Col. Antonin Vendl in Spitfire Mk.VB EP120,
Hradcany air base, 2000.
an extreme dedication and love for the craft.
Thanks to friends at Classic Trainers, I was able
to get a first hand look at what it takes to keep
such aircraft flying, and I know it is nothing simple. Much thanks must necessarily go to those
that keep these birds flying today, so that they
can keep on telling their story this way, and to
help ensure that what shouldn’t be forgotten,
will not be. And let’s not kid ourselves, friends
– you are doing the same thing, in your own way.
There is great effort being expended in plastic
modeling to preserve the past….!
Historical aircraft are beautiful things to behold, and I always am incredibly pleased when
another completes its journey through restoration and takes to the air. Seeing a warbird in
the air is a great sensation. It’s an even better
feeling to fly one. That’s something that has
been recounted in the pages of past issues of
this newsletter by Radim Vojta, one of two current generation Czech Spitfire pilots. To get
a ride “only” in one is also not a bad experience.
Personally, it’s happened to me on four types,
in a Bell 47, a helicopter and so, true enough,
not a Second World War piece, a little younger
but still, an iconic piece of equipment….and
then in Bata’s Lockheed Electra, a North American Harvard, which I had the chance to also
pilot a bit (what a rush!), and the height of it
all, a flight in a…what else?....a B-17.
I will likely not meet any new World War Two
aviator veterans. That’s something you can’t
do anything about except to admit it to yourself. When it comes to the metal veterans,
I do hope that further opportunities will present themselves to go up in a few. There, the
ending isn’t quite so near.
I would like to finish this musing about veterans
and veterans with a description of an experience I had. This experience touches both – the
human and the aircraft veteran. I don’t mean
a situation where a veteran pilot comes to an
aircraft type he used to fly way back when.
I have experienced that many times over. I am
talking about a meeting when a veteran pilot came face to face with the actual aircraft
that he flew during the war years. The movie ‘Dark Blue World’ was being filmed in the
Czech Republic back in 2000 with the help of
two flying Spitfires that were used for various
flight scenes. This involved the cooperation of
our friend Zdenek Hurt. It was he who noted
in the logbook of Spitfire Mk.Vb EP120 that
one of the operational flights undertaken by it
shortly after delivery to No.501 Squadron RAF
in June, 1942, was flown by W/O Antonin Vendl.
This was a pretty run-of-the-mill convoy escort
mission, except…. Shortly afterwards, Tony
(Antonin) left the squadron and went to No.313
Squadron RAF. EP120 survived the war, and years later renovated, it flew to the airfield at
Hradcany u Mimone in 2000. Having noticed
this in the logbook, Zdenek Hurt brought the
connection of this very Spitfire and Tony Vendl
to the attention of the film’s producer, who in
turn invited the Colonel to the filming. Back
then, Tony invited me to come along. Filming
the scenes was fascinating. With mikes strategically located to pick up the most authentic
Spitfire music that was possible, the bird flew
amazingly low directly over our heads. That’s
something I will likely never experience again.
As an aside, it’s also worth noting that the Spitfire on this occasion was flown by Nigel Lamb,
former military pilot and later, a winner of
the Red Bull Air Race (and who’s father flew
Typhoons in the RAF). After landing, we were
taken over to the apron where Nigel and ‘his’,
and in a way, Tony’s, Spitfire was waiting. Watching a pilot meet up with an airplane that he
flew 58 years prior was astonishing, in every
From Reunion of the 100th Bomb Group in 2007. In background are B-17F by Dave
Tallichet family and KC-135R from 100th Air Refuelling Wing, USAF.
good sense of the word. Sitting in the
cockpit, he told me….’I would still dare
to take off with her. I’d be afraid to land,
but taking off I could still manage…’
This is what meeting veterans and veterans is like. Of course, in order to make
With Radim Vojta just before ride in Harvard Mk.II.
something like these reunions possible, a lot
of work is required, but first and foremost,
the smile of fate needs to be present as well.
And for that, I am always grateful.
INFO Eduard - May 2021