Spitfire memories for ex-pilot from Dorset
- 3 March 2011
- From the section Dorset
A former RAF Spitfire pilot from Dorset has been remembering the "beautiful aircraft" in the week it celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Hank Costain, 88, from Charminster, near Dorchester, first flew a Spitfire in 1942, at the age of 19.
The maiden flight of the Supermarine Spitfire took place on 5 March 1936, from Eastleigh Aerodrome, now Southampton Airport.
Mr Costain described flying a Spitfire as "absolutely marvellous".
He said: "When you first got into the seat and opened the throttle it felt as if someone had given you a good kick up the bottom and away you went.
"It would do everything you asked of it. Compared to other aircraft it was light on the controls, you could do all the aerobatics and you would come up to speed very quickly.
"If you treated a Spitfire properly, it treated you properly. Treat it roughly or be careless with it and you were in trouble, in that it would do all sorts of things such as ground looping. It also had a very fragile undercarriage and could collapse."
Mr Costain was a member of the RAF for 37 years.
He flew operational Spitfires over Europe, north Africa, the Middle East and Burma.
He was also a Spitfire instructor during that time and became a test pilot on Spitfires at 9MU Cosford, Shropshire.
He said: "Everyone that joined the air force wanted to fly a Spitfire.
"I would say that I have flown nearly all of the operational Spitfires.
"There aren't many of us left [alive] that have flown the number of different marks of Spitfire that I have."
During and since his flying days, Mr Costain says he has often been asked if he was frightened during the war years.
He said: "I was terrified, but I was terrified of letting my own friends see that I was frightened. One made one's self very determined that you wouldn't show that.
"If you were attacked when you were flying a Spitfire during the war years, you turned hard into the attacking aircraft and they just couldn't get behind you! It was much more manoeuvrable than the German aircraft.
"I don't think we should ever forget what the Spitfire did for England. It was virtually England's saving grace."