Churchill Owner Gerry ‘Wings’ Reynolds from Chantry Lodge in Andover was thrilled to achieve a childhood dream earlier this year by flying a genuine WWII Spitfire. Here is his personal account of the adventure.
When I was a young lad I was given the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of a Supermarine Spitfire. I was so excited to be given this opportunity and I made myself a promise that one day I would fly in a Spitfire and fly it myself. That promise came true in the late afternoon of the 2nd July 2021 at Goodwood aerodrome in West Sussex.
On the day the first item on the agenda was a full briefing on the flight with much emphasis directed to safety and emergency procedures, including how to bail out of the aircraft! Next to get kitted out with a fireproof flight suit and gloves followed by a life jacket and locator beacon. The final item was the protective helmet commonly referred to as the ‘bone-dome’! The parachute was already prepared in the cockpit.
Another brief to ensure I would know what to do in an emergency, then off to strap in ready to fly. Whilst I was strapping in I was again quizzed on the specific method to exit the aircraft. This care for my safety generated great confidence irrespective of the fact that I have flown many times both during and after my career in the Royal Air Force.
I chose to fly with Boultbee Flight Academy, not just because of the convenience of access, but primarily because of the reputation and safety record of the company.
Prior to my flight I had flown the Spitfire simulator to get a bit of practice for the real thing.
We taxied out to the runway, got clearance from the control tower to line up and take off. The surge in power is amazing and we were soon airborne and climbing to altitude. The noise of the Merlin engine is extremely loud despite having noise cancelling devices, but to me all part of the experience.
We headed for the Needles on the Isle of Wight and Neil my pilot allowed me to take control of the aircraft, I was in seventh heaven actually flying this beautiful and iconic aeroplane. It was quite emotional thinking of all of those young men who took to the skies during the years of WWII to fight for the freedoms we enjoy today.
The controls are very sensitive and need little input, it is as if the aircraft senses where you want to go and just goes! The instruments are basic compared to modern aircraft, but tell you all you need to know to navigate and fly safely.
Having rounded the Needles and taken a close look we flew completely around the Island and no doubt interrupted tea time below with the ‘sigh of the merlin’. As we headed back towards the mainland it was time to start a session of aerobatics, looping and rolling and generally having fun, but not pulling too much G-force which could impact on the life of both the airframe and engine.
All good things come to an end and soon we were lined up to land after an exciting and unbelievable experience.
My pilot Neil was an amusing and very likeable man who ensured that I got the most out of my flight and his wealth of flying experience was demonstrated with the skill and care that he flew the aircraft, ensuring that I was comfortable, safe and enjoying my flight, but equally caring for the life of the aircraft.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to all the staff at Boultbee Flight Academy for all their care and professionalism to ensure my flight was a complete success. Equally to the support from my family and a special friend and former work colleague who part financed my flight and who I cannot thank enough.
*Photos with kind permission of Boultbee Flight Academy.