Posts Tagged ‘flypast’

Prince Harry gives up Battle of Britain flypast Spitfire seat for RAF veteran

September 19th, 2015

Tom Neil - the man Prince Harry gave his seat up for in the Battle of Britain tribute

His spokesman said he wanted to make sure that 95-year-old Mr Neil, an ex-wing commander and Battle of Britain Hurricane and Spitfire pilot, would still be able to take part.

And he wanted to ensure that a former para and an RAF corporal who won places on a Spitfire scholarship training programme were also still able to take part in the display.

Security officials tell Prince to stand back and not cross runway at Goodwood Aerodrome as he inspects planes taking part in 75th anniversary flypast

Nathan Forster, a former private in the Parachute Regiment, from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, suffered severe damage to his left leg in an IED blast while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2011. And Corporal Alan Robinson, an RAF aircraft technician, from Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, lost a leg in a motorbike accident.

Earlier, Harry – sporting a rugged beard – was pictured with a full beard as he set off on foot to inspect the aircraft lined up by the grass runway – and was admonished within minutes.

But, as his group began to cross the runway, a security vehicle came speeding up and stopped the Prince and his group in their tracks.

He could be seen being told to stand back and not cross the runway and a few minutes later a small aircraft came in to land.

Prince Harry (second right) walks with (from left) Cpl. Alan Robinson, Nathan Forster and Matt Jones director of the Boultbee Flight Academy, past Battle of Britain aircraft at Goodwood Aerodrome

Harry was then cleared to cross and continue his inspection as rain poured down on the airfield.

The Prince was due to fly in the Spitfire PV202 piloted by John Romain, managing director of the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford, Cambridgeshire.

But he will no longer be flying in the display as one of the four two-seater Spitfires has suffered mechanical problems.

The aerial display will be a tribute to the Second World War pilots famously dubbed “The Few” by wartime prime minister Winston Churchill for their efforts in defeating the Luftwaffe.

The Battle of Britain, as it happened on September 15, 1940

During the summer and autumn of 1940, 544 personnel from Fighter Command died as the RAF fought in the skies above southern England to force back the threat of any invasion by Hitler.

The 75th anniversary is likely to be the last major anniversary at which the surviving members of the pivotal conflict – who are now all well into their 90s – will be fit to take part.

Mr Neil, 95, an ex-wing commander and Battle of Britain Hurricane and Spitfire pilot, will lead the formation from the rear of a two-seater Spitfire – the symbol of Britain’s fight against Nazi forces.

The event has been organised by the Boultbee Flight Academy, based in Chichester, and two of the aircraft – a Spitfire and a Hurricane – fought in the famous battle.

Prince Harry sported a birthday beard at the Battle of Britain fleet inspection

The Prince had ditched the razor during his summer working on conservation projects in Africa. And he kept his new look on his return to the UK, showing off a rugged ginger beard on Tuesday morning.

It is not the first time the fifth in line to the throne has grown a beard. Most recently he sported facial hair after his trek to the South Pole with wounded servicemen in December 2013.

Harry had shaved it off by the time he appeared at a press conference to discuss the event in January 2014, amid reports the Queen did not approve of her grandson’s “Windsor whiskers”.

The Queen did not mind royal men growing beards while they were away with the armed forces, but she expected them to be clean-shaven when they were home, it was reported.

Prince Harry pictured with a beard

The Duke of Cambridge grew a beard when he joined the Special Boat Service on a mission to Barbados in 2008. He kept it over the Christmas period and gave the public their first glimpse after a festive church service at Sandringham, Norfolk.

William and Harry followed in the footsteps of their father, the Prince of Wales, who was pictured sporting a beard at the Badminton Horse Trials in 1976.

The Duke of Edinburgh was also photographed with a well-groomed beard while on active service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.


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A flypast worthy of ‘The Few’ – even if the Prince stayed grounded

September 16th, 2015

Yet even for those watching from the ground, the flypast made quite some spectacle. Around 40 Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Bristol Blenheim bomber soared up from the aerodrome before dispersing and flying in formation across wartime airfields dotted all over the south of the country.

The fighter planes flew in groups of four, the unmistakeable snub-nosed Spitfires and sleek Hurricanes banking over Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and the waters of the Solent.

For the few dozen surviving pilots of the 3,000 heroes of the Battle of Britain, the battle for national survival which raged above England in the summer and autumn of 1940, there was an acceptance that yesterday’s scenes will be the last major anniversary they will be able to take part in.

Even the most stoic among them are getting on, and Wing Commander Neil, who during the dogfights 75 years ago brought down 14 enemy planes, admitted that when he approached the Spitfire cockpit he did have some reservations about actually getting in.

“I’m not a young man anymore and not very good at bending in the middle, so I didn’t think I was going to do it,” he said. “But after a couple of minutes or so inside it felt absolutely normal, if a bit lumpy.

“I kept a careful eye on the instruments and made sure they didn’t get out of control. I also kept looking among the clouds for any Germans.”

Tom Neil - the man Prince Harry gave his seat up for in the Battle of Britain tribute

Wing Commander Neil, who flew a Hurricane during the Battle of Britain but has also flown 22 different marks of Spitfire, claims during wartime the pilots rarely experienced any issues with their planes. “Of course back then we were dealing with brand new engines,” he said.

As for the Prince’s willingness to offer up his seat, he says he deserves a medal.

“He is a lovely boy. I don’t think he ever expected me to come back alive but when we landed he gave me my stick back and congratulated me. I said, ‘there is nothing to congratulate me about’.”

