Sunday, 28 June 2015

V-Force Tour :: Duxford :: 28.VI.15

Popped into DX to catch a glimpse of XH558…
Rain eased off in time for the arrival of the Tin Triangle.
The Blenheim took off and disappeared towards the south. Two seat Spitfire trips by PV202 and MJ627, as well as the "fly with a Spitfire" photo ops, were taking place.
Place was pretty busy - did they all come to see the Vulcan?...

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A few more images from my flight...

Further photos of my flight have kindly been provided by several people who were at Duxford, either at work or there for pleasure. Images credited to owners.
Thank you for helping to record my experience of a lifetime!

                                           A royal-like wave!                 © David C Whitworth

                                "Let's go make some noise!"           © David C Whitworth
                                                           'Run...'                  © David C Whitworth

                                                   '…and break.'                        © David Finch

                                             All too soon it's over.         © David C Whitworth

                                                     Taxi back.                   © David C Whitworth

                                                Lost for words!                  © David C Whitworth

Duxford :: 24.VI.15

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

James Horner - "The Fourth Horseman" - RIP

Sad news that James Horner died when his Tucano crashed in Southern California yesterday...

Monday, 22 June 2015

The >20 Minute Club...

The Spitfire flights from Duxford have been dubbed, tongue-in-cheek, the "20 Minute Club" by some on an aviation forum near here - the recent flights all returning exactly 20 minutes after takeoff (total time in the aircraft is advertised as 30 mins and 20 mins flight time).
I guess as my flight experienced a "gremlin" in the stopwatch department, which meant we were back slightly late, can I lay claim to being a founder member of the "More Than 20' Club"?

So, how about a patch?...

My wife handed this to me afterwards…

Isn't it. Isn't it though...

And now I can actually wear my Spitfire pin, bought for me many, many years ago, and have a tale to tell…

Friday, 19 June 2015

Duxford :: 19.VI.15 :: A dream fulfilled.

An early start today to get to Duxford for 9am for my Spitfire Flight Experience with Classic Wings. Arriving in plenty of time, due to a congestion free A14 (!?!?), what started out as a nice sunny morning soon started to cloud over.
Checking in with Classic Wings operation in the briefing room in ATC, the morning started for myself and another passenger, with a short introduction about Duxford, completing paperwork and then the SSAC (Safety Standards Acknowledgement and Consent) and flight safety briefings. Flight suit, gloves and helmet issued, then followed a short wait for the arrival of MJ627 from Biggin Hill.

Al Pinner was our pilot for this morning and we had a brief chat about what to expect while MJ627 was refuelled. I was scheduled to fly first, so once the aircraft was ready it was down the stairs and out to my 'ride'.

Once strapped into a very tight rear cockpit and emergency "ARC" drills run through one more time, the canopy was slid shut. Engine fired up and the sound and smell of the Merlin coming to life filled the cockpit. Taxi out and down to the 24 end of the runway where we held briefly for last minute checks then we're off! A smooth takeoff and soon we're at 1500' heading west with Fowlmere passing by on our starboard side. Soon Bassingbourn is below us and a tight turn to the right is carried out over the old wartime hangars and what remains of the airfield. A shallow dive away from Bassingbourn towards Wimpole Hall, almost along the length of the "grand avenue' was followed up with a aileron roll thrown in for good measure - sky, ground, sky and hold onto breakfast!

Then from Wimpole we headed towards the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial at Madingley where an aileron 'victory' roll was carried out, over the final resting place of many brave young servicemen and women. Something I didn't expect from today, but I hope it was a fitting salute…

On from there to the north of Cambridge with a couple of climbs and steep banking turns left and right en route, turning back south around the eastern side with Cambridge Airport to the starboard, and then a steady return back towards Duxford. A final run in and break along the runway turning to the north, gear down, flaps down and all too soon, the runway comes up to greet us and we are taxiing back to the parking spot outside ATC.

I got some stick time during my flight, with various manoeuvres, though I will have to wait for the video footage to recall exactly what I did!!!

An amazing experience, one I have dreamt about since I built my first Airfix kit, and with the added interest of having watched MJ627 in combat in 1944 and being flown by a former OC BBMF and, of course, this being the 75th anniversary of the Battle Of Britain.

A day on and a couple of thoughts on the experience. 
The type of helmet used (Micro Avionics MM020B?) has a full face visor and might be fine for open cockpits or microlight type flying, but it did feel a tad claustrophobic when in the confines of the rear cockpit of a Spitfire. I can see why this style might be preferred, as it is separate to the headset so means only a range of different size 'shells' are needed thus probably keeping PPE costs down. The visor has to remain down from canopy closing to opening and I found it starting to mist up, as there is little airflow to remove the condensation. If it was a hot day I could imagine it would become quite uncomfortable. A couple of passengers have had to use the supplied barf bags - if you don't get your aim right you could end up having to stare through your last meal for the remainder of the flight!
A far better choice would be a half visor, if such is available for this brand - the visor appears to be only attached with bolts.

No cameras are allowed on the flight for pretty obvious reasons. There is no 'floor' in the aircraft and the risk of a camera dropping down and jamming some controls is very high. 
So a totally understandable restriction. 
In cockpit rearward facing video is an 'optional extra', but unfortunately a big part of the whole experience, that of looking out along that iconic wing shape as you fly over the countryside, is lost. The steep turn over "The Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial" at Madingley was a pretty memorable moment, but one that I am unable to share with anyone in any form other than words.  There does appear to be some sort of 'mount' on the seat back…

…a small GoPro or other camera, pointing out along the wing, wouldn't be too hard to include.

Small "criticisms" of what is still an amazing experience and in no way anything that would prevent me from doing it again!!!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Duxford :: 17.VI.15

A brief first outing for a new lens - 40-150 f2.8 + 1.4 tele converter.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Duxford :: 12.VI.15