Spitfire pilot unfazed by emergency landing
Sun, 30 Sep 2012 6:12p.m.
By Adam Ray
A veteran pilot with the nickname “Ditch” lived up to his billing yesterday and crash-landed his plane at Whanganui Airport.
Rick Harding had emergency services waiting as he landed his replica Spitfire on its belly. The landing went so well, they were just spectators.
Mr Harding was forced to land the plane on its belly after a wheel jammed. He was more worried about the Spitfire than himself.
“I didn't think,” he says. “I was a bit naive but didn't think I was in too much trouble.”
His wife Heather wasn't so relaxed. He had called her on their two-way radio to organise help. She says it was “very frightening”.
But Mr Harding has been a pilot for decades so knew to keep calm. He's happy if people still use his nickname Ditch, although he can't remember how he earned it.
“If I knew I probably wouldn't tell you. But nothing to do with my flying ability I hope.”
His Spitfire is a slightly smaller replica of the original plane and he only began flying it earlier this year.
“It does the job well. Things mechanical sometimes give trouble.”
So the crash landing hasn't put Mr Harding off his Spitfire or flying in general. And his wife won't be grounding him.
“He's a good pilot,” she says. “I don't mind at all. He couldn't be better.”
Mr Harding says it'll be at least a month before the Spitfire's repaired and ready to fly again.
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