A Spitfire Flying School Opens Near London

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If you can scrounge up about $9,000 you can now buy a two-day course at London Oxford airport culminating in about one half-hour flying a Mark IX Vickers Supermarine Spitfire. The offer comes from the Boultbee Flight Academy and requirements include a private pilot's license and good health. Students learn the Spitfire like a wartime (WWII) pilot -- first flying a de Havilland Tiger Moth or Chipmunk, then the Harvard. Time in type may be short but the class's first graduates seem satisfied. One told a reporter for the Telegraph.co.uk, "This is the most exciting thing I've done in my life." Another, a surgeon who'd seen action in Iraq, "couldn't stop crying once he'd landed."

Among the class's instructors are the former head of the Royal Navy Flying Standards, the man who led the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and an RAF test pilot. When all is said and done, students will only have enjoyed roughly 2.5 hours total, in several aircraft. A bit more than one half-hour will have been spent flying a two-seat Spitfire. Students do not take off or land the Spitfire themselves. If that's not enough, there is a Spitfire conversion course that gives pilots 15.5 hours in the aircraft. At roughly $90,000, enrollment may be somewhat more restrictive, especially because pilots will have to transition from the Harvard first. Of more than 23,000 Spitfires made, estimates place the number still flying near 40. With a cost of about $6,500 per hour to fly one privately, not to mention acquisition costs, Boultbee may present a relatively economical option.