New commander for the Battle of Britain Flight
Squadron Leader Al Pinner has passed the reins of the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Flight to Squadron Leader Ian ‘Smithy’ Smith.
November 5: After a four-year stint as Officer Commanding, Squadron Leader Al Pinner passed the reins of the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight to Squadron Leader Ian ‘Smithy’ Smith during an informal ceremony at the Flight’s base at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
“It’s the best job in the world, undoubtedly,” said ‘Smithy’ of his new appointment. He has been with the Flight for four seasons as one of the part-time fighter pilots, but now becomes the only permanent flying staff as he takes command. The official transfer was sealed with a handshake as Al dismounted Spitfire P7350 after flying back from his last official duty, that of flying over the unveiling of the Sir Keith Park Memorial in Trafalgar Square, London, yesterday.
“It’s very emotional – it didn’t hit me until I saw Smithy coming towards me just now,” said Al. “The last four years have been the pinnacle of my career. I’ve had some fantastic moments – flying over veterans at Dieppe in the Spitfire V, where 64 years before it had been knocking down a couple of Dornier 217s, for example. It’s good to finish on a high, flying over the Sir Keith Park Memorial yesterday – it doesn’t get better than that.
“It’s the people that make this such a wonderful job,” he added – “especially the veterans. For me, it’s about the flypasts – where there’s a veteran on the ground with a tear in his eye, there was often one matching it upstairs.”
Al is leaving the air force to become the Ops Director for a business jet company, but will always have warbirds in his blood – no doubt we’ll see him in a Spitfire or Hurricane somewhere next year. “A few people have asked me to fly,” is all he would say!
key.aero will be publishing a fuller feature with Squadron Leader Smith soon.
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