The 2017 UK airshow season got off to a great start with the Shuttleworth Season Premiere airshow on May 7th. Celebrating the great aviator, Alex Henshaw, many of the items in the show had a connection to him, directly or indirectly - aircraft like Percival Mew Gull, G-AEXF, in which Alex famously flew from Gravesend to Cape Town and back, breaking all records and Hawker Tomtit K1786, flown by Alex during the second world war when working as a test pilot at Castle Bromwich.
Primarily showcasing the Shuttleworth Collection’s own aircraft, the flying display at this year’s Season Premiere was opened by a visiting aircraft, Plane Sailing’s Consolidated PBY Catalina, this beautiful seaplane gracing the skies over Old Warden from its base at Duxford. Old Warden based Hawker Demon, resplendent in its metallic silver livery followed, with a spirited display, before the rather strange looking Fauvel AV-36 Glider was put through its paces.
Alongside the Mew Gull, the aircraft most associated with Alex Henshaw is the Spitfire. As Chief Test Pilot at the Castle Bromwich factory, Alex Henshaw flew over 10% of all the Spitfires manufactured, so it was no surprise that Spitfires featured in the flying display. What was surprising, perhaps, was the matt black colour scheme sported by the BBMF’s Mk.XVI Spitfire when it appeared. Was this a night-fighter variant? No. It turns out this was the undercoat being used as the aircraft was in the process of being repainted. IWM Duxford based Mk1 Spitfire, N3200 was another welcome sight in the skies over Old Warden. It was hard to believe that this early model Spitfire was shot down over France in 1940 and buried on the beach at Sangatte for over 40 years, before being recovered in 1986 and restored to flying condition over many years, such was its immaculate paintwork and display.