FLIGHT CREW

IMG_0733

JOHN SESSIONS / PILOT


John Sessions’ passion for aviation began with a spontaneous visit in 1983 to a flying club at Boeing Field.  He got interested, started flying small Cessnas, graduated to bush planes, and then added floats.  After “about twenty trips to Alaska at a hundred knots,” John moved to corporate jets and received his Airline Transport Pilot license with a single-pilot rating in the CJ series.  Several thousand hours later, the call of fast stick-and-rudder pulled him into the world of classic Warbirds.  Today, he flies P-51B “Impatient Virgin” whenever weather and schedule allow, and he’s rated to fly the HFF collection.

 

He’s had some exciting moments:  “A couple of engine failures, an engine fire, and a broken tail-wheel all rank right up there.”

 

Over the past five years, John has been devoted to acquiring and restoring the HFF collection.  He considers himself a trustee of “precious icons that fly.”  Historic Flight reflects his desire to share aircraft guaranteed to spark passion and inspiration.


Lee Proudfoot

LEE PROUDFOOT / PILOT


Lee was taught to fly by his father in the early eighties on the Stampe, Cap 10 and Harvard. His father was an ex RAF instructor and taught Lee in a very disciplined way demanding high standards and effort. Even before the issue of his PPL in 1986 Lee understood the basic principles and techniques of aerobatics and formation flying.

Whilst hoping to become a fast jet pilot, Lee towed gliders at a glider club, building up his hours to gain a Commercial licence. Soon after, Lee was selected by Britannia Airways to fly 737’s to most parts of Europe. Whilst going from Super Cubs to 737’s Lee helped run an aerobatic club, organised several fund raising events for charity and began teaching tail wheel conversions and aerobatics up to standard level. Lee won five out of six aerobatic competitions in 1990, recognition of which led to a position in the Harvard Formation Team. Lee also flew Pitts Specials with the Toyota Team led by Nigel Lamb. Whilst flying for Monarch, British Antarctic Survey gave Lee a job flying Twin Otters in the Antarctic. This was the ultimate position, flying airshows in the summer and skis in the Antarctic in the winter, which Lee pursued for the next seven years.

Old aeroplanes have remained Lee’s passion, and in 1988 he began flying airshows for ARC with a Chipmunk and Auster. From there he worked his way into the more high powered fighters and bombers, flying aircraft from both ARC and The Fighter Collection based at Duxford.Qualified on 60 types, including various marks of Spitfire, Bearcat, Hellcat, Wildcat, Thunderbolt, Blenheim, Mustang and Lysander, Lee is also well known for his time with the Breitling Fighters Display Team.



John Romain

JOHN ROMAIN / PILOT


John’s aviation career commenced upon leaving school when he became a technician apprentice with Hawker Siddeley Dynamics, later to become British Aerospace.  Engineering came naturally to him and he was awarded Apprentice of the Year in his first year.  During his apprenticeship at Aerospace, John qualified as a missile systems designer but also accomplished many other projects.  One of note, being to design, build and drive a vehicle which could cover as many miles as possible on one gallon of fuel.  In the competition, attended by major manufacturers, including those from the motor industry, John’s vehicle came first giving 1,379 miles to the gallon!

 

John left British Aerospace in 1980 and started full-time at Duxford taking over restoration of the first Bristol Blenheim.  A volunteer at Duxford since 1972 John had already gained a lot of experience on vintage aircraft whilst working with the late Ormond Haydon Baillie.

 

During the early 1980’s John learned to fly, gaining his PPL in 1984.  Eager to fly tailwheel aircraft he underwent training with John Larcombe, an ex RAF instructor, who converted him onto the Chipmunk, Harvard and Beech 18.  John gained his commercial pilot’s licence in 1988, however, as a fully licensed engineer with considerable experience on vintage aircraft he was in constant demand to continue in engineering.

 

Setting up the Aircraft Restoration Company in 1989 John now runs the company from its Duxford base.  Following its crash at Denham in 1987, rebuilding the second Blenheim was the most publicised of the company’s achievements but a wide range of aircraft have been through the workshops since.

 

John’s flying career continued to expand after further training with Hoof Proudfoot, Mark Hanna and John Crocker.  He gained his aerobatic and formation skills plus those necessary to fly larger aircraft such as the Blenheim and B-25.  In the last ten years, John has flown over 88 different types of aircraft including the SE5a, Lysander, Spitfire, Hurricane and Corsair.  His latest type conversion was an Me109 Buchon in September 2006.

 

John is also chief test pilot for Historic Flying Limited, a privately owned company based at Duxford that rebuilds Spitfires.  John carries out air tests on each finished project, successful completion of which will earn the aircraft its Permit to Fly from the Civil Aviation Authority.

 

John logged 500 hours on Spitfires in July 2007, a noteworthy feat indeed.  His hours on Spitfires have accumulated not just with test flying but collectively with display flying for Air Shows, flypasts and formation flying.  At the International Biggin Hill Air Show in June 2007, John was awarded the Breitling Trophy for the Best Solo Display, which he flew in a Spitfire Mk IX.


Billy Kelly

BILLY KELLY / CREW CHIEF


Billy’s career in the aircraft field commenced in his early teens, when he spent many hours of his spare time as a volunteer with Duxford’s first collector, and restorer of the first Blenheim, Ormonde Hayden-Baillie. Upon Ormonde’s death in July 1977, Billy remained connected with the Blenheim when its restoration was taken over by Graham Warner, and later John Romain, right up until the present day.

 

Apart from a short period away from Duxford as a refrigeration engineer, Billy’s knowledge and expertise in aircraft maintenance has been gained over three decades, working for various companies based on the airfield. Early years at Duxford saw him refurbishing at least fifteen static aircraft to museum display standard, including a Spitfire Mk 1, N.A. F86 Sabre, Hawker Hunter and Spad to mention a few.

 

Gaining experience all the time, Billy moved on to line and general maintenance on all aspects of the aircraft to include airframe and engines. The list of aircraft he has worked on is both extensive and impressive, totaling just under 100 types, and includes a Catalina, bell P63 Cobra, DC 3 Dakota, P51 Mustang and P47 Thunderbolt.

 

Billy recently added to his long list of aircraft types when he carried out an airframe and engine airworthiness survey on a new build Flugwerk FW190 A8.

 

He has a special fondness for the B-25 Mitchell and is delighted to be accompanying pilots John Romain, Lee Proudfoot and John Sessions when N88972 makes its ferry flight across the Atlantic.