I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for the first six months of 2020 I was convinced we would not see a single airshow. The announcement of the Shuttleworth Collection starting their season off with an evening drive in event was incredible news.
Even better was the announcement that John Romain would be opening the show the Spitfire IX PL983, dubbed the “NHS Spitfire” having had “THANK U NHS” painted on its underside to coincide with the final “clap for our carers” back in May. This initial act led to a fundraising campaign offering individuals the chance to make a donation to the NHS in exchange for the name or names of loved ones being handprinted onto the fuselage of the airframe.
At this stage the Spitfire had carried out a few local flights and the concept had gained a great following so it was absolutely the most perfect way to kick off the first airshow of 2020.
I got my first sighting of “L” as she is known by the Aircraft Restoration Company, since its repairs following a landing accident in 2019 from the most classically english scene of the village cricket ground in Ickwell, just outside of Old Warden. Unsure of what the entry arrangements might be for that first event, I opted to stop off in Ickwell until the gates opened and then drive round. The sight of that classic blue Silhouette of the Spitfire running in behind the village for a break into the circuit was just wonderful.
Positioned at the far end of the airfield, known as “zone C” in the drive-in layout, meant that I did not get anther glimpse of the Spitfire until it got airborne for its display.
John Romain’s Spitfire displays are always magic, and those in PL983 are especially impressive. As part of the NHS Spitfire routine, there were a number of changes to better illustrate the underside message. This meant that the routine started with a wonderful head on climb into the vertical, before a quarter roll was completed, closing the loop off on the runway heading. The spontaneous round of applause as the plan view of the Spitfire and its special message will live long in the memory.
The display was of the typical polished nature you would expect from the aircraft/pilot combination and seemed to be wonderfully endless. This was a truly magic start to the season and incredibly poignant given the circumstances.