Bertrand de Courville, a senior Air France captain and good friend, reacted so lyrically to my previous blog about G-ILDA that I asked if I could post his letter here. He agreed, so here it is:
I just read your article about your flight on the Spitfire Mk IX G-ILDA.
Really geat to heard about a new airworthy Spit in the air.
This reminds me how lucky I was to fly another MK IX "some" years ago in 1987.
This was the ML407 freshly restored in 1985. Nick Grace, the owner had flown her for a first time to Falaise in Normandy, the location of a key battle of the Normandy campain in August 1944. I met him on the little airfield of Mont d'Eraines a few kilometers from Falaise where I was born.
I told him the stories I heard from my grand parents and my father who were living very close during the battle.
After take off, Nick Grace let me fly the Spit over my grand parents property.
In August 1944, the Germans, surrounded by the allies, had hidden away ammunition and equipment there.
During the hottest period of the battle, nothing could move on the ground (military or civil) without being attacked by air with an incredible accuracy.
My grand parent's house was overflown daily by fighters and bombers, part of them were probably Spitfires.
I had all these stories in mind, old typical children's dreams, while I was flying the ML407 on the same flight path (a bit higher !) as other similar planes did in August 1944. Other ? Who knows. The ML407 should have been engaged in Normandy with the 485 squadron at that time ...
From an aviation and pilot perspective, I was then a first officer on the Boeing 747, and the only propeller aircraft with a little power and speed I had flown before were the Beechcraft Baron, Cessna Centurion and Mooney. I had never flown warbirds. When airbone, the feeling of power was such that my immediate perception was that we were just flying a huge four bladed propeller. The engine and the rest of the aircraft were simply attached to it. Then quickly, normal pilot's perceptions came back with the feeling of a wonderful airplane smooth, incredibly fast with perfect roll responses to the controls.
I am just forgetting something: the music of the Merlin ! Quel souvenir !
Thank you David for your story, you encouraged me to share this very personal souvenir that Nick Grace offered me.
The Grace Spitfire ML407
What Carolyn Grace is doing today with the ML407 makes it possible for others.
Bertrand de Courville