Gratitude at altitude – NHS Spitfire soars over New Forest and Christchurch

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The NHS Spitfire snapped over Milford (picture: Steve Hood)

A SPITFIRE bearing the names of thousands of coronavirus heroes passed over the New Forest and Christchurch on Saturday during a flypast of local hospitals.

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The NHS Spitfire, which featured the message ‘Thank U NHS’ underneath its wings, flew along the South Coast at around 3.15pm on Saturday as it travelled between St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight and Poole Hospital.

The flying tribute to heroes of the coronavirus pandemic also passed over Bournemouth and Southampton hospitals during its tour.

The former Second World War reconnaissance Spitfire PL983 ‘L’, based at Duxford in Cambridgeshire, is owned by the Aircraft Restoration Company. It started flypasts of its local area during the Thursday evening Clap for Carers.

Explaining the original concept, pilot and founder John Romain said: “The Thursday flights soon became a bit of a tradition in our local area, and as we approached the 10th week we decided to add our own thank-you message to the bottom of those iconic elliptical wings.

“Being around the Spitfires so regularly can make it all too easy to take for granted just what the sight and sound of this machine means to so many people.

“We just weren’t prepared for the emotionally charged messages of support and gratitude that we received for that first flight. It was what paved the way for the development of the NHS Spitfire project.”

The project grew into a fundraising initiative for NHS charities with people invited to nominate their personal heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic in return for a minimum £10 donation.

The owners have pledged to handwrite 80,000 names of the nominees onto the aircraft and have so far raised almost £25,000.

On Saturday the Spitfire began its journey at Goodwood Aerodrome at 3pm before flying over Portsmouth and St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight at 3.10pm.

It then flew along the south coast passing Milford, Barton and Highcliffe at around 3.15pm. It continued to Poole, Bournemouth and Southampton hospitals before flying on to Basingstoke, Reading, Oxford, London and Cambridge.

Organisers are planning further tours in other parts of the country throughout the summer. To make a nomination go to the JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/nhsspitfire or to find out more about the project visit www.aircraftrestorationcompany.com/nhsspitfire

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