Author Archives: Carolyn Grace

News update 24th April 2017

The Grace Spitfire has been fully serviceable for the 2017 season since mid March.  We have already flown 6 passenger days at our base of Sywell Aerodrome making passengers with their friends and families very happy.  People who accompany passengers on the day never expect to be allowed to actually get close to our Spitfire but that is what we arrange on these days.  The whole group come out to the aeroplane to see the passenger climb into the Spitfire with them all taking photos and feeling the aura of the aircraft first hand.  When the passenger in the Spitfire taxis back in their friends, families and children all are out on liveside waiting to see their reaction to the flight after the engine is stopped and they all come up to the cockpit to see the beaming passenger to hear about the experience.

Passenger flight bookings in our Spitfire for the first part of our season, up to the end of June, are fairly full now but there is space in the second part of the season being July through to September, email us on flights@ML407.co.uk to inquire.

The public bookings for this year are updated on the calendar on our website now. There are not as many as usual, the airshow and flying display world is now even more competitive than ever and coupled with the ramifications resulting from the AAIB report on the Hunter accident at Shoreham in 2015 the number of events are well down on previous years.  However ML407 is flying regularly throughout the season at Sywell Aerodrome which is a great day out and the Sywell Aviation Museum is open on Wednesdays as well as the weekend now which is an added attraction to a visit to Sywell as well as the pleasure of the Art Deco restaurant, bar and lounge.

The Veterans who both flew and who were ground crew on our Spitfire in 485 (NZ) Squadron in the War have always played an important part in the history of our aeroplane and we are honoured to  have been close to so many. Indeed we have the honour of knowing a significant number of Veterans whose life experiences enrich and have indeed enabled our own.  The sadness of the recent passing away of the last 485 (New Zealand) Squadron veteran Joe Roddis is helped somewhat by knowing his Spitfire ML407 that he really did care about will continue to fly as he would want.  Joe met his (late) wife Betty through being in the Channel Four series ‘Spitfire Ace’.  Betty was watching this acclaimed series when she saw Joe whom she had lost touch with during the war after she left ALG (Advanced Landing Ground) Selsey where 485 Squadron were based at the time.  Joe and Betty both now widowed (2003) were put in touch with each other when Betty called Channel Four to ask how to contact Joe.  They immediately re-kindled their love for each other and remained together until Betty’s passing in late 2013.  Their story was on BBC Britain’s Flying Past with John Sargeant when he interviewed the couple at Bentwaters after he flew in our Spitfire.  Their story was so touching.

Air Leasing Ltd, our family company, who is the Maintenance Organisation for our Spitfire have done a superb job of the detailed winter maintenance and ML407 does look resplendent as ever parked out on the pan in front of our hangar today, despite the cold north wind.  I hope to see you at some stage this season at Sywell.

 

 

 

 

News Update August 2016

Where do I begin?  There is so much to tell.  We moved our Maintenance Organisation, which is responsible for keeping ML407 operational, to Sywell Aerodrome on the 10th January this year. We moved ourselves back in early November to live near to the Aerodrome which has cut down our travelling time enormously. So that is good but it was difficult in the extreme moving from a place one had been for 26 years and the shed/workshop alone was massive undertaking. We still have our hangars at Bentwaters and of course remain as a flying partner at Duxford both of which are very important places to the Grace Spitfire and our whole Team.

The Hangar at Sywell Aerodrome is a newly constructed hangar which we have on a long lease. The hangar needed fitting out with stores and offices plus a spray bake which we have done but saying it was a lot easier than the process involved however thanks to Richard’s design and forethought the whole block works really well.  The hangar is a fine workplace for ML407 and ‘her friends’ which we now have quite a few of.  However ML407 remains as the most important aeroplane in the hangar.

You may have seen a new ‘tab’ on the home page of “Flights” and that is because as of mid June we have had our SSA&C Approval issued to enable us to carry fare paying passengers in a viable manner in the Grace Spitfire.  The Approval was a challenge to obtain but very worth while working hard to achieve this goal as we can now reduce greatly our waiting list for flights in ML407 which for the past month we have been doing with many being booked up for their long awaited flight in our genuinely historic and original Spitfire ML407.  Go to our Flights page and have a look but if you just want to get the information then email flights@ML407.co.uk.

