Old Warden

Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden

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I’ve spent most of my time this summer as a full time flying instructor. The risk is that you stick to the syllabus, fly only to a few nearby airports and almost forget what it’s like to go places. While I have made a couple of day trips in my TB20, today I had blocked out some time to fly with another club member (John) for a sociable landaway.

Old Warden, 20 miles north east of Luton, was our destination. This well maintained grass airstrip is managed by the Shuttleworth Trust, now a charity that combines a large collection of aircraft and ground vehicles, large country house and gardens. It’s a popular tourist attraction, well run and with plenty of facilities for all ages. The museum itself is huge – so much to see – and what’s even better is that so many of these older aircraft have been restored and are airworthy.

Richard Shuttleworth founded the collection in 1928 and it has been run as an independent trust since his death in 1940. Meanwhile the main estate building has been repurposed as an agricultural college throughout that same timeframe.

The main 02/20 grass runway has been extended in recent years and is now 799 metres. We flew in G-BASJ, one of the club PA28’s, which has the 180 horsepower engine and thus good climb performance. It’s recently had an engine overhaul so in good condition, with the avionics recently upgraded to twin G5 glass instruments.

We had agreed that I would fly there and John take the return trip. This wasn’t an instructional flight, and we agreed that the passenger would help by punching in the radio frequencies and transponder codes, but nothing else.

Planning ahead

PPR is quick and easy, done online through their website which is up to date with pilot information. You book a half-hour landing slot, but I suspect there is some flexibility if you are delayed or running early. You can also drop in to refuel anytime from 0600 to sunset+30. Unusually these days elsewhere, they had both 100LL and UL91 in stock. It’s different on event days which can be very busy as you can see from the picture below.

The route planning was very straightforward using SkyDemon. It remains an outstanding piece of software, highly reliable, easy to use, with so much information at your fingertips. NOTAMs, weather, airfield information and detailed up-to-date charts make it quick and easy to confidently make and adjust routes and plans. I just encourage students to set the planned departure time for more accurate wind information (the default is anytime today or tomorrow).

A short flight across

When airborne and combined with SkyEcho (a portable ADS-B in and out device that can also receive FLARM), it helps to pick out some (but not all) of the nearby traffic. I find it particularly helpful when approach an airfield – it helps to know where to look. I chose to route direct to Banbury, then overhead Cranfield (talking to them which helped to co-ordinate with the instrument traffic) then self-announcing on arrival into Old Warden.

Descending dead side for runway 22

We were one of the first to arrive (it opens at 10, we landed around 10:30) and parked on the grass close to the entry gate. A hut has the sign-in book, and you can either pay there in cash or visit the main shop to pay by card (and leave the receipt there with your registration written on it instead). The landing fee includes one admission ticket while other passengers would need to buy their own. This is well worth it – £15 covers access to everything and there is a lot to see – not just aircraft but vintage cars, buses, motorcycles and. The buildings are all in good condition, well signed, and there is a large cafe with indoor and outdoor seating.

Always a nice touch. This just lists the aircraft who have PPR’d and not actual times of arrival.
Plenty of parking available. The grass taxiways are all very well maintained
View from the aircraft parking stand – all these hangars are filled with exhibits
A sneaky peek inside one of the many exhibit hangars – many of these old aircraft are airworthy and regularly flown

We spent a good couple of hours perusing the collection and some might have wanted more time. For us, it was enough, and after a brief stroll around the garden and lunch, we departed back to Gloucester.

Return leg

John flew a performance short field take-off which I had demonstrated when departing Gloucester and he was quite surprised at just how little ground roll was required before getting airborne. I’m much happier visiting shorter grass runways in this PA28 rather than the TB20, which being much heavier does need a longer runway.

John’s flight back to Gloucester was similar to my outbound routing although kept south of Cranfield and was uneventful.

A nice day out and quite a change from my regular instructing destinations, which this year have included Compton Abbas, Lee-on-Solent, Shobdon, Wellesbourne, Turweston and Leicester. And another new airfield to add to my logbook too.

PIC today: 0:55
Total PIC: 2160:55
Total Time: 2374:05

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