Monday, 16 August 2010

Richard Grace

Image from RAF Forum

I just wanted to mention, in brief, that yesterday I also met Richard Grace, son of Carolyn Grace (of the Grace Spitfire) and chatted to him for 5 minutes or so, while we refuelled the Spitfire I had just marshalled. I'd seen him in the display pilots' tent, having marshalled his Pitts, and terrible though it is to admit, knowing that he, in only his twenties, is a Spitfire display pilot made me almost sick with envy. I had been learning to fly when I heard that he had just gone solo in the family Spitfire, aged twenty-something. And shamefully I'd just assumed he'd be cocky and self-satisfied, as I am afraid I might well be in his position.

But he was charming and disarmingly modest - took my hand and shook it, like I was someone who mattered too *. He learnt to fly in a Cessna 152 "like everyone else" and did about ten hours on their Stampe and a few hundred hours on other stuff before getting near the Spitfire, making his intro to flying very conventional. It was all part of Carolyn Grace's plan to ensure that her son would not take the Spitfire for granted. Even now, Carolyn Grace does most of the displaying. Yesterday, Richard flew in a Pitts display pair.

There are Spitfire pilots around who don't smile and who walk around with an "oh, this old thing?" look about them, and they make me so cross. They are the most privileged pilots around (the envy of millions of avid enthusiasts) and they don't look like they are even enjoying it. But you cannot begrudge Richard Grace his good fortune because if anyone is going to do it, you want it to be someone who knows how lucky he is, doesn't take it for granted and clearly loves flying the Spitfire.


*Yes, yes....I know I matter. Am not down on myself. People who are mad about flying will understand the hero worship of Spitfire pilots. And really, the point is not how I feel, but the attitude that Richard displays. He is a gentleman and a real credit to Carolyn Grace - and of course to his late father, Nick Grace. (eeek, I know that sounds patronising)

Sunday, 15 August 2010


Click any picture to increase its size

I haven't got time to do a full write-up now. Suffice it to say, for now, that today I parked a Spitfire! That is one massive prop to be powering towards you when you know that the pilot does not always have you in sight. Once he was parked I helped refuel.

Steve Wilson took some fantastic shots which I include here.

A really great day.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Depressing summer

"So, what have you got planned for the summer, Pete", all my colleagues asked.

Flying, flying and flying.

....and how much flying have I done?

Not one bloom'n* minute.

*Just in case any of my students are reading. - I could lose my job for writing the uneuphemised word I was thinking. Blinkin' PC state!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Thanks Cath Vickers - for the 8th August, two years ago!

Just got off the phone to Neill, who said that on the 8th August it'll have been two years since we started flying together. Two years!

Cath Vickers had the inspiration to book Neill to instruct me because I was hanging around, wasting time at Sywell during prime evening flying time, when all Flylight's instructors had clocked off for the day; I was camping at the airfield for the summer, but it was often too thermic to fly during the middle of the day.

I'd had a great grounding with Phil, but Neill's arrival put my training in over-drive and was the beginning of a great friendship too. Neill always said I'd miss the "the best days of your life", and he was right. After 11 months I passed my test -only needing some cross-country qualifiers to get the licence, which was issued 21st September 2009.

So we have been planning for me to go up to Sackville soon for an hour in his Quantum, and once my first year with a full licence is up I am going to do some fixed wing with him too. Neill's been saying I should fly into Sackville in the Dragonfly. I would if I could but the weather has been crap, quite frankly. Must get up in the air soon, though.

So, I have had my licence 10 months. I feel like I have forgotten so much of what I was taught, and Neill says that in a way, that is a good thing to be doing - forget the academic stuff and just fly. And that is exactly what I have been doing.

Anyway, for August the 8th, thanks very much, Cath. It was an inspired idea!