We have received many flight enquiries which is so uplifting, but do give us a little while to reply as we are a very small team of one (Daisy) and myself (Carolyn) helping.  It is wonderful to be in a position to share with people the wonderful experience of flying in our Spitfire with all that it represents. On the day of a persons flight (five in a day only) it is like a real bonding experience as we all get to touch and sense the Spitfire with their friends and family.  Sywell is ideal for this experience with excellent catering facilities and on site Hotel.  We have the use of a Club Room in the Art Deco terminal building which works really well as a base for all our guests during their day with the Grace Spitfire. The guests get to see the excited anticipation of their loved one / friend getting into the cockpit and then upon their return they are all out at the aircraft when the engine has stopped to come up close and watch the expression of the passenger which is often one of complete wonderment at the experience they have just had.which always surpasses their expectations.  Photos around the cockpit then take place and children get to sit on the steps with their father/mother and family to capture the moment. There is the option to buy an on board DVD of your flight which means the whole family can watch your flight and see the beauty of the countryside plus how you react during your flight when perhaps you actually had hands on experience taking control of the Spitfire (following the briefing of course) and then the aerobatics if you had wanted them and with a classic Spitfire Victory Roll.  Superb!

This news update is a positive one for the Grace Spitfire ML407 and her continued successful operation.

 

November 2015 Update

The 2015 flying season has been an exceptionally busy one fulfilling our ethos  ‘ to honour the past that has enabled our future’.  The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain has been at the forefront on an international basis which is where indeed it should be.  I had the great honour of talking with our own ML407 485 New Zealand Squadron veterans and was fortunate to also be able to talk to other veterans who flew Hurricanes, Spitfires and Typhoons, which I find a most humbling experience in that they are, without exception, so modest.

The Grace Spitfire had 37 flying displays booked for the 2015 season and flew a total of 34.  The three that were weathered off were the West Bergholt Vehicle Show and the Americas Cup closing ceremony at Southsea on the 26th July plus the last of the three days of the Military Odyssey re-enactment event at Kent Showground.   The Grace Spitfire has a great variation in the type of bookings obtained for any one year varying from Airshows, Proms (flying to music), Weddings, Birthday Parties, Corporate events and the in Memoriam display for Funerals.  This diversity has always played an important role in the fund raising to keep the Grace Spitfire operational.

This year starting with ‘The Hardest Day’ flypast from Biggin Hill saw ML407 take part in the most important commemoration flypasts to honour the 75th Anniversary of The Battle of Britain.  I stepped back from flying ML407 at this time to enable this rare series of events to be flown and savoured by our next generation pilots Richard Grace and Dave Puleston.  I have had the pleasure and honour of flying ML407 at numerous significant commemorations over the past 24 years and I felt it imperative that this time it be flown by the next generation of our pilots who are of course also our engineers on the aircraft.

The display flying is spread amongst all the five Grace Spitfire pilots to ensure currency and longevity of the high standard of display flying that is achieved in our Spitfire.  The continued successful operation of this Spitfire is vital to us and to enable this to happen in addition to funding and our high standard of maintenance engineers, having current pilots to take it to the next generation is paramount in this ambition.  This year saw our maintenance team, headed by Richard Grace, many hours of diligent work come to fruition when Richard flew the Seafire III (only one of the type remaining) on the shake down flight prior to the official test flying programme by our Chief Pilot Pete Kynsey.   This aircraft having then been issued with a Permit to Fly by the Civil Aviation Authority was flown by Richard to Duxford, the first away landing from Bentwaters, escorted by ML407 which was flown by Dave Puleston with Steve Kingman in the rear cockpit.  The significance of this flight was that all three involved constituted the small team who restored this aircraft to flying condition. There are numerous pictures on the Facebook page for The Grace Spitfire of both aircraft together.  Although the Facebook Group do not bring in much funding for the Grace Spitfire it does raise ML407’s public profile via this social media tool and that has a value all of its own.