Security officials tell Prince to stand back and not cross runway at Goodwood Aerodrome as he inspects planes taking part in 75th anniversary flypast

At the beginning of the Battle of Britain, just 640 RAF Fighter Command planes were pitched into battle against 2,600 of their Luftwaffe counterparts. September 15 is seen as the pivotal day of the war within a war, when the Germans launched their largest and most concentrated assault on London, and British Spitfires and Hurricanes repelled waves of attacks.

In total between July and October, 544 personnel from Fighter Command were killed. Their heroic efforts were enough to prompt Hitler to abandon Operation Sealion, his plan to invade Britain.

On the day itself 75 years ago, the planes zipped through blue skies, but yesterday’s looming cloud banks led to the flypast being delayed for two hours.

The poor weather, and the grounded Spitfire, were not the only hitches. Prior to the display, Prince Harry was also stopped by a security vehicle as he attempted to cross the runway because of an incoming small aircraft. Security staff at the airfield raced up to the Prince and asked him and his group to stop. He duly moved aside and waited for the plane, which landed a couple of minutes later.

The Prince, however, grinned his way through such minor tribulations, meeting numerous veterans who had attended. A Royal spokesman yesterday described him as being “incredibly honoured” to be part of the event, not least because it coincided with his birthday.

The other two veterans invited to take part in the flypast had both won places on a Spitfire scholarship programme which trains wounded servicemen to fly vintage aircraft.

The scholarship was established by the Boultbee Flight Academy and is supported by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s Endeavour Fund – which donates money and offers practical help to sporting and adventure challenges for wounded ex-service personnel.

Nathan Forster, a former private in the Parachute Regiment, from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, who suffered severe damage to his left leg in an IED blast while on patrol in Helmand Province in 2011, won a place on the scheme alongside Corporal Alan Robinson, an RAF aircraft technician from Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, who lost a leg in a motorbike accident that same year.

The training programme the pair followed was similar to that of their WWII predecessors, undertaking their first flights in a Tiger Moth and Harvard, before finally getting into the cockpit of a Spitfire itself

The Spitfire PV202 that Forster took Prince Harry’s place in was piloted by John Romain, managing director of the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. It has carried out 20 operational sorties with 10 pilots during the Second World War.

Back in April, Forster said that flying a Spitfire through the programme would be the culmination of a dream come true.


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Battle of Britain Spitfire flypast over London cancelled after Shoreham crash ramps up insurance cost

September 6th, 2015

A Battle of Britain commemoration flypast by 20 Spitfires over London has been cancelled after the Shoreham air disaster made the cost of insuring the event unaffordable.

The organisers of the flypast, which they had hoped would happen on September 20, were told they would need third party insurance cover of £250 million, which would have required a premium of around £50,000.

It raises the prospect that air shows scheduled for next year may find the cost of insurance prohibitive as a result of the Hawker Hunter crash at Shoreham, in which 11 people died.

Paul Beaver, who was organising the event, said: “The intention was that 20 privately-owned Spitfires would fly over London to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. We had started the planning in March, and had applied to the Civil Aviation Authority and even the Prime Minister to get the go-ahead.

“The route we were going to take would have made sure there was always somewhere for an aircraft to land if it got into difficulties, and usually the individual owners’ aircraft insurance, which provides £5 million of third party cover per aircraft, would have been enough.

“But after Shoreham we took soundings from an insurance expert who advises the air shows, and he said the feedback he was getting from underwriters was that we would need to take out £250 million of insurance cover, which made the whole thing untenable.

“I really hope the underwriters take a pragmatic view when the air show season starts next year, because if they don’t it will make life very difficult.”

An unrelated flypast of massed fighter planes will still go ahead on September 15 over the south of England which will be attended by Prince Harry.

Top (L-R): Matt Jones, 24, Matthew Grimstone, 23, Jacob Schilt, 23, Daniele Polito, 23, Mark Trussler, 49, James Mallinson, 72. Bottom (L-R): Maurice Abrahams, 76, Mark Reeves, 53, Richard Smith, 26, Dylan Archer, 42, Tony Brightwell, 52.


World War Two

Battle of Britain flypast commemorates 75 years since the ‘Hardest Day’

August 18th, 2015

The ‘Hardest Day’ recalls when, on 18 August 1940, Biggin Hill in Bromley came under attack from the Luftwaffe, and post-war studies have shown this was the hardest-fought day in the history of the air war over Britain.

On this day, both sides recorded their greatest losses in battle. Germany flew 850 sorties involving 2200 aircrew, and the RAF sent out 927 sorties in return.

The RAF lost altogether 68 aircraft – 31 in air combat. 69 German planes were destroyed.

Wartime reinactors attend the Commemoration of The Hardest Day at London Biggin Hill Airport Picture: Alamy

At Biggin Hill, World War Two re-enactors and veterans of the Battle of Britain assembled with many who came to watch the skies.

• Battle of Britain: the spitfire, envy of the enemy
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Veteran Tony Pickering said that he would like to fly again, saying “I’d be up there with them”.

He was one of 3,000 people – known as The Few – to fly in the Battle of Britain to keep control of the skies against the Germans.

Battle of Britain veteran, Squadron Leader Tony Pickering from Rugby, who fought alongside fellow WWII RAF airmen known as The Few Picture: PA

Air raid sirens went off as the 24 aircraft took off to make their three routes, which follow the journeys made by three pilots 75 years ago to Portsmouth, Dover and RAF Kenley.

World War II Spitfires take to the skies over Biggin Hill Picture: PA

This flight was named after Wing Commander Douglas Grice, who was awarded a medal for destroying so many German planes and was shot down three times during the six weeks’ fighting.

• Battle of Britain pilot: ‘You were always outnumbered’
‘I enjoyed the Battle of Britain’ – The Few gather for 75th anniversary

An Airbus A380 passes overhead as World War II Spitfires and Hurricanes take to the skies over Kent Picture: PA


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