Spitfire Pilot Carolyn Grace Dead At 70

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Airshow performer and Spitfire pilot Carolyn Grace was killed in a car accident last week at the age of 70, her family confirmed on Wednesday. Grace is believed to have been the first woman to qualify to fly the Spitfire since the pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary in World War II. She was also the director of Northampton, England-based vintage aircraft maintenance and restoration company Air Leasing Ltd.

Grace learned to fly the Spitfire following the death of her husband, Nick, in 1988 in an effort to keep the aircraft he had restored in the air. She completed her first solo flight in ML407, now called the Grace Spitfire, in 1990. She went on to fly it in airshows and displays across the U.K. and Europe, logging more than 900 hours in the type. Grace retired from flying in 2017 and the Grace Spitfire is now flown by her son, Richard.

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Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. This one hits hard. In 1994 I was looking through a nearly deserted hangar at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford for a two-seat Spitfire a friend had owned in the States and sold to a buyer in the U.K. All I knew was that it was at Duxford and the maker’s number.
    A woman about my age, wearing a flight suit, was standing by a two-seat Spit looking at some paperwork. I asked her if it were the one I was looking for
    She said that it wasn’t, the one that I was looking for had been converted back to its original single-seat configuration (Mark IX) and walked me over to it and pointed out its “caretaker,” one of the museum volunteers who had been assigned to that particular airplane. I thanked her for her help and began talking with the caretaker. That resulted in a long, interesting conversation with the caretaker and he let me sit in the airplane, which was pretty incredible.
    It was during the conversation that I learned that it was Carolyn Grace who had been so kind to help me find the Spit I was seeking. That she took time from what she was doing to help out a large, confused Yank, and bring him up to speed as to what had happened to one particular Spit after it returned to Blighty made her a hero in my eyes.
    I never met her again, but have seen videos of her flying her Spit – and have read tributes to the Spitfire by the women of the RAF’s Air Transport Auxiliary who flew so many of them in WWII and the comments by some of those women that the airplane was clearly designed for women because of the size of the cockpit and the delightfully light controls.