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.