MBE honours for NHS Spitfire Project co-founders

Spitfire showing words THANK YOU NHS

The Aircraft Restoration Company's NHS Spitfire - Credit: George Lewis Romain

A couple who have raised £130,000 for the NHS by flying a Spitfire decorated with community names over villages and hospitals to lift the spirits are both to receive an MBE.

Woman writing names on a Spitfire, watched by pilot

The Aircraft Restoration Company, with Pilot John Romain and artist Amanda Romain - Credit: George Lewis Romain

John and Amanda Romain, co-founders of The NHS Spitfire Project, will receive the honour for services to charity and to aircraft restoration, particularly during the Covid-19 response, in the New Year Honours.

The latest honour is in addition to the Points of Light award from the Prime Minister’s Office in September.

The couple run The Aircraft Restoration Company, a family-owned engineering business in Duxford. It specialises in the restoration, maintenance and operations of vintage aircraft. This includes iconic and historically significant aircraft from the Second World War such as the Bristol Blenheim, Hawker Hurricane, P-51 Mustang and Supermarine Spitfires. 

Their restored blue Spitfire L has the words “THANK U NHS” on the underside. Mr Romain flew it initially in the Elmdon areas where they live, near Saffron Walden, to boost the community’s spirits during the first lockdown.

Mr Romain said: “Everyone loved it. We then said why don’t we fly on a Thursday night when everyone was on the streets for the Thursday clap. We did that. We got a huge response. We flew over the village for the last clap. Addenbrooke’s came outside to watch. The response from that was even greater.”

At this point they decided to fly over other hospitals. Mrs Romain hand-wrote nearly 7,000 names of community heroes, names of hospitals wards, and of doctors on to the aircraft in return for donations for NHS Charities Together through a JustGiving page. 

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The project was formally launched on the NHS’s 72nd birthday, July 5, 2020.

woman writing names on Spitfire

Amanda Romain writes names on The Aircraft Restoration Company's Spitfire - Credit: George Lewis Romain

The plane covered England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and patients and staff waited and watched for the plane.

“There were hundreds if not thousands of people standing outside, on the roof, in the car park, we even blocked off a few roads with people just knowing it was coming and parking at the hospital to watch.”

Even when he needed to refuel, Mr Romain said there were thousands of people who came to the airport to see the Spitfire land.

Mr Romain said they will continue in 2021 and donations continue to rise.

Spitfire in sky

The Aircraft Restoration Company's Spitfire - Credit: George Lewis Romain

He has worked in aviation since he was an apprentice for Hawker Siddeley Dynamics at Hatfield in 1976. He began working on aircraft preservation at Duxford from 1981, before establishing the company in 1989. 

A highly experienced warbird pilot, he has been participating regularly in British air shows since the late 1980s, and was part of the award-winning pilot stunt team for the combat sequences of Christopher Nolan’s film called Dunkirk in 2017.

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