2015 has also seen the 30th year of operation by the Grace Spitfire ML407 from when Nick Grace completed his meticulous rebuild (as filmed for The Perfect Lady – Grace Trilogy and 70th Anniversary DVD both available from our shop).  It was on the 16th April 1985 that Nick, with me (Carolyn) in the rear cockpit flew the very first post rebuild flight.  This is a day and an experience that will remain treasured with me forever.

To ensure we match this 30 year record I can report that the spare Merlin Engine being overhauled by Vintage V-12s in Tehachapi, USA is well underway and we anticipate the overhauled engine to be with us in early February ready for our team to install this engine as part of the winter maintenance schedule for the Grace Spitfire.  With this engine installed we will commence the 2016 year in excellent condition to fulfil the bookings we already have.  The confirmed display bookings are not entered on to our website until early March so it is not before I have sent them first to our current Grace Spitfire Supporters who have already had the very detailed November Newsletter and so kindly renew their support.

If you feel you can support the Grace Spitfire we so welcome you to do so and you will then have the latest and most detailed news and display bookings to diarise for 2016.  There is a link on our home page to download the form or you can send £25.00 (UK) or £30.00 (elsewhere) to the address below. The Supporters year runs from December to December and becoming a Supporter from September onwards gives you until the following years December before I ask you to renew your Support.   If you cannot download the form you only need to send your payment with your name and address with email address (if you have one) to Solo Enterprises, The Spitfire Blister, Hall Farm, Sywell Aerodrome, Sywell, Northampton, NN6 0BN.

The most recent addition to our shop is the Grace Spitfire 70th Anniversary DVD (£13.00) which is narrated by me Carolyn Grace and commemorates the 70 years of ML407 The Grace Spitfire with unseen footage of the actual Gun Camera footage taken from ML407’s gun camera on the D-Day landings when Johnnie Houlton DFC was credited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft on D-Day.  In addition there is the full amateur footage (55 minutes) taken of Nick Grace describing in considerable detail his rebuild of ML407 from the Grace family’s personal library.  A short clip of this footage was used in the film made of the history of ML407 called ‘The Perfect Lady’ and this film is combined with the other two films we made with ML407 one being a documentary of my first solo in our Spitfire ‘Going Solo’ and the other is all about Jackie Moggridge of the Air Transport Auxilliary who delivered ML407 to the front line Squadron being 485 New Zealand Squadron at the ALG (advanced landing ground) Selsey on the 29th April 1944.  These three films are combined on the one DVD called The Grace Trilogy £13.00.

The Grace Spitfire Clothing range is much enjoyed and of a high standard as one would wish.  Seeing people wearing our merchandise with the Grace Spitfire logo on it gives me a great thrill and of course others who can then start up a conversation with that person on mutual interest grounds, if they want to of course!

Thank you for reading this latest update and may I wish you all the very best wishes for the coming Festive Season.

Carolyn Grace

 

 

March 2015 News Update

I know, it has been a while coming but I wanted to wait until the moment when I could tell you all some really good news!  On Wednesday 25th March Richard (Grace) test flew ML407 at Bentwaters following the winter maintenance.  Richard has reported that the flight was very successful with all required checks carried out – oil temperature/pressure all within anticipated (book and our own logs) levels. Radiator temperature was also at the correct levels, rising and reducing as expected as the engine warmed up then cooled down after climbing to height. All other Ts and Ps were good as anticipated.

Handling was normal – and with ML407 that means perfect  such is the skill of Richard, Steve and Dave.  On return to dispersal and subsequent full inspection only a small oil leak was flagged up which is a hugely successful outcome – and anyway what person can possibly expect a Merlin engine to not have a small oil leak it would not be right!

Now Richard will carry out the further test flights and we shall all get current again after the long winter months.

The team, Richard, Steve (Kingman) and Dave (Puleston) have worked long and tirelessly in a cold hangar – even though it is heated to a temperature I will let them get it to which is 10 degrees!  They know how important it is to ensure ML407 is ready in time for the display season which starts for us next month at Santa Pod Raceway on Easter Saturday (4th April) and Richard is flying this display flying his usual dynamic display in ML407.

