March 5th 2016 marks the 80th anniversary of the first flight of the Spitfire. Southampton Airport, where the prototype first took to the skies in 1936, will host an event that both celebrates the iconic aircraft’s past whilst looking to its future. A Spitfire will be taking to the skies from the airport to mark the occasion and will fly over the south coast for local people and visitors to see.
The next generation of British aviators and entrepreneurs will attend; from veteran Nathan Forster (thought to currently be the world’s youngest Spitfire pilot at 28) to RAF Air Cadets celebrating their 75th Anniversary and the team behind new ‘Spitfire startup’ Flying with Spitfires.
As a mark of respect the Spitfire will fly close to the resting place of its Chief Designer R.J. Mitchell, before continuing out along the river Itchen to Southampton Water. It will also pass near to the site of the old Supermarine factory in Woolston where many thousands of the aircraft were built and then onwards to Portsmouth harbour before flying back on itself to Southampton Airport.
Members of the local 2428 (Hedge End) Air Cadet Squadron will also be present on the day to perform a Guard of Honour for the Spitfire as it is wheeled out of the hangar. One lucky cadet will be invited to fly in a helicopter alongside the Spitfire on the day and all cadets will have the chance to chat with Nathan and the Spitfire pilot, Matt Jones.
Dave Lees, Managing Director of Southampton Airport states: “Who would have thought that 80 years after the maiden flight from Southampton Airport of Spitfire K5054, this famous aircraft would still be inspiring new businesses and young people. I am sure that R. J. Mitchell, the Chief Designer, would be very proud that the Spitfire continues to enthrall people today.”
The Spitfire performing the 80th birthday flight should be visible around the Solent between 11:00 – 12:00 on Saturday 5th March, subject to weather conditions. Some good vantage points will be along the River Itchen, Weston Shore, Hythe, Royal Victoria Country Park, Lee on Solent and Cowes. Unfortunately there is no public viewing area at Southampton Airport, which will be operating scheduled flights as normal on 5th March.