With the help of Prince Harry’s Endeavour Fund, an RAF engineer named Alan Robinson completed a solo flight in a Spitfire. Robinson, 38, is believed to be one of three amputee pilots to complete a solo flight since Sir Douglas Bader. The other being ace Colin “Hoppy” Hopkinson.
After being selected by The Endeavour Fund, Robinson had to complete a 60-hour training course before the short flight. Robinson lost his right leg above the knee five years ago in a motor biking accident. He set a personal goal to obtain his personal pilots’ licence.
Prince Harry launched the Spitfire Scholarship in 2014, as part of The Endeavour Fund and the Royal Foundation he started with his brother and sister-in-law. The Spitfire Scholarship has many influential partners. The Endeavour Fund, Boultbee Flight Academy, Rolls-Royce and Scott Investment Partners all jointly fund the scholarship.
Robinson found himself as one of two pilots out of several injured servicemen applying for the privilege to fly the aircraft on a fifteen-minute flight from Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex. He was all alone during the flight earlier this month; the WW2 Spitfire wasn’t modified for his disability. The other lucky pilot chosen was Nathan Forester. Forester was injured by an IED blast in Afghanistan while serving with The Parachute Regiment.
Speaking to the Telegraph about the flight, Robinson said: “It was pretty nerve-racking to be honest. It was one of those things where I knew I was ready but I was still very nervous. It was a really emotional thing.
“It was only a short flight but the last couple of years of highs and lows, success and failure, were all compressed into that flight.
“It is such a special aeroplane and as a pilot, everyone dreams of flying it. I have also had a chance to meet some of the veterans who flew Spitfires during the war, and having flown the aeroplane my admiration and respect for them has grown massively.”
Sir Douglas Bader lost both legs in an accident in 1931. He went on to fly during The Battle of Britain, where he shot down 20 enemy aircraft before being taken prisoner. Speaking of Bader, Robinson said: “It wasn’t something I even thought about until I was doing the solo and I overheard someone talking about it, so no pressure there then!”
The managing director of Boultbee Flight Academy, Matt Jones said of Robinson’s ability: “I rate Alan as an exceptional pilot. Very few people can be taught something once and pick it up straight away without having to be told again.”
He explained the specifics of Robinson’s training: “Alan completed 30 hours in a Chipmunk trainer, 20 hours in a Harvard and 10 hours in the Spitfire before he went solo, and we didn’t modify any of those aircraft to compensate for his prosthetic leg.”