The display calendar will be entered now that we are nearly at April.  I like to leave it until now so that the Grace Spitfire Supporters have had time to renew their much needed and appreciated support and they all get the advantage of receiving the bookings for 2015 early – that is as soon as they renew.  I think this is a good perk for being a Grace Spitfire Supporter.

The other perk is that our current Supporters had the first chance to buy the brand new DVD – The Grace Spitfire 70th Anniversary DVD offered to them at a special price.  However it is still a brilliant buy at £12.00 including postage and packing.  This DVD has 50 minutes film of predominantly unseen footage taken of Nick Grace when he was rebuilding ML407.  Nick is explaining the complexities of the rebuild and goes through to the first flight.  Also it has the original gun camera footage from ML407’s gun camera on D-Day – amazing footage – there in full speed and slowed down for additional clarity.  The DVD is narrated by me, Carolyn (sorry!) and has many photos working through from Wartime to present day.  It has been very well received and was a huge amount of work by James Hepburn who produced it with me supplying content but he did the magic. To buy one just download our order form and that has the payment details but the DVD is not on the order form yet so this is a pre-notice!

 

February into March Update

I have a good excuse for the late posting of the February update – it is due to the weather!  What are the chances of the weather affecting this – well you will know from the January update ML407 was through winter maintenance mid January and waiting for the weather to turn into something sensible which means a pattern that provides a stability in wind being easterly or westerly and not too strong, no rain and a decent cloud base of at least 3,000′ and broken cloud at that then Richard would carry out the test flight.  This pattern of weather stability did not happen until early March – the 5th in fact,  coincidentally the 78th Anniversary of the first flight of the type at Southampton.

Richard carried out the full post maintenance test flight programme and I am thrilled to report that the Grace Spitfire is fully serviceable for the 2014 year.  There was not a single snag to be found with all systems and their various mechanisms working as anticipated.  I am looking forward to another good weather pattern when I shall fly ML407 which I have to say I am ‘itching’ to do.  There is nothing quite like that first flight of the year, the first engine start you do with all the evocative fumes which one has been missing since the end of last season, the sound and feel of that Merlin engine and the sheer unadulterated joy of getting airborne.  She does not make it easy and, as with every take off and landing it is a challenge but that is all part of her being ‘the Perfect Lady’.

We now physically have the Grace Spitfire Mugs ready for the Stall (Duxford May D-Day Airshow) and in the next update I shall be announcing a very appealing Grace Spitfire item to snap up!

The Display Calendar is now on the website and I will keep it updated with the more immediate updates on ‘Carolyn’s Updates’ in the Supporters Area.

For now I am signing off.

January News Update

Ok so I failed to do the promised 18th January update but with good reason!  I was waiting to be able to tell you that ML407 is operational for 2014 but alas the weather has put a stop to this exciting news.

However it is exciting and really very good news indeed that I can report the Engineers, Richard Grace, Steve Kingman and Dave Puleston have completed in mid January the winter maintenance of ML407.  All clean, clear and ready to fly. She looks beautiful sitting there at the front of the Hangar at Bentwaters all nice and dry – but that is the way we wish to keep her until the weather changes into a more stable pattern.

So I dare not leave the news update for January until I need to do the news update for February!  I cannot wait to see ML407 out ready to fly on a good flying weather day where we know that the weather will remain that way for at least the next two hours, with plenty of clear sky so that we can climb up to 7,000 feet to carry out the full post maintenance test flight schedule.

The bookings are steadily increasing and I will do the website display calendar in the next couple of weeks.

Other good news is that we are having our Grace Spitfire Stall at the Duxford D-Day show on the 23rd and 24th May – Daisy Burge will be running the stall so we must support her – I will be there to sign your purchases – and we will have for the first time ever Grace Spitfire Mugs!! Plus of course the other new items – Tea Towel, Gillet and our Teddy – all of which will be cheaper because we do not have to post them out and can therefore deduct the expensive post office charges.  This is the first time in years that we have had a stall at Duxford show due to a change in Duxford’s plans which is great news for us and hopefully you!. See you there.

