Military Aviation

Royal Air Force airman becomes the first amputee to fly solo in a Spitfire since WWII aces Douglas Bader and Colin “Hoppy” Hodgkinson

Sergeant Alan Robinson lost a leg in a motorcycle accident

Sergeant Alan Robinson, a Royal Air Force (RAF) airman who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident has become the first amputee to fly solo in a Spitfire since World War II aces Douglas Bader and Colin “Hoppy” Hodgkinson.

Robinson, an aircraft engineer based at RAF Waddington, was awarded The Spitfire Scholarship and undertook two years of pilot training before taking to the air for his historic flight.

“I’ve achieved a childhood dream. It has been an absolute privilege to fly such an iconic aircraft and to meet some of the veterans who flew Spitfires during the War. I can’t conceive how they went from a trainer aircraft straight into a single seat Spitfire,” Sgt Robinson pointed out.

Following his accident, Sergeant Robinson received rehabilitation therapy at Headley Court and was eventually able to return to his old job as an E-3D Sentry aircraft engineer with No. 8 Squadron.

“My squadron management at the time looked after me very well and the rehab has been fantastic. Since losing my leg I have been promoted so the RAF must still think I’ve got a lot to offer. Having an amputated leg doesn’t stop me doing the work I was trained to do. The leg is just a means of getting me to the aircraft and my prosthetic leg does that now,” he explained.

Noteworthy the Spitfire Scholarship, awarded by The Endeavour Fund, draws inspiration from Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader DSO DFC, who flew during the Second World War and achieved 20 individual aerial victories despite losing both his legs in a flying accident in 1931. His story was immortalised in the book and film ‘Reach for the Sky’. The scheme is aimed to motivate those who have a disability to go on to achieve great things and prove ability rather than disprove disability.

Douglas Bader in front of his No.242 Squadron aircraft sporting a cartoon showing a boot marked “242” kicking Hitler.

Phil O’Dell, Rolls-Royce Chief Test Pilot and a fellow Spitfire pilot, said:

“This is a remarkable achievement by Alan. Not only has he overcome the odds to solo the Spitfire, but he trained to do it in a way that would be familiar to the young men who took to the skies in the Second World War. For those of us who are professional pilots, with many years of experience and training, what Alan has done really brings home the incredible effort and bravery of our predecessors in the Spitfire cockpit.”

Photo credit: Crown Copyright and Boultbee Flight Academy via Royal Air Force Facebook page

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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