In the month of July we celebrate one of our
fine traditions. The week before we start with the aerial photomissions
for the world-famous RIAT airshow, we focus on the most precious aircraft
of all….warbirds. In just one weekend, we flew with 16 incredible
aircraft and it’s always a fantastic thrill!! The stars need to
align in a pretty nice way to make it all happen as very often there is
just, well 1 of each. The slightest mechanical issue or questionable weather
will see a photomission cancelled. The other challenge is pilot availability,
as only a rather small selected group of aviators are qualified to fly
the genuine warbirds.
In previous years we had achieved a very high rate of success, but it
also meant we raised the bar and expectations by each season. New for
this season is that we not only worked with our longtime partner Richard
Paver, but also with Darren Harbar. Those guys are literally the number
1 & 2 when it comes to experience and air-to-air photoflights with
warbirds in the UK. Needless to say our expectations were really high!
On the Saturday we flew with the line up organized
by Richard Paver. We started with the biggest aircraft we had so far in
our warbird flights, the impressive Catalina. She is the last flying example
in Europe, very gracious floating in the menacing skies over Grafham Water.
Followed by the newly restored Lockheed L-12, an aircraft once used as
VIP transport for Winston Churchill.
Even with the weather only being so-so, we
never turn down an opportunity to see a genuine WW II machine flying,
and so all photographers onboard the Skyvan photoship were very happy
to get an encounter with the Spitfire TE517, HAC Hawker Hurricane in new
colors, the HAC Hawker Fury and the only P-47 flying in Europe ‘Nellie
The much anticipated Hawker Tempest was unfortunately not ready to fly
yet, so we have already a prime target for 2024!
Also the Spitfire from George Haye, RW382, joined us for an air-to-air
session and giving us the chance to see a 2-ship Spitfire in the air…..a
double priceless view!
On Sunday the weather was not much better so
we would not have our sunniest edition ever. But for sure we would have
another unique weekend, as the line-up put together by Darren Harbar would
feature several of the long awaited aircraft from the famous Shuttleworth
Collection. Although not all of these machines have a genuine war history,
they are all even more rare with very limited flying in a year. All photographers
were delighted to finally have a chance to catch the Mew Gull, Hawk Speed
Six and of course the prime target of the weekend, the exclusive bright
red Comet Racer!
During the second photoflight we welcomed the Ryan STM and
Lysander, another highlight as not even a handful remain airworthy in the
Photomission number three would feature the classic
stars of WW II, with the very rare Sea Hurricane and Spitfires AR501 and
TE517 both solo and in a unique 2-ship as they both wore Czech markings.
We had a bit luck with the sun, as it came in and out of the clouds at the
right moment producing a wonderful backdrop of menacing clouds with some
of the absolute magnificent fighters of the last world war.
Having the chance to fly with warbirds is a bit
of a magic experience. Some of these aircraft are like 80 years old and
have been carefully restored and maintained for decades. Knowing that they
take to the skies just for all the photographers in the Skyvan photoship
makes us feel very privileged. We are very fortunate that we can picture
them in all of that exclusive photo angles the Skyvan has to offer. Of course
we will be back in Old Warden next year for another wonderful weekend with
our flying history. Both Darren Harbar and Richard Paver are working on
a line-up that once more will give us a chance to fly with aircraft that
are only available for our photographers. Thank you guys and see you in