NASA spaceman takes flight at Southampton Airport
17 September 2012
Southampton Airport played host this weekend to a very special visitor. Former NASA Space Shuttle Commander, Rick Searfoss, visited the airport on Sunday to fly a Spitfire, a prize he won in an auction held by UK Aviation Charity fly2help. Just before landing at the airport from Goodwood, pilot Phil O’Dell gave onlookers a short but spectacular display of the aircraft’s speed and manoeuvrability with some aerial acrobatics.
The flight was donated to fly2help, which arranges flying experience days for families and individuals who have experienced trauma or tragedy, by Boultbee Flight Academy, which owns the two seater MK9 Spitfire Rick flew. The auction was open to licensed pilots and Rick was the guest speaker at the event, held last year, to raise funds for the charity. The usually calm and measured Rick found himself carried away by the romance of flying a Spitfire over the channel, and bid on the flight, saying it was something he’d always dreamed of doing.
Chief Executive of fly2help, Chris Hadlow, commented, “It’s incredible to be able to bring a Spitfire back to Southampton, and to be able to pay our respects to its designer RJ Mitchell with a special fly past. Southampton was the perfect place for Rick’s flight and we’re thrilled that we were able to fulfil his childhood dream, especially as the money donated to fly2help will help us fulfil the dreams of those greatly in need of a positive experience. Rick and our pilots already know the magic and freedom being airborne brings, and it’s wonderful to be able to pass this feeling on.”
On returning to Southampton after his flight, Rick commented, "An amazing experience in a beautiful historic aircraft. I need to try and get some warbird flying back in the States! A big thanks to Phil, The Boultbee Academy, fly2help and Southampton Airport, for putting these memorable past few days together."