On Saturday morning, March 5, 2016, Southampton Airport (SOU) welcomed the Spitfire back to its spiritual home in celebration of its 80th birthday. I was both delighted and privileged that the airport’s Managing Director, Dave Lees, invited me to join a small gathering of press and other aviation enthusiasts at the Signature Aviation Hangar to bear witness to the event. The festivities were to include a ceremonial roll-out and solo flight of the iconic WWII fighter in honor of the first test flight of its prototype, eighty years prior. The event would also include a flyover of the nearby resting place of its Chief Designer, RJ Mitchell, who fought against terminal illness to complete the aircraft.
Armed with my photographer son, we drove down the M3, through unusual arctic-like conditions to get to SOU. It was freezing and cloudy — two conditions that did not bode particularly well for a celebratory flight. Now, you need to remember that whereas most people accept the weather for what it is, in Britain, meteorological conditions are the starting point for virtually any conversation between strangers ’“ ’tis the basis of an entire culture.