Spitfire 101 - sharing the knowledge

 Supermarine Spitfire 101

Vintage Wings of Canada hosted a Spitfire Pilot Training Course on the weekend of 5-6 May 2007. There were seven already very accomplished pilot trainees in attendance. Put on in conjunction with our volunteer training day, the course was led and organized by test pilot Rob Erdos, VWC's specialist in Confounded British Flying Machines. Also in attendance from Vintage Wings were Mike Potter and Tim Leslie, two pilots with experience on the Spitfire, who came to brush up their skills and knowledge. Vintage Wings’ John Aitken will be checking out on either the Spitfire or the Hurricane this season, and came for initial conversion training. Guests of Vintage Wings included Pete Spence and Kent Beckham, both members of the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team. Leon Evans attended the course on behalf of the Russell Aviation Group in Niagara Falls.

It is always entertaining when visiting pilots walk into the VWC hangar for the first time. The combination of a world-class aeroplane collection, beautiful facilities and thorough organization can literally leave visitors speechless. Leon Evans is assuming the duties of Chief Pilot for the Russell Aviation Group, and some time was devoted to giving him an extensive tour of the VWC flight operations infrastructure and procedures. He learned how VWC manages training and proficiency, and ensures that every flight is dispatched with in accordance with standardized procedures. Leon will be checking out on the Russell Aviation Group's Spitfire IX in the coming weeks.

Test pilot Rob Erdos (upper right) guides students through a carefully orchestrated ground school using interactive software on video monitor.

Operating challenging and irreplaceable aeroplanes requires careful preparation, and thorough pilot training is a hallmark of Vintage Wings flight operations. Each trainee received a Spitfire Operations Manual that was developed in-house to teach the mechanical and procedural knowledge required to master the challenging machine. The course included interactive training software package, a self-administered exam and a series of operational scenarios designed to test the trainee's ability to apply their knowledge in a realistic context. Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent in ground school in the beautiful VWC library and on the hangar floor where VWC Maintenance Manager Andrej Janik led the group in a walk around of our Mk XVI Spit and introducing them to some of the idiosynchrasies. Saturday afternoon was reserved for proficiency flying in the Harvard, conducted in challenging gusty crosswind conditions.

Sunday dawned sunny and calm - a perfect day for a Spitfire flight. Both Pete and Kent soloed the Spitfire for the first time. Each spent an hour aloft in the Spitfire, culminating in smooth first landings. Both new Spitfire pilots reported that they felt well-prepared for their first flights.

Vintage Wings congratulates Pete Spence and Kent Beckham - Canada's newest Spitfire pilots!

The Class of 07: Standing: Left to right Mike Potter, John Aitken Rob Erdos, Tim Leslie, Pete Spence and Leon Evans. In cockpit: Kent Beckham and Andrej Janik on wing

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