What can I expect on the day
Will you lose your wool or will you fly like an experienced old lag when you get the chance to feel what it'd be like to learn to fly a Spitfire? Take a step back into aviation history and get yourself posted to IWM Duxford for a spot of Spitfire pilot training, where you'll follow the same flight path as many young RAF pilots in the midst of World War Two.
As war broke out, the Allied Forces soon realised there was a huge shortage of pilots, so in 1939 The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was agreed and put into action. This ambitious (and very rapid) flight training programme saw young sign-ups being taught flying skills at schools around the Commonwealth in record time, with the target of 50,000 new pilots a year. On these one and two day courses, you'll get insight to what it must have been like during those first hours of tailwheel training!
For most budding young pilots, the ultimate goal having learnt to fly was to convert onto Spitfires - the seminal tail-chasing battle fighter of the skies, protecting Blighty and taking the flak from the Luftwaffe. But before then, there was the small question of flying solo. Recruits were expected to be going solo in the good old yellow peril Tiger Moth in as a few as eight hours, else you were 'scrubbed' and sent off to gunner or navigator courses.
So when you enrol at the Spitfire school your pilot training starts in exactly the same way, with a flight in the Moth or the Chipmunk, the ideal starting point for learning tailwheel skills. Then your new-found aerial competence will be tested (just as they were for many Spitfire hopefuls) with a flight in the Harvard (or the North American T-6 Texan), which is an altogether more complicated machine, where pilots had the chance to show the aptitude in the air that'd make them the ideal fighter pilot in a Spitfire.
A few of those who passed their pilot training with flying colours would indeed be sent to front line fighter squadrons with a fleet of Spitfires waiting. We can only imagine what it must have felt like when a new RAF recruit met the formidable Spit for the first time. Sitting proud on the tarmac, with that distinctive wing shape and aggressive nose, she's both elegant and fearsome at the same time and awe-inspiring for all young recruits.
That's exactly how you'll feel during this Spitfire school's finale - the moment you go up in a two seater T9. As your pilot instructor releases the brakes, it's stick back, open that throttle and bring the stick forward to neutral, as the tail lifts and before you know it, you're airborne, sitting there in a Spitfire cockpit, with the best possible view ever of those elegant elliptical wings. Flying heaven, we think you'd agree, is the day that you learned to fly a Spitfire.
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