Coningsby Spitfire supports Iron Maiden

Spitfire TE311 piloted by Sqn Ldr Andrew Millikin flies over Download Festival. Photo by Jenna Foxton
Spitfire TE311 piloted by Sqn Ldr Andrew Millikin flies over Download Festival. Photo by Jenna Foxton

One of RAF Coningsby’s 
star attractions shared the stage, and the skies, with one of the world’s biggest rock bands.

Spitfire TE311, from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight stationed at the air base, was drafted in by legendary rockers Iron Maiden for a flypast ahead of their recent performance at Download Festival in Derbyshire.

Squadron Leader Andrew Millikin was behind the controls of the aircraft as it flew over 90,000 expectant fans.

Before Iron Maiden launched into their headline set, the Spitfire made three passes over the festival at Donington Racecourse.

Sqn Ldr Millikin told the News: “We do flypasts all over the country but this was something completely different. We don’t normally do rock festivals.

“There’s been a lot of interest from fans who attended.

“I’d have never thought that a bunch of metal fans would be interested in RAF craft but I’ve been proved wrong.

“It was fantastic to fly over. I get goose bumps every time I see the Spitfire in the air so I can’t imagine what it was like down there.

“It was really nerve racking at times though, we wanted to make sure we were right on time for the start of the band’s performance.”

Traffic at the neighbouring East Midlands Airport was temporarily grounded to ensure the fly-by went off without a hitch.”

A few songs into their set lead singer Bruce Dickinson spoke to the crowd and said: “When we played here 25 years ago were certainly couldn’t have had a flypast from a Spitfire before coming on stage.

“A big thanks goes to our friends at the BBMF at RAF Coningsby for their help.”

Sqn Ldr Millikin said: “Bruce actually gave me a call a week before. He was due to go on stage in Milan and wanted a quick chat about the plans.

“We went through what was going to happen and then spent the next 10 minutes talking about aircraft.”

Bruce holds a pilot’s licence and sometimes flies the band around the globe in a specially commissioned Boeing 757 jet