own aircraft made up most of the flying, including displays by their own Storch and Lysander, a display by the very interesting EoN Primary glider, two Miles Magisters, a Blackburn B2, a Hawker Sea Hurricane 1b and a Hurricane R4118, the last flying Avro Tutor in the world and my favourite, a stunning display by a Gloster Gladiator and a Hawker Demon.
Visiting aircraft included the crowd favourite, a B17 Sally B, a Spitfire I, Vb and IX, a beautiful Yak 3 and the last fighter of the day - a PS1 Mustang that still sports its war damage and is considered to be the most original Mustang in the world.
Commentators Tim Callaway and John Gilder filled the five to ten minutes between displays with knowledgeable chatter and encouraging spectators to stay hydrated in the warm sun with cold gin and tonics. They were very British and very proud to be so.
The jewel of the Shuttleworth Collection is the 1909 Bleriot XI, the world's oldest flying aeroplane, built only six years after the Wright Brothers made their historical flight in the United States of America. The single seat monoplane is still flying with its original 1909, 25hp, 3 cylinder Anzani fan type engine. Acquired by Shuttleworth in 1935, it became his first historic aeroplane to be rebuilt at Old Warden. In 2008/2009 it as completely overhauled and recovered and now entertains crowds at air shows, cruising past cheering spectators at a comfortable 46mph.
The oldest flying British Aeroplane in the world is the single seat Blackburn monoplane. Built in 1912 for Cyril Foggin, it changed hands twice in two years before it went into storage and was only rediscovered by chance in 1937 in an old barn. Restoration started by Shuttleworth himself was only finished in 1949 and minor adjustments and repairs in 1988 delivered the final product that is on display today and flown in good weather.
Other Edwardian aircraft include the 1910 Deperdussin, which surprisingly can reach a speed of 60mph on a good day, the 1910 Bristol Boxkite, a replica of a two seat biplane built in the 1960's for the film "Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines (1965)" and the 1910 Avro Triplane IV, a single seat triplane used as an instructional aircraft and the only Edwardian that was able to make a short flight display on the day.
Dishing out £28, around R550 for us South Africans got you in for the day, money well worth spending for any aviation enthusiast. Veterans aged 85 and older and pilots of any pre-1945 aircraft could enjoy free entry to the event.