Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Spitfire flight marks 75th anniversary in Southampton

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCarolyn Grace: The Spitfire has stood the test of time

A Spitfire has been flown over Southampton in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the first test flight of the world famous aircraft in the city.

Carolyn Grace, 58, thought to be the world's only female Spitfire pilot, gave the public a view of her plane over Southampton Water earlier.

Later, she flew the Spitfire around a lap of Southampton International Airport to recreate the test flight.

The airport, then Eastleigh airfield, was the setting for the 1936 event.

The aircraft was designed by RJ Mitchell at Supermarine's factory in Southampton.

He died of cancer aged 42 in 1937, never seeing the aircraft go on to become one of the iconic planes of World War II, helping to win the crucial Battle of Britain.

Mrs Grace flew her plane, the Grace Spitfire, from Southampton International Airport at 1130 GMT, taking it out over Southampton Water for the public to view.

Accompanying Mrs Grace in the two-seater aircraft was Nick Hancock, the architect of a new Spitfire tribute planned for the city.

Fundraising is under way to raise £2m needed for the landmark.

The second flight, which took place at about 1530 GMT, involved a 15-minute display by Mrs Grace over the airport.

Mrs Grace began learning to fly her husband's plane after he was killed in a car accident in 1988, aged 52.

His treasured fighter plane, which he had recovered from a museum in 1979 and painstakingly rebuilt over five years, was left untouched in the hangar.

Australian-born Mrs Grace, of Halstead, Essex, decided to learn to fly it in his memory. Her first solo flight was in 1990.

She now flies at air shows throughout the UK in Grace Spitfire, which was built in 1944 as a then single-seat fighter.

Her plane is thought to be just one of two two-seater Spitfires that are airworthy in the UK.

There are also only thought to be 18 airworthy single-seat Spitfires left in the UK out of more than 22,500 built for the war.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites