The evening of the 4th of October is one I will never forget: it was the day I flew in a Spitfire. It was a cool evening with a clear sky, and I was stood in a flight suit about to climb into one of the world’s most iconic aircraft. I had to remind myself to focus on the safety briefing and make sure that I knew what to do in an emergency, whilst all the time my heart was beating faster.
Then it was time to climb into the Spitfire and get strapped in. I was going to be flying in Charlie, one of the two seat Spitfires operated by Aerial Collective. As the steps were wheeled away I took a moment to take it all in; staring at the instruments and dials, looking up at the canopy around me and hearing the radio chatter from ATC. We checked audio on the helmets and the engine roared into life. The sound was incredible, I could feel the power of the engine, and it was in this moment I realised this is it; this is really happening. I watched the propellers spinning round as we waited for the engine to heat up, and then before I knew it we had started to move.
Charlie sped up and got ready to leave Duxford airfield behind. I looked out of the canopy and saw the earth fall away beneath us. I knew the Cambridgeshire countryside would be a sight to behold, but I never imagined just how beautiful; I even saw King’s College, the spires of its chapel rising up out of the city. We continued to climb and soon fields gave way to clouds, banks of white tinged with sunlight that made them look iridescent in the early evening light. It was so tranquil and calm it felt like we were floating through the air and time was standing still. I have to admit I couldn’t help feeling a little emotional, as I looked at the curve of the wings cutting through the air, and remembered all the pilots who had fought and died for their country flying in aircraft just like this one.
All too soon the light was beginning to fade and it was time to head for home. We descended a little, and as we neared Cambridge I could see the twinkling lights of civilisation stretching out before us. Then the Aircraft Restoration hangars came into view, and I could see the Imperial War Museum appearing too. It was time to land.
Back on home ground we taxied back and the engine was turned off, slowly winding down with pops and clicks. The propellers came to a halt, and it was time to open the canopy and step down onto solid ground once more. I stood there for a moment, wanting to remember every detail, everything I had felt. I had been entirely unprepared for just how amazing it was, how humbling and how completely unforgettable. As the sun set, bringing the day to a close, I watched birds soaring up above me and knew exactly how it felt.