Following our previous news release announcing the winner of our 2016 Spitfire Raffle we caught up with Andy Reid after his once in a lifetime flight.
“Like many a youngster of the 60’s, building Airfix models, including the iconic Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancasters and Wellingtons, was part of growing up, although I don’t remember managing to properly finish any. I do, however, recall them hanging by threads from my bedroom ceiling mimicking a dog fight.
Fast forward nearly 50 years and I find myself being strapped into the real thing. This was all thanks to Aviation Without Borders and Boultbee Flight Academy where I was fortunate enough to win first prize in their ‘Win a Flight in Spitfire’ 2016 raffle. The flight took place from Cumbernauld Airport, near Glasgow, during a week when Boultbee Flight Academy at Goodwood had positioned their Spitfire there on a visit to Scotland.
Boultbee’s Spitfire SM520 was built in the Castle Bromwich factory in 1944 as a single seat Mark H.F.IXe high level fighter with firewall construction number CBAF 10164. It was delivered to the RAF on 23 November 1944 at 33 Maintenance Unit at RAF Lyneham before being sold to the South African Air Force for the princely sum of £2,000. It was subsequently converted to a 2 seat TR.9 trainer.
The day began with a thorough briefing on the Spitfire and, most importantly, what to do in the event of various emergencies, including the worst-case scenario of having to bail out. Fortunately, the seat doubled as a parachute and, perhaps even more fortunately, it wasn’t needed.
The pilot for my flight was Dave McKay, an ex-Navy pilot who, amongst other things, flew with the Royal Navy Historical Flight. Dave fired up the engine and the momentary smell of exhaust fumes was accompanied by the magical roar of the engine. During taxying I was struck by the limited forward visibility due to the high nose up angle, but this was countered by snaking turns to look down either side of the massive engine.
After running through a series of take-off checks that weren’t that dissimilar to those on many of today’s light aircraft, we were off. The acceleration was brisk, and we were airborne in about half of Cumbernauld’s 800m runway. I have to admit to all the hairs standing on end at that point as I looked down to see fields shooting past under the iconic wing.
Turning east and still in sight of Cumbernauld Dave asked me if I’d like to take control but before doing so let me have a think about it for a second. The low cloud base meant we were flying at about 800’ but at a brisk 200 mph, a fraction of what the Spitfire is capable of but necessary to protect the engine and airframe.
Whilst handling the controls, I found the aircraft to be very stable in the roll but quite sensitive in pitch. I flew her out past the Falkirk Wheel before turning north to the Kelpie and then to the Wallace Monument – all iconic landmarks for anyone who knows the area.
Towards the north of Stirling Dave suggested I might like to see how agile she was with a bad guy on our tail and a couple of steep turns pulling quite a few ‘g’ was followed by a very serene roll. How I would have loved to have seen that from the ground.
All too soon it was time to head back so we turned south and gave the visitors at Stirling Castle a fly past before returning to Cumbernauld. A run and break at about 500 feet was followed by a curving approach, necessary to maintain visibility of the runway.
All too soon the engine was shut down and it was over – but it’s a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life’.