Rotherham pensioner flies Spitfire younger than he is

There’s no age limit on adventure, as Rotherham’s Peter Foster has found out once again.

To celebrate both his 84th birthday and 60th wedding anniversary, which fall on the same day, Peter took to the skies for a once-in-a-lifetime flight in a Spitfire.

This was yet another item ticked off Peter’s bursting bucket list. Over the last seven years, he’s done many daredevil stunts such as a wing walk, driving an army tank, riding a penny farthing, and taking on the world’s longest zip wire.

Peter and his two daughters, Carrie and Melanie, travelled down to former RAF training facility Sywell Aerodrome in Northamptonshire for the Spitfire experience.

The model Peter flew in, ML407 or the Grace Spitfire, was made in 1944, which he jokes makes it slightly younger than he is. It is one of a small number of Spitfires that were converted into two-seaters for use in pilot training exercises.

“I didn’t realise how small the cockpit would be inside. Then there was the parachute which weighed a tonne, like having a bag of coal strapped to your back. We should never forget the bravery of the pilots in the war. Many were 19 or 20-years-old and would have been petrified; they didn’t know if they would come back,” Peter says. 

Unfortunately, the 25-minute flight didn’t allow enough time to head towards the white cliffs of Dover. Due to the plane’s age, the pilot must nurse the engine and its top speed is around 200mph – compared to around 550mph of a cruising commercial flight.

But taking in the sights of the Northamptonshire countryside was still a thrill for Peter.

“Exhilarating is an understatement. The Spitfire has a Rolls Royce Merlin engine that has such a unique sound. The pilot asked if I wanted to do a barrel roll. When I did the wing walk in 2016, they asked me if I wanted to do a loop-the-loop and I said no. But this time, I thought I’m never likely to do it again, so I said yes.”

Peter and his wife Wendy married on 13th July 1963 – his 24th birthday. Sadly, she now has dementia and is in a nursing home. He visits daily, and their three children were there at the care home to celebrate their parents’ diamond wedding anniversary.