flying with spitfires

As winner of the Fly with a Spitfire raffle I thought it only fair to recite the day’s events.  With the flying season coming to a close the only booking I could make was for Sunday 25th September at 11 am.  The booking was made with the Boultbee Flying Academy based at Goodwood Aerodrome, near Chichester, West Sussex.  Boultbee have on their inventory a Mk XI Spitfire, named City of Exeter.  They have another Spitfire, not sure what version but could be a TR9, this Spitfire can carry two pilots, ie; dual controls which they use to train pilots to fly Spitfires.  They have a Mustang too, although on this specific day it was not seen and other aircraft, a DH Chipmunk in original RAF training school livery for instance.

 I offered some seats in my car for the day to members and Phil Coupe took one up.  So, early on Sunday 25th at 8 am we set off for Goodwood, a 100 minute drive. I was expected to be at the flight school for 10 am for briefing.  With about 40 minutes spare Phil and myself strolled over to the “Old Watch Tower” now a cafe for breakfast.

 
We were greeted at Boultbee and given a wrist worn flight pass and waited in an excellent lounge with a wealth of photos and objects in Hangar 8 where the briefing would commence.  We were given some history and that there were two sorties.  The wrist strap number would denote which sortie I was on, which was number two.  Each sortie would get a final briefing regarding the flight and safety notes.  Being on the second sortie enabled myself and Phil to go to the viewing area outside and watch the Spitfire being checked and fuelled up.  In the viewing area the wind was quite “breezy” and coming from the North which made it feel quite cool although we were in glorious sunshine.
 
The ground crew swung the Spitfire round to face the field and the pilot fired it up.  Started easily, no flames and cough and spits.  Apparently this is achieved by careful priming!  As the Spitfire taxied out the runway the first sortie now in the Long Ranger helicopter were airborne and would climb up and hang around to wait for the Spitfire.  Once the Spitfire is airborne the helicopter would climb to 2000 and speed up to about 110 knots.
 
 
With the first sortie done the Spitfire returned to the hard apron and another pilot would take it up for my sortie.  Whilst he was doing his ground checks we walked over to the helicopter and strapped in. I had a right hand window seat.  Turbine running and we were skipping across the aerodrome and then climbing steadily up and looking down on Chichester and then turning to hover high above Tangmere Air Museum.  Except for a change in rotor noise there is no sense of accelerating to 110 knots or so whilst we waited for the Spitfire to come alongside.  I was quite surprised that the Spitfire’s camouflage really does hide it against the scenery until it is quite close.  You then see a dark object in the relative distance and whoosh, it is there flashing by and then turning in a big wide turn to come around again to come on alongside and move in closer.
 
The Spitfire flies alongside for a decent amount of time to take photo or video and then shoots off to come back in “combat mode”, coming in fast and then banking and climbing away with a long roll at the top of the climb. Whilst this is going on we are now out over Chichester harbour and following the beach before turning back inland again.  The helicopter returns to Goodwood and hovers just off the runway so we can get pictures of the Spitfire coming into land and passing us.
 

Back on the ground we then walk back to the apron where the Spitfire is already parked up. We are given time to look around it and speak to the pilot. I had loads of questions to ask, one being, “Was it a bit of struggle to fly so slowly alongside the helicopter? No not a struggle but John said he need to keep the nose up attitude and continuous movement of the stick. The plane wanted and is designed to go some. I mentioned that I had model warbirds and a Spitfire but they all had some nose over and narrow track issues. John said that it was the same with the full size, plus or minus 5 knots on landing and you make it interesting for yourself!

Well that ‘s it except while we were in Chichester we might as well visit the Tangmere Air Museum, which I had passed thousands of times and never made an effort to go in and see. Very interesting and has a beautiful silver Lightning in the main hangar with missiles attached and machine cannons.

A video of the flight can be viewed here: Flying with a Spitfire Video