This Combat Veteran Has More Acting Credits Than Any Other Airworthy Spit
Avgeeks everywhere appreciate the art of the low pass. Whether it’s a prop job or jet, watching an aircraft fly at low altitude and high speed just puts warmth in the heart of aerospace fans. Many of the low passes observed today are, in some way, attempting to emulate the low pass featured in this video. We’ll have more about the aircraft and making of the clip later, so watch it a couple of times (I did!) and then read on. The video was uploaded to YouTube by Wings TV.
LANGUAGE WARNING: Be advised that the man with his back to the approaching aircraft, Alain de Cadenet, reacts to its low and fast (and close) pass with some, shall we say, salty language, and one particularly salty phrase, repeated several times. You have been warned.
Withstanding The Test of Time
The classic and still-awesome clip was shot for use in a documentary about the Supermarine Spitfire on the occasion of its 60th Anniversary, which occurred in 1996. Flying the Spitfire, LF Mark IXb serial MH434, was Ray Hanna. Hanna (1928-2005) was a former Royal Air Force (RAF) Red Arrows demonstration team pilot, and accomplished stunt pilot, and at the time was the owner of MH434. Hanna also was a personal friend of the presenter who was forced to duck when the Spitfire roared by him.
Every Movie Star Starts Somewhere
Spitfire Mk. IX MH434 was completed at the Vickers Castle Bromwich assembly plant during the summer of 1943. The aircraft was first flown during August of 1943 by chief Supermarine test pilot Alex Henshaw. MH434 went into action later that same month with RAF 222 Squadron based at RAF Hornchurch. The Spitfire saw combat on multiple occasions, scoring 2 ½ victories and damaging another Luftwaffe fighter before being stood down and placed in storage in March of 1945.
Combat and That First Credit
MH434 next served with 322 Squadron, Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force), beginning in 1947- primarily as a ground attack machine- but never in Holland. The aircraft was shipped to the Dutch East Indies and was the first Spitfire reassembled in Java after that lengthy journey by ship. MH434 suffered a wheels-up landing while there but went back to Holland by ship. The aircraft was returned to service in 1953 with the Belgische Luchtmacht (Belgian Air Force) as an advanced training aircraft, assigned first to the Advanced Pilot School at Koksijde and later to 13 Wing at Brustem where its primary mission was target towing. MH434 ended up on the Belgian civil registry in 1956. It was during this time in Belgium that MH434 first appeared on screen in The Longest Day.
You’ve Seen This Spit Before
Purchased and brought back to the UK by British airline pilot Tim Davies in 1963, the Spitfire appeared in several movies during the 1960s (full list below) and was sold to the Chairman of Cathay Pacific Airways after starring in the film Battle of Britain. After a memorable appearance in A Bridge Too Far, Ray Hanna bought MH434 in 1982 and started up the Old Flying Machine Company around the aircraft. The aircraft underwent a comprehensive overhaul during the winter of 1994-1995. When not made up for movie roles, MH434 still wears the colors of its original outfit- RAF 222 Squadron.
Enjoy this footage of MH434 flying low and fast at Duxford uploaded to YouTube by WingsTV Channel.
Ye Olde Flying Machine
Ray Hanna (1928-2005) and his son Mark Hanna (1959-1999) were the driving force behind the Old Flying Machine Company. They flew warbirds in the movies listed herein, with Mark taking the lead and flying memorable scenes in Empire of the Sun, Air America, Saving Private Ryan, Memphis Belle, and Tomorrow Never Dies. Mark perished from injuries sustained when the restored Hispano Aviación HA-1112 Buchon (essentially a license-built Merlin-powered Messerschmitt Bf-109G) he was flying crashed in Spain. Ray continued flying and passed away due to natural causes in 2005.