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Spitfire and Harvard air to air with Aerolegends and COAP - Headcorn Aerodrome, Kent, 14th October 2017

Spitfire and Harvard air to air Headcorn 2017 generated by VisualLightBox.com
01 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 02 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 03 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 04 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 05 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 06 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 07 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 08 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 09 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 10 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 11 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 12 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 13 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 14 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 15 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 16 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 17 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 18 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 19 North American T-6G Texan G-DDMV Headcorn 2017 20 North American T-6G Texan G-DDMV Headcorn 2017 21 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 22 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 23 North American T-6G Texan G-DDMV Headcorn 2017 24 North American T-6G Texan G-DDMV Headcorn 2017 25 North American T-6G Texan G-DDMV Headcorn 2017 26 North American T-6G Texan G-DDMV Headcorn 2017 27 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 28 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 29 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 30 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 31 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 32 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 33 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 34 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 35 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 36 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 37 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 38 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 39 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 40 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 41 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 42 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 43 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 44 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 45 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 46 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 47 Flt Lt Charlie Brown and Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 48 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 49 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 50 de Havilland Devon G-DHDV  VP981 Headcorn 2017 51 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 52 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 53 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 54 Flt Lt Charlie Brown and Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 55 Flt Lt Charlie Brown and Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 56 Flt Lt Charlie Brown and Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 57 Flt Lt Charlie Brown and Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 58 Flt Lt Charlie Brown and Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 59 Flt Lt Charlie Brown and Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 60 Flt Lt Charlie Brown and Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 61 Flt Lt Charlie Brown and Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 62 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 63 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 64 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 65 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 66 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 67 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 68 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 69 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 70 Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 Headcorn 2017 lightbox gallery scriptby VisualLightBox.com v6.1

Comment: In October 2017 a dream came true namely to fly alongside and photograph a Supermarine Spitfire in the air. This was made possible through a collaboration with Rich Cooper’s and Steven Comber’s Centre of Aviation Photography and Aerolegends, the latter basing an increasing number of varied flight experiences from their bases at Headcorn, Kent and Sywell in  Northamptonshire.

I left my house early on a bright October morning for the hour plus drive east down to Headcorn, Kent,  an ex-World War Two grass airfield that still boasts a thriving general aviation community alongside the growing operations of Aerolegends.

The forecast was touch and go with a low but broken cloud base that could clear, and it was still mainly blue skies when I turned into the airfield and was met by the sight of our camera ship for the day, de Havilland Devon G-DHDV VP981. Covered in dew, the aircraft sat bright in the morning sun, the seemingly innocent moisture in the air a portent of one issue we were to experience later while airborne.

After meeting up with my fellow photographers we awaited the arrival of our main subject for the day and soon enough the distinctive rumbling growl of a Merlin could be heard in the distance. Shortly afterwards Flight Lieutenant Charlie Brown, one of the most experienced Spitfire pilots in the world, brought Aerolegends Spitfire IX TD314 down onto the Headcorn grass. It was now time to get serious!

While aircraft were prepped and weather forecasts checked, it was time for a briefing and we were able to sit with Charlie, our camera ship pilot, Rob Davies who would be flying the Texan, and Rich and Steve to see how the final points of an air to air sortie are put together (not including the behind the scenes organisation and preparation that had already gone on to lead to the point where we were actually in a position to fly.) With this completed it was time to wait for a good weather window before climbing on board the Devon and strapping in.

With everything ready to go, engines were started and warmed up and I had to pinch myself when looking out the window to see a Spitfire IX sitting next to us with its Merlin ticking over knowing that in a few minutes we would both be airborne. Soon we were off into fairly smooth air with only the odd piece of turbulence, and as we transited across the Kent countryside Charlie bought the Spitfire in, although at this point light and colour was fairly flat. Reaching the coast we set up in a series of orbits and for the most part I had Rob Davies in the T-6 on my side and I was able to get some nice shots, both backlit and against the sea and some nice clouds in full sun. After a couple of circuits Charlie switched sides and it was time to turn my lens onto the Spitfire, and what a sight it was holding off our right wing before moving out to fly a series of wingovers to give us topside and underside views including some time over the Channel. It was at this point that the moisture laden October air struck as with several excited photographers breathing in the confines of the Devon’s 1940s style ventilated cabin, the windows steamed up to the point that we had to wipe them constantly to try and get a clear space for a shot. This was not ideal, and something that had not happened earlier in the season when the air was less saturated. Although this did create a problem, and some further editing was needed to reduce the hazy effect on photographs, it did not detract much from what was otherwise a fantastic experience.

All too soon our time was up and Charlie broke away to return independently to Headcorn. After landing it was time to check our images and, as sometimes is often the case, I was actually quite disappointed with what I had for I didn’t think I had any real classics on an initial review off the back of the camera. There was little time for regret as we were then off for some static shooting, including Charlie posing for us in the cockpit of TD314, giving the chance for some great shots that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to take.

The final highlight of what had already been an unforgettable day was Charlie’s take off and display in TD314 before his departure from Headcorn. Watching and listening as the Spitfire turned, swooped and rolled in glorious late afternoon autumnal light was simply mesmerising and a fitting end to a great day.

For me the itch started there and getting back to the computer allowed me to see that I was perhaps a little harsh on my efforts and that there were some good enough shots worthy of an edit. I also felt this was something I did not want to waste so a few months later I returned to Headcorn to carry out some interviews, including with Aerolegends founder Ben Perkins and Chief Pilot Flight Lieutenant Anthony ‘Parky’ Parkinson, all of which led to my first air to air pictures being published in Pilot Magazine alongside Parky’s interview. My full piece on Aerolegends is out now in the penultimate issue of Flightpath Magazine. A shorter version has been due in another magazine since last summer but, as sometimes can be the case, this has yet to see the light of day!

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