Taking a helicopter ride with the greats

Steve Payne flies alongside some amazing warbirds.

Over the Sussex coast
Over the Sussex coast

A flypast by the historic duo of a Spitfire and a Hurricane is a remarkable but fairly common sight at airshows these days. But what if you want to get up close and personal to these amazing warbirds?

What would it be like to be in the air with them as they soar along, their Merlin engines purring away?

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Well a company based out of Goodwood, Chichester, is providing just that experience.

Heading for the Sussex coast

Founded in 2015, Flying with Spitfires offers helicopter flights alongside vintage aircraft from the Aerodrome.

They are a part of the Boultbee Flight Academy which has been offering Spitfire flight experiences and training courses since 2011.

Flying with Spitfires invited me to see what is involved and take a trip in one of their helicopters to see a Spitfire and Hurricane go through their paces.

As soon as you arrive at their office and are shown into the Crew Room you already start to soak up the atmosphere with books, ornaments, an old flying jack and various other memorabilia on show.

The warbirds waiting for action

Then it was off to the adjoining Hangar 8 for a chance to have a very close look at the aircraft and chat to the experts.

The Spitfire RR232 is a remarkable machine. It’s been restored over a period of 13 years by current owner Martin Phillips and is a testament to the determination and desire of a man with a mission - to get the aircraft flying once more.

The Hurricane R4118 has an equally incredible history.

Originally built in 1940, she was delivered to 605 Squadron at Drem on August 17 and flew almost 50 sorties from Croydon, shooting down five enemy aircraft.

Crated in 1943, she was shipped to India and eventually used by a university to train engineers. It was not until 1996 that Peter Vacher began his quest to return her to British soil and airworthy condition.

Finally, in 2001 R4118 was delivered to Hawker Restorations in Suffolk where the process began of restoring her to the exact condition she was in when flown in the Battle of Britain.

As we set off in a Bell 206L LongRanger helicopter and positioned ourselves above what was the World War II airfield, RAF Tangmere, the warbirds quickly caught up and swept past us, providing just an inkling of what enemy bombers would have seen all those years ago.

The Spitfire and Hurricane then drew up close alongside for a perfect picture opportunity before carrying out a few more manoeuvres.

This was an amazing flying experience with a major WOW factor.

After more photo opportunities over the coast it was back to Goodwood and we hovered as the warbirds made a perfect landing.

Despite the clear skies, as I left the helicopter I still felt on cloud nine.

The company has future plans for more Spitfire experiences, including a simulator, to cater for a variety of budgets.

But the helicopter flight accompanied by these two majestic aircraft is an unforgettable trip with memories that will never leave you.

For full details on the trips available, prices and more on the aircraft, go to www.flyingwithspitfires.com

Flights operate approximately one weekend per month from May to October.

This first featured in the July edition of etc Magazine pick up your copy now.