Header image: ‘Experience Day’ prize winner, Dale Chapman (left), and his brother-in-law, Ian Russell (right), spent the day at the BBMF on Saturday 24th June, Armed Forces Day. (All photos: Clive Rowley unless otherwise credited.)
RAF Memorial Flight Club member Dale Chapman, from Shropshire, was the lucky winner of the Club ballot prize for March, an ‘Experience Day’ at the BBMF. Dale spent the day at the BBMF’s home at RAF Coningsby on Saturday 24th June and brought along his brother-in-law, Ian Russell, as his guest.
The pair were allowed special access to the RAF Station and were hosted by former OC BBMF and your Club publications editor Clive Rowley.
This was one of the busiest days of the year for the BBMF, as it was Armed Forces Day, and the Flight had multiple tasks to complete in various parts of the country, including the main national event at Liverpool. Sadly, the Lancaster was still at Duxford awaiting an air test, and the C-47 Dakota was temporarily unserviceable. However, the BBMF had six serviceable fighters and the pilots completed no fewer than 42 flypasts during the day, as well as a display at the Wings and Wheels Festival at Bicester, flown by Flight Lieutenant Andy Preece in Spitfire Mk Vb AB910. The prize for the record number of events for the day went to Flight Lieutenant ‘Parky’ Parkinson who flew 15 flypasts in Spitfire Mk XVI TE311, with a quick turn-round at Sywell to refuel, before returning to Coningsby.
Dale and Ian were truly able to get ‘behind the scenes’ at the BBMF and to see the ‘7/8ths below the surface’ of the Flight’s operations, which are not normally apparent to the public, on this busiest of days. They toured the BBMF HQ and met all of the Flight’s ground crew and pilots on duty that day, they watched the pilots crew-in to their aircraft and saw each and every one of the Spitfires and Hurricanes start up and taxy off from a close and privileged standpoint. They also got personal flypasts from some of the Spitfires and Hurricanes as they departed the airfield or returned for a ‘hangar break’. In addition, they were able to explore the inside of the BBMF Dakota ZA947 and, as a real and unplanned bonus, they were invited by the ground crew to sit in the cockpits of Spitfire P7350 and Hurricane LF363.
Dale said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to Amy Sell for organizing my prize, and to Clive Rowley, our host; he really made our day. The ground crew also went out of their way to make the day special, allowing us to sit in a Spitfire and a Hurricane, and to get onboard the Dakota. Not forgetting the pilots who treated us to our own fly past and took time to make us feel welcome. All in all a fantastic and memorable day.”
This is the second year that we’ve been able to provide an ‘Experience Day’ at the BBMF as one of the Club’s ballot prizes. It is exactly the sort of ‘money cannot buy it’ opportunity that we want to offer to members and, hopefully, we’ll be able to do the same again next year for another lucky member.