Fly A (Real!) Spitfire
By James Grahame
The Supermarine Spitfire is a legendary machine. It played a key role in the Battle of Britain and throughout WWII, earning it an honoured place in the imagination of almost every British schoolboy for decades to come.
I was no exception, drawn to its distinctive elliptical wings, sleek cowl, roaring Merlin V12 and the promise of power and victory. As a child, I spent many hours fiddling with glue and Airfix model kits in a shed somewhere in Oxford. One of my first airplane models was a Spitfire Mk. I, followed a week or two later by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 (just so I'd have something to shoot down).
Of course, the notion of actually taking the controls of a Spitfire was out of the question then and -- for all but a talented few -- remains largely out of reach today. There are somewhere around 40 airworthy Spitfires in existence, but most are single seat aircraft.
That's where the Boultbee Flight Academy comes in. They have a pair of twin seat Spitfires based at the Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex. Their two day introductory course (£5500) includes ground and flight training in the three aircraft most commonly used to train RAF pilots during WWI: the De Havilland Tiger Moth, the North American Aviation Harvard (known as the Texan in the USA) and the venerable Vickers Supermarine Spitfire.
Participants are required to have a valid ICAO private pilot license with medical, and there is a weight limit of 100 kg (86 kg if you intend to fly aerobatics). You'll receive six hours of ground instruction followed by a total of 70 minutes flight time in an open cockpit de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane or a post-war de Havilland Chipmunk, a further 40 minutes in the Harvard advanced trainer and finally another 40 minutes in the rear seat of a Spitfire.
While the instructor will handle takeoffs and landings in the complex and demanding Spitfire, you can take the controls once off the ground to experience the Spitfire's power and lightning fast response first-hand. One Boultbee student was humbled to accidentally climb 1200 feet while executing nothing more challenging than a gentle turn.
If aerobatics are your thing, you can experience loops, rolls and perhaps even an Immelmann or two. If you're the type who wants to maximize you time at the controls in a somewhat more relaxed fashion, the Boultbee instructor will be more than happy to let you take the controls and zorch happily around the sky.
I can think of no better way to celebrate a birthday, promotion or mid-life crisis.
Learn more from the Boultbee Flight Academy.