Race birds to war birds

Posted on: 24th Jun 2009

In between planning for the next phase of modifications on the Breitling MXS ahead of the race in Budapest, it feels good to let the mind drift occasionally onto other flying disciplines. The Biggin Hill International Air Fair this coming weekend gives a welcome opportunity to be smiling in anticipation. Normally, Paul Bonhomme and I are competing against each other. This weekend, we’re in for a much more relaxing time at Biggin where we’ll be flying a duo formation display in a P51 Mustang and a Spitfire. I’ll have the easier time of it as Paul and Steve Jones are also flying their Matadors duo in the Sukhois. There’s much to look forward to including having the family down on Sunday. Flying any warbird is a pleasure and a privilege. As someone once said to me, “The hardest thing about flying a Warbird is getting the owners permission!”. In reality, the hardest thing is taking the responsibility; the responsibility for an incredibly valuable machine which could be worth more than the cost of a re-build. If something does go wrong, you hope to cope well enough to have a thankful owner. That’s a big responsibility! I’m often asked to compare what it’s like to fly different types of aircraft. The answer is actually very simple. ..it all depends what you’re doing on that flight. Paul and I are lucky enough to race in machines which are designed purely for their handling. The modern carbon fibre unlimited aerobatic designs like the MXS and Edge 540 are awesome in this respect. Simply think where you want to go and that’s it....that’s where you’re pointing. The pleasure you get from operating a warbird is totally different. Some have reasonably good control harmony, some are very ordinary and some pretty inadequate. Our pleasure at Biggin Hill this weekend will come from a mixture of teamwork (the challenge of a good presentation in two very different types) combined with the sense of history, the smell, the sound, the look and lastly, because we’ve been spoiled by the F1’s of the air ... the feel. On Friday, we’ll do some practice at Duxford and head down to Biggin for mid-afternoon. We display towards the end of each day on Saturday and Sunday. Between now and then, my head will hit the pillow dreaming of what’s in store.