DAVE RATCLIFFE

Joining the RAF at 18 was always the aim and training on the Chipmunk, Jet Provost and Hawk followed, then to Tactical Weapons at RAF Brawdy for one of the best flying courses going. A lovely jet, rockets on the left wing, bombs on the right and a 20mm cannon under the fuselage “Full fuel, have fun and bring it back empty!”

 

Air Combat was thoroughly enjoyable and luckily a posting to the Lightning followed, based at RAF Binbrook on the last of the Lightning courses before the aircraft was retired. However, it was all a bit too much, so after soloing one of the finest jets ever it was off to RAF Shawbury for a helicopter conversion course.

 

Onto the Wessex in Northern Ireland and then Hong Kong supporting the army, doing search and rescue. Chasing illegal immigrants in fast boats around the islands was great fun, but CFS and instructing soon called.

 

Another type change moved him onto the Chinook in time for Gulf War 1, based at RAF Gutersloh then Laarbruch in Germany as the Squadron QHI , with detachments to the Falkland Islands, Bosnia and a few other interesting distractions along the way! From there, a posting to the Conversion Unit at Odiham in Hampshire for five years training a generation of new pilots and assisting in the introduction of the HC Mk 2 version.

 

A short spell at British Midland on the A320 preceded a move to the current job flying A340’s for Virgin Atlantic.

 

Rats was always going to fly a Spitfire, from the age of 6 - It just took a further 36 years to achieve that ambition! Having met John Romain of ARCo at Duxford and being offered the chance to fly the Spitfire, eight years of hangar sweeping and helping out followed – nobody said it would happen quickly! Experience of display flying was gained, with training on the Chipmunk and Harvard, and Rats went solo in a Mk XVI. Since then he has flown the Mk V, IX, Tr9 and the Hurricane.

 

With over130 hrs on the Spitfire, Rats joins the team as an instructor on the Spitfire to share the experience with all who will listen to him!

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Photography:  John Dibbs, Richard Paver, Andy Annable, Jon Le Ray, Darren Harbar

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