I know you’ve probably seen this clip before (and if you haven’t you’re in for a treat!) but I just couldn’t spend a month celebrating Spitfires and not include it.
It never gets old. I’m sure the presenter, noted racing driver Alain de Cadenet, has never forgotten his brush with that high-performance vehicle!
It’s fun to note that the Spitfire was climbing by the time it reached de Cadenet and his film crew. At 00’29 you can see it kick up dust as it tears over the field, ‘cutting daisies’.
A more detailed history
The aircraft in question is The Old Flying Machine Company’s mainstay, MH434. This Mk.IX was built at Vickers’ giant Castle Bromwich plant and first flown (by Alex Henshaw) in August 1943. She flew over 80 sorties with the RAF until March 1945, then served with the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Belgian Air Force post-war.
After being restored for the film Battle of Britain in 1968, the aircraft also appeared in A Bridge Too Far and other productions before ending up in the hands of Ray Hanna and his The Old Flying Machine Company.
You can read a more detailed history of the aircraft at mh434.com.
The pilot, of course, was the late Ray Hanna – Spitfire pilot supreme.
His biography reads like a boy’s own adventure. He was born in Takapuna, a beachside suburb on the north shore of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1928. By the time he was in secondary school, he had decided he was going to be a pilot and was taking flying lessons in a DH82a Tiger Moth.
In 1949, now 21, he worked his passage to England aboard a merchant steamer and joined the RAF – flying a memorable roll-call of their legendary piston and turbine powered aircraft.
He also flew with squadron display teams in Hunters and Meteors then, following the amalgamation of RAF display teams in 1964, joined the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (the Red Arrows) as ‘Red 3’ in 1965. Flying the Folland Gnat T1, Hanna became ‘Red 1’ the following year, from where he oversaw the team’s expansion to nine aircraft and the debut of their famous Diamond Nine formation.
After leaving the RAF in 1971 Squadron Leader Hanna flew Boeing 707s and Lockheed L1011 Tristars for Cathay Pacific, started his own 707 service, and later founded The Old Flying Machine Company with his son Mark, around MH434.
Well–known as this clip is, there’s another one of Hanna performing a similar low pass along the finish straight at the first Goodwood Revival race-car meet in 1998 – completely surprising the crowd, many of whom were looking up as he arrived below them… Listen for the ‘audience response’ off camera!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the stunt was only ever allowed once. Enjoy.