Carolyn Grace was born in and was native to Australia but lived in the UK for many years. As a young woman, Carolyn married Nick Grace, a pilot and aircraft mechanic.
In 1979 her husband Nick purchased two Spitfire airframes, one of which was sold and the other (ML407) became Nick’s restoration project. Carolyn and Nick had two children together, but in 1988 when their daughter Olivia was five and their son Richard was four, Nick died in an car accident.
It was a tragedy from which Carolyn Grace struggled to recover, but she was determined to keep her husband’s passion alive. It was that passion that led to her decision to learn to fly his restored Spitfire. After converting to type in 1990 she logged over 900 hours of PIC (Pilot in Command) time while flying at displays and air shows.
To keep our Spitfire operational and keep it for the embodiment of my husband I had to learn to fly it. There had to be another Grace in the cockpit. It was daunting and hugely emotional, he was such an exceptional person. The driving force was to have a future for the children.Carolyn Grace, 2011. Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-12632311
Carolyn Grace was a director of the company Air Leasing Ltd, a position she held for over 30 years. Her son Richard Grace is the Manager, and Chief Engineer, and Daisy Grace (who has a Private Pilots Licence) is the Office Manager.
Spitfire ML407 was originally built as a single seat aircraft at the Castle Bromwich factory in 1944. It’s a Mark IX LF Spitfire and was in service in six squadrons of the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force during which time she flew in 167 operational missions.
In 1950 she was converted to a two-seat aircraft by Supermarine and delivered to the Irish Air Corps before being retired to a museum. Luckily for us all she was bought by Nick Grace who lovingly brought her back to life.
Nick and Carolyn’s son Richard has followed his parents into aviation. He is one half the Trig Aerobatic Team who fly displays in Pitts Specials. He is an accomplished pilot who has flown many hours in vintage aircraft. As well as flying various marks of Spitfire, Richard has also logged time in a Hawker Sea Fury, Hawker Hurricane, Yak 3, and P-51 Mustang.
Female Spitfire Pilot
Spitfire pilots were and are mostly male (apart from those delivered by the ATA – Air Transport Auxiliary during WW II), but Carolyn decided to undergo the training required to become type rated to fly this aircraft.
She was, by all accounts, quick to learn and remains one of the only known female Spitfire pilots. ML407 is now 70 years old but sounding and looking as healthy as ever after each winter’s overhaul and servicing.
A goat farmer when she was not taking to the skies, Carolyn flew the Grace Spitfire ML407 for 32 years until her untimely death in 2022.
Spitfire Display Pilot
Carolyn Grace had both a display authorization qualification and an aerobatic and formation qualification under her belt, and was well known for her impressive aerial shows, including cubans, loops and rolls. She endeavoured to make sure that the audience of a show could see every angle of the Grace Spitfire to take in the full power of the machine.
She also performed displays to music at many events such as proms and concerts and choreographed entire flight routines for event displays. She also performed displays for weddings, birthday parties, individual shows by request, corporate promotions, multiple types of memorial displays, commemorative fly-bys and many large formation displays.
A Second Tragic Death
Carolyn Grace died in a car accident in Australia in December 2022. Her son Richard, who was travelling as a passenger in the car, survived with minor injuries.
Where can I fly in a Spitfire in the UK?
Spitfire Flights, Spitfire Experiences
- Learn how to fly a Spitfire
- Take a pleasure flight in a Spitfire
- Fly alongside a Spitfire
- Try a Spitfire simulator
- Get close to the aircraft on the ground
There are all kinds of options open to you and in various locations. Here’s a list of airfields and companies offering Spitfire flights in the UK.