The Spitfire AA810 Project is delighted to announce the significant news that Al Pinner MBE joined the team back in May as Chief Pilot for all our future flying operations. Speaking of the project Al said:
“It is an absolute privilege to be invited onto the AA810 project team and particularly after flying on the BBMF and meeting so many amazing people I have always wanted to give something back. When the team approached me I knew that I had to take this wonderful opportunity as it ticks so many boxes for me personally. The whole story of the aircraft and Sandy resonates so well, especially as one of the veterans that I became closest to was Tony Iveson who flew Spitfires in the Battle, and subsequently as a Flight Commander on 617, dropped a Tallboy on the Tirpitz on the successful raid. Additionally, I have also spent many deployments rattling around the Norwegian Fjords in Harriers and Hornets and love the country. The baby Spitfires, up to the Mk V, were always my favourites, thus I relish both the opportunity of flying AA810, but also training and supervising the next generation. I am so impressed by the team that has been put together and with such a noble goal.”
Al was the son of an RAF pilot and joined the RAF himself in August 1983 as a University Cadet; on completion of his degree he went to Initial Officer Training in September 1986. After flying training at RAF Cranwell, RAF Valley, and the Tactical Weapons Unit at RAF Brawdy, he was posted to be the first ab initio pilot on No. 1 Harrier GR5 course at RAF Wittering. Following the course he was posted to No. 1(F) Sqn and at the end of the tour Al was selected for the Qualified Weapons Instructor course before moving on to No. IV(AC) Sqn at RAF Laarbruch. During this tour he was lucky enough to fly on the first RAF Harrier II operational missions over both Iraq and Bosnia, both times on the wing of a Jaguar while the Forces rotated.
Subsequent tours on exchange to Canada on the CF18, during which he was promoted in 1998, and a tour as a Flt Cdr on No. IV(AC) Sqn at RAF Cottesmore followed, during which time Al’s tally of operational sorties surpassed 100, encompassing the roles of Reconnaissance, Close Air Support, Air Interdiction and Air Defence. Following this tour he was appointed MBE and posted to No. 20(R) Sqn again at RAF Wittering as a staff Qualified Weapons Instructor, and subsequently was trained to become an A2 Qualified Flying Instructor on the Harrier. Al volunteered as a pilot with the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 2003 flying the Spitfires and Hurricanes before subsequently becoming Officer Commanding the BBMF in January 2006. In 2008 he received the Sir John Barraclough Trophy for the most outstanding contribution to RAF public relations and was awarded the 2009 Master’s Commendation from the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators (now the Honourable Company of Air Pilots).
Al left the BBMF and indeed the RAF in November 2009 and joined TAG Aviation UK as the Director of Flight Operations subsequently becoming Vice-President Operations for TAG Europe, his role expanding to assume responsibility for some 100 Business jets and 350 staff worldwide. In 2013 he stood down from the management position, initially flying the Falcon 7X as a Line Training Captain and subsequently managing a Gulfstream G650 while continuing to fly and instruct on various warbirds. Al is active on 5 AEF back at the home of the Harrier, RAF Wittering, flying cadets in the Grob Tutor. He has around 8000 flying hours, of which over 3900 have been on single seat fighters. As part of this incredible experience Al has amassed 500 hours on Spitfires, 175 hours on Hurricanes and around 350 hours on the Harvard, Chipmunk and Tiger Moth aircraft.
Al is a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots, a former Trustee of the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne and supports Flying Scholarships for Disabled People.
Speaking on behalf of the AA810 Project, Spitfire AA810 Restoration Director Tony Hoskins said:
“My colleagues and I are absolutely delighted to welcome Al on board and know that Sandy’s Spitfire is in incredibly safe and experienced hands. Al is one of the world’s most experienced Spitfire pilots and also brings considerable experience as an instructor on the Spitfire which is absolutely invaluable to the project as we bring new pilots to warbird display flying. I have had the great pleasure of knowing Al for 6 years and look forward to working with him again.”