The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry present special Bremont timepiece to the first amputee to solo the spitfire since Douglas Bader
After a period of two years training, Sergeant Alan Robinson, an aircraft engineer in the Royal Air Force, has successfully soloed an original Supermarine Spitfire. One of two successful candidates in The Spitfire Scholarship, a private initiative supported by Prince Harry and the Royal Foundation’s Endeavour Fund and run by the Boultbee Flight Academy, Alan is the first to complete the goal. As a result he is believed to be only the third amputee pilot to have ever flown the Spitfire, those who went before him being WW2 ace’s Douglas Bader and Colin ‘Hoppy’ Hodgkinson, putting him in extremely esteemed company.
To mark the occasion, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry presented Alan with an incredibly special Bremont timepiece which is only eligible to those who have soloed a spitfire. Bremont Co-Founder, Nick English, explains: “The Spitfire is the most famous British fighter aircraft of World War II, a classic piece of design that is both beautiful and fit for purpose, that being the 1940’s requirement to defend our skies and our country. Bremont celebrated the Spitfire, an emblem of our nations freedom, with its first Limited Edition back in 2008 with the EP120. We are now thrilled to have a unique timepiece for pilots who have soloed this remarkable aircraft. Alan is a true inspiration and it’s both an honour for the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry to have presented our watch to him but also an honour to have him wearing it.”
In 2011 Alan was involved in a motorcycle accident and as a result had his right leg amputated above the knee. A lover of all things aviation, Alan feared that this would put pay to his long held dream of becoming a pilot.
The Spitfire Scholarship draws inspiration from Douglas Bader who flew during the Second World War with 20 individual aerial victories despite losing both his legs in a flying accident in 1931. Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader DSO DFC flew his final sortie from the same airfield where the Boultbee Flight Academy now stands. The scheme is intended to motivate those who have a disability to go on to achieve great things. To prove ability rather than disprove disability, a theme that is key to the Endeavour Fund. During the war new Spitfire pilots went into battle with as little as 150 hours total flying experience.
Nowadays only the very best and most experienced pilots, those with thousands of flying hours, are allowed to pilot a Spitfire. The scholarship therefore also wanted to challenge this modern requirement, using wartime aircraft and techniques to train two very inexperienced pilots as they would have been trained 75 years ago. Alan, supposedly disabled, has achieved this incredible aim with less than 150 flying hours in his logbook..
Alan comments; “I feel a greater than ever respect and admiration for the veterans who flew this aircraft in combat and defended our country so bravely. I feel enormously privileged to have met some of them and hope to play a part in preserving their memories and stories forever as a part of my own flying. I also plan to become an ambassador for disabled aviation, proving a focus on ability not disability and thus challenging the perception of disability among able and disabled people alike.”
Matt Jones, Managing Director of Boultbee Flight Academy, the world’s only Spitfire training school, explains why the scholarship is so important to them, and how it felt to see Alan Flying alone in one of their prized Spitfires.
“We conceived the idea of the Scholarship 3 years ago and had immediate support from the Endeavour Fund and specifically Prince Harry. Picking the two successful scholars from the exceptional field of candidates that applied was very difficult indeed, however Alan’s impassioned and emotional closing interview just set him apart from the rest. We are all very proud to have played a part and hope his success will go on to inspire others to overcome their own challenges. It’s wonderful too that the Spitfire, an aircraft that enabled the defence of the free world, that typifies the United Kingdom at its finest hour, that already carries the nation’s pride and admiration, has found a new way to inspire us all eighty years after its first flight.”
BOULTBEE FLIGHT ACADEMY
The Boultbee Flight Academy is the only accredited Spitfire training school in the world, offering flight training on Harvards, Chipmunks, Tiger Moths and two Spitfire TR9s. Instruction is provided by some of the finest military, ex-military and civilian pilots in the world. They include three previous Officers Commanding the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon test pilot and Rolls Royce’s Chief Test pilot to name just a few. It is their expertise and professionalism that drives the exceptional standard of flight instruction that the Boultbee Flight Academy are very proud to be able to provide. The Academy is based at Goodwood Aerodrome, West Sussex which was formerly RAF Westhampnett, a Hurricane and Spitfire base during the Battle of Britain and WW2.
With only an estimated 35 flying Spitfires remaining out of the more than 21,000 built, and only six two-seaters, it has been a pretty difficult box to tick to date. But 75 years after the first Spitfire took to the skies, the Boultbee Flight Academy now makes this dream a possible reality, giving a new generation the chance to take the controls.
THE ENDEAVOUR FUND
The Endeavour Fund was created by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry in 2011, in response to Their Royal Highness’s passion for supporting the recovery of wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.
The Endeavour Fund plays an important role in ensuring that more wounded servicemen and women have the opportunity to rediscover their self-belief and fighting spirit through physical challenges. It does this by offering seed funding for new endeavours and helping emerging initiatives with advice, hands-on support and mentoring.
So far The Endeavour Fund has supported over 300 wounded, injured and sick service personnel and has helped to support projects such as the Walking With the Wounded Virgin Money Allied Challenge trek to the South Pole, Race to Recovery, Walk on Wales, Flying for Freedom and Fastnet Race.