Captain flies aircraft that span a century
During a normal working week Captain Scott Butler can be found at the controls of a modern British Airways Embraer jet at London City Airport.
But as soon as he has a day off he takes to the skies again, this time in aircraft from a bygone age of flying.
For Scott is one of a small elite group of 14 display pilots who fly around 50 vintage aircraft that make up the priceless Shuttleworth Collection in Bedfordshire.
Scott did his first solo flight at the age of 15 – more than 27 years ago – as a member of the Air Cadets.
After finishing university he joined the Royal Air Force and during an 18-year career he piloted many different aircraft types. His favourite was the Tristar which he flew in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He joined British Airways three years ago and is a captain on the Embraer 170 and 190 aircraft, one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the industry.
But even with all his experience Scott still had to prove himself when he joined the Shuttleworth Collection before he could fly one of the oldest aircraft fleets.
For the first year he had to undertake ground duties while observing and was only allowed to fly the vintage aircraft after this probation period. Even then he was only permitted to fly certain aircraft types while on the training programme.
“Although we do take part in air shows it’s not about aerobatics and stunt flying, we are there to show off these beautiful vintage aeroplanes, not show off our individual flying talent,” he says.
The Collection is an homage to Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth, the son of a wealthy agricultural engineer and steam-wagon maker and founder of the long-established firm of Clayton & Shuttleworth, who were based in Lincolnshire.
At the age of 23, Richard Shuttleworth inherited enough money to indulge his passion for racing and aviation and became a successful racing car driver, winning the International Donington Grand Prix Car Race at Donington Park in 1935.
After retiring from driving Richard became interested in historic aircraft and used to track down abandoned aeroplanes, and restore them.
Following his untimely death his mother, Dorothy, kept the aircraft collection alive in his memory. In 1944 she decided to turn the estate into a Charitable Trust in memory of her son “for the teaching of the science and practice of aviation and agriculture” two of Richard’s passions.
In 1946 the doors of Shuttleworth College opened. It is still a successful land based college operating on this site by Bedford College. Dorothy was Chairman until her death in 1968 aged 89.
It was not until 1963 that The Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden, Bedforshire, opened to the public and it now attracts. 50,000 visitors a year to the static collection of working aircraft, engineering workshops, restaurant, Visitor Centre and flying events.
Around 12 times a year the vintage aircraft take part in air shows and historic flying displays around the country and these are the only times they fly more than a mile from their home base.
While The Shuttleworth Collection is all about sedately displaying the vintage aircraft, Scott has had his share of adrenalin flying when he joined a flying circus as a barnstormer pilot on purpose built display aircraft.
Scott says: “That was good fun, flying under the wire and performing aerobatics. But as a Collection pilot volunteer we do a lot of formation flying, particularly with the Spitfire and Hurricane, and just demonstrate what these magnificent aeroplanes are capable of.
“It was a dream to join The Shuttleworth Collection, it’s a very small team and vacancies don’t come up very often, only as the more senior pilots retire. I was delighted to join two years ago and I am gradually flying more and more different aircraft types.”
The oldest aircraft in the collection is a 1912 Blackburn single seat monoplane and that is the one that Scott really hopes to fly one day.
He currently flies, among others, the DH51 ‘Miss Kenya’ which was the aircraft painted in the colours of AT&T for the British Airways’ Timeline television advert screened a couple of years ago.
Scott currently lives near to the village of Old Warden, where The Collection is based, with his wife Cherie and daughters Neve (8) and Caitlin (10), all of whom have flown with him in open cockpit aeroplanes.
During his normal working day for British Airways Scott flies to a range of 30 different UK and European destinations from London City Airport.