December update

The Air Leasing engineering team, Richard Grace, Steve Kingman and Dave Puleston, have been diligently working through the maintenance Schedule on the Grace Spitfire. This usually means a lot scratches, cuts and bruises whilst they try to access areas through the impossibly small inspection points that are revealed by removing the numerous inspection panels!  Steve has likened it to repairing your washing machine through your letterbox.

First items inspected are the engine filters for debris and I am very pleased to report that they were all clear and clean so the installed Merlin engine is good to carry on for 2014. This is a huge relief as we do not have enough funds in the engine overhaul fund yet to put the spare Merlin with Eye Tech Engineering who carry out the overhaul inspection.

Non destructive testing will be carried out in January on the relevant areas including our spare eye bolts which have to be changed every 100 landings which means through the 2014 season.

The renewals have been coming in very well and Daisy Burge was busy processing them and we were aiming to get all replies out prior to Christmas which we did.

The new Teddy Bear, Tea Towel and Cap have sold quite well for new items. The Gilet we have had to change to a Regatta Gilet due to the manufacturer of the Result Gilet not being able to meet with orders and  our supplier has told us that in addition to this problem the embroidery panel is not well designed for their machines and can only be hand done which is  not viable.  The Regatta Gilet is in the middle of the padded range – so not as puffy as the Result one on our 2014 mailing list but more padded than a fleece one – and we will get a photo on the shop area in January.

As I am writing this update in early January I would like to say that I hope you all had a good, relaxing Christmas/New Year break.

The January update will be done on the 18th January – promise!

 

November News Update

The final flight for the Grace Spitfire 2013 season was carried out on 7th November which was a ML407Sunset‘shake down’ check flight assessing all temperatrues and pressures were in order throughout the power ranges. The handling was still perfect with straight and level balance. The Supercharger was checked at height that it delivered the 2lbs of boost expected and again decreased 2lbs boost when disengaged.

On the day our ‘new’ pilot Alex Smee carried out his full currency as did Dave Puleston who flew ML407 so majestically at Flying Legends this year.

ML407 has completed the 2013 flying season in good form and has gone into winter maintenance now.

NEWSLETTER

Carolyn has completed the November Newsletter for the Grace Spitfire Supporters and Daisy Burge packed these up and posted them all on the 7th November.  That is a lot of envelopes for Daisy so well done!

MAILING LIST FOR 2014

Our new mailing list has also been sent out and this has been placed on the website. teddyDownload the new Mailing list by clicking this link! Make sure you have a look at it as there are four new items including the Grace Spitfire Teddy Bear. You can also go to the Shop pages to have a browse online.

 

October News Update

October turned out to be a busy month for the Grace Spitfire ML407 despite the deteriorating weather.  Richard Grace flew ML407 at the Duxford October Airshow with an evocative practice display at Duxford on the preceding Saturday.  The four ship formation he flew ML407 in as number two was beautifully choreographed and flown by all concerned. The weather on the day started out dreadful but then picked up to be good flying weather and most of the flying display programme was fulfilled.

 

 

September 2013 News Update

Sorry that the News on our Website has not been updated for so long but we are on top of it now!

DISPLAYS

The Grace Spitfire has almost completed a successful 2013 display season having done nearly 30 displays over the UK. The weather did stop three displays during the season (so far!) which was hugely disappointing for both Carolyn, who was flying ML407 at the time, and the event Organisers.

FILM

The Grace Spitfire features in the opening sequence of the film made of Benjamin Britten’s Opera “Peter Grimes” which was performed on the beach at Aldeburgh in June this year. Carolyn flew ML407 to open the first act in the Opera.  It was the first time ever that a Spitfire had played a role in an Opera. The film of the Opera captures the enormity of the live stage which was created and ML407 looks and sounds fantastic!  On our Forum is the link to the 80 cinemas across the UK this film is being shown from Thursday 5th September

MAGAZINE

The Grace Spitfire features in Aeroplane Magazine October issue which is out in the shops now.

RADIO

On Saturday 14th September ML407 and Carolyn will feature in an interview done this week with BBC Radio Four.  If you go on to their website the time of the interview will be given early next week