Spitfires.com is the brainchild of London-based property developer Steve Boultbee-Brooks and Matt Jones. Absolutely Sussex finds out more
In April of 2009, an opportunity arose to buy a two seat Spitfire. Bonhams was presenting to the market, a Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire TR-9, tail number SM520 at the annual event held at the Royal Air Force Museum in Colindale, north London. The auction was usually reserved for classic cars, but on this occasion the star of the show was an aircraft, a Spitfire TR-9. Bidding was started at £850,000 and an anonymous telephone bidder was leading the offers with a bid of £1,550,000. The auctioneer coaxed Steve Boultbee-Brooks with a suggestion of £1.58m which finally sealed the deal. With the premium of £200,000, the historic aircraft was Steve’s for a grand total of £1.78m.
Manufactured at Castle Bromwich in November of 1944, SM520 and more recently registered on the civilian database as G-ILDA, the aircraft had been brought into service with 103 other Mk IXs towards the end of the European theatre. As the war steadily moved east, SM520 proved to be surplus to requirement and she wasn’t destined for a life of service with the Royal Air Force. Having been originally built as a single seat Spitfire, she was converted to the TR-9, two seat variant to accommodate a passenger for the purpose of flight training. After the war, the aircraft was scrapped. It was discovered, in a very sorry state in a scrapyard in South Africa. She then passed through many hands before she was eventually certified as airworthy.
Fast-forward to 2012. Steve and Matt Jones’ plans were really coming together. Having invested significantly in the purchase of the Spitfire, Matt started the setup of the then called ‘Boultbee Flight Academy’. The academy began at Oxford Airport and so did the long approval process working extensively with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to gain the permissions to train licensed pilots to fly this pinnacle of historic aviation. It would be another two years and a change of location to the idyllic surroundings of the Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex before the academy was granted the Safety Standards and Consent (SSA&C) approval to take members of the public flying in a Spitfire. Once the approvals had been granted, not only was the academy the only official provider of Spitfire flight training, it was also the only place in the world offering a number of Spitfire flights for passengers.
The academy has also worked extensively with Prince Harry’s Endeavour Fund, offering members of the Armed Forces flying scholarships for wounded servicemen. Alan Robinson, one recipient of the scholarship had lost his leg from injuries sustained from a motorcycle accident and it was Matt Jones’ vision to sponsor him through his Spitfire conversion course. Alan successfully solo’d the aircraft and was the first amputee to do so since Douglas Bader, the infamous double-amputee did so during the Second World War.
In 2019 Steve finally realised his dream of solo flying a Spitfire. Along with a number of sponsors and with the support of the Swiss watch manufacturer IWC, Steve, Matt and a team of experts circumnavigated the globe in the most original and airworthy Spitfire Mk IX, aptly named the ‘Silver Spitfire’. Polished to a high luster aluminium finish, G-IRTY, MJ271 flew from Goodwood Aerodrome on the 5 August in a westerly direction: 74 locations across 30 countries, 22,138 nautical miles and four months later, the team successfully returned to Goodwood on 5 December, setting a Guinness World Record for the achievement.
In 2020, Boultbee Flight Academy was bought out by co-founder Matt Jones and the business changed its name to Spifires.com – The Spitfire Academy. With seven different durations of flight experiences in two Spitfire TR-9s (from 30 minutes to 75 minutes), two locations on the South Coast (Goodwood Aerodrome and Solent Airport Daedalus), fly alongside experiences (with another two-seater Spitfire TR-9 for your friend or family member or a single seat Spitfire Mk IX to fly in formation with you), a North American Texan T-6G (for flight training and fly alongside operations), a De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk (for flight training and tailwheel conversion courses) and the world’s only ultra-realistic Spitfire Mk IX flight simulator which has been painstakingly constructed from over 90% real Spitfire parts (used for flight training and flight experiences). Spitfires.com continues to go from strength to strength and this summer, due to demand for these incredible flights and machines, a newly restored Spitfire TR-9 joined their fleet. Built to commemorate the Polish pilot, Piotr Kuryllowicz, G-TCHI (BS410) now flies passengers and adds an additional airframe for passenger flying, formation flights and flight training. One of Spitfires.com’s main aims is to be custodians, keeping these extraordinary machines in working, busy and in airworthy condition.
Spitfires.com is headquartered at Goodwood Aerodrome on the Goodwood Estate. The aerodrome nestles into the foot of the South Downs, just outside leafy Chichester in West Sussex. The company operates six to seven Spitfire flights seven days a week from April to late November/mid-December and offers flights over some of the UK’s prettiest landmarks from the impressive cliffs of Dover and/Beachy Head to the east and the white cliffs of The Needles on the picturesque Isle of Wight to the west. There really couldn’t be a more historic or beautiful location to fly Spitfires from, in the world. As long as you are above the age of 18, are below 6’4”, under 17st and have no medical conditions that would preclude a flight on a commercial airliner, you too can fly in R.J. Mitchell’s masterpiece, the Supermarine Spitfire!
For further information or to book an experience of a lifetime, visit spitfires.com or call their office on 01243 531147