My bucket list always had it. To fly a Spitfire. Impossible, of course. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Winston Churchill’s soaring words during the Battle of Britain leave a painful edge today. Of 20,351 Spitfires built, fewer than 35 are still flying.
I’d seen a Spitfire but once, its legendary Merlin engine snarling at an airshow over Arnhem. A Kiwi friend told me years ago that Spitfires flew at Warbirds Over Wanaka, the biennial airshow in New Zealand. I scoured their website. Spitfires, yes. Rides, no.
Then The Telegraph published a story about learning to fly a Spitfire.
Learning to fly a Spitfire?
Alex James, a popular figure in Britpop, plays bass guitar for the British rock band Blur. After a rather decadent lifestyle he has settled down with wife and family. He did a bit of song-writing and TV gigs. He also became a renowned cheese-maker. He has been a pilot for 17 years.
This was a double bucket list irony for me. Rock star. Fly a Spitfire. Damn.
The Telegraph published James’ article on Spitfire training in October, 2012 (link below). Boultbee Flight Academy in the UK offers intro and conversion courses. They even have a fighter appreciation course. You scramble with another Spitfire to intercept a Messerschmitt Bf-109.
I didn’t even look up their website. I could never afford that.
So I just watched Alex James’ video in the Spitfire (click on image below). Here’s a guy who once lolled in champagne with the five prettiest groupies in a hotel. Now awed to tears by a World War II fighter airplane. Lucky bastard.
I’m Alex James and I’ve had a pilot license for about 15 years. But I still can’t actually look at a Spitfire without crying.
The most beautiful handling aeroplane I’ve ever flown.
Such an overwhelming head rush of imagery. You’ve got green and pleasant land, and seeing the other Spitfire… I was crying for most of it.
An incredibly well-balanced, beautiful flying machine.
I watched it a lot. Shared it on Facebook.
Fly a Spitfire, pfft. It could never happen to me.
Posted from Singapore
27 November, 2014
Happy Thanksgiving to readers in America
Next week: Already, I Didn’t Want the Day to End
Alex James’ full article in The Telegraph.
Another Spitfire video I enjoyed:
Boultbee Flight Academy, Spitfire flight training.