31st of March 2000
Updated: Mar 31, 2022
A 1944 built Supermarine Spitfire T.IX pilot took off on this day in aviation history from Duxford Airfield, Cambridgeshire to practice for the upcoming summer display season.
The aircraft in better days 20/09/2008 ©Paul Stevenson
After the take-off of the Spitfire, a Bell 206 helicopter arrived at the airfield and it was parked at the "H" on the grass between the paved taxiway and the grass runway, in front of the ATC tower. (The tower is circled in red on the diagram below, with the white "H" indicating the approximate parking position of the Bell 206 helicopter)
After completing the practice flight the Spitfire returned to Duxford and landed on the grass runway 24. After vacating the runway the aircraft taxied to its intended parking position at the northeast end of the airfield. (The taxi direction is indicated in red on the diagram below.)
Duxford Airfield (Original drawing & ©: www.iwm.org.uk, additions V2 Aviation Training & Maintenance)
Using the normal tailwheel taxiing technique (weaving the aircraft from side to side to view the area ahead by looking past the nose of the aircraft. After passing the last of the row of parked aircraft on the grass parking (to the left of the Spitfire) the aircraft hit the helicopter's left-hand side, almost head-on. The collision caused damage to the propellor and spinner of the Spitfire and extensive damage to the left side of the helicopter.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigated the collision and conclude their report (available by clicking here) by stating;
The "H" parking position at Duxford has been in use for many years and is located approximately one-third of the distance between the paved taxiway and the grass runway, at the southern edge of the area as a grass taxiway parallel to Runway24.
Duxford AirfieldManagement are to consider means by which increased separation can be achieved between helicopter parking and the grass taxiway.
The Flying Legends website (click here) gives the following history of the Spitfire involved in this ground collision;
G-LFIX (s/n CBAF.8463)
Year of Manufacture: 1944
Powered by: Rolls Royce Merlin
Colour scheme: 485 Squadron RAF (D-Day)
The Grace Spitfire ML407 was originally built at Castle Bromwich in early 1944 as a single-seat fighter and served in the front line of battle throughout the last twelve months of World War II.
ML407 flew a total of 176 operational combat sorties amassing an impressive total of 319 combat hours.
Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC who was accredited, whilst flying ML407, with the first enemy aircraft shot down over the Normandy beachhead on 6th June D-Day. ML407 was converted in 1950 to the two seat configuration for the Irish Air Corps as an advanced trainer.
Design Engineer Nick Grace acquired ML407 in late 1979 from the Strathallan Museum and spent five years meticulously restoring the Spitfire to flying condition.
After Nick Graces untimely death in a car accident Carolyn Grace took up the gauntlet of keeping this aircraft flying and now the next generation, being Richard Grace is not only maintaining the aircraft but is flying the aircraft just as his late father had done.