The Only Thing That Could Make Alain De Cadenet Flinch Was A Spitfire

Alain de Cadenet is a legend around these parts. Not only did he get to drive the cars we wanted to drive, he got to be the person we wanted to be. Even if that meant driving the incredible Jaguar XJ-220, he was always suave and composed. Until he nearly got a haircut from a Supermarine Spitfire. Then it was just “FUCK ME!” a lot.


Granted, I’d probably be screaming worse.

It’s sort of wild to even see this sort of thing, but the story from the description on Youtube makes it all the richer:

Despite hearing on the radio from the control tower that the Spitfire was rolling we couldn’t see the aircraft against the sky and thought the presenter’s link would be over before the aircraft arrived. In actuality the pilot had lifted off then raised the undercarriage and kept the aircraft low so he hugged the ground and was lost to our eyes against the grass runway. We first noticed him when he crossed the tarmac roadway and dust was flicked up. That was when the still photograph was taken and immediately we all hit the deck as the presenter was pushed over by the downdraft from the Spitfire as he pulled up, no doubt laughing all the way.

The pilot was a friend of the presenter and having fun with us or he’d have never pulled that stunt. Ray, the pilot, was a former leader of the Royal Airforce aerobatic team the Red Arrows and regarded as one of the finest pilots of his generation. We were lucky to film with him many times but this, the first time, was probably the most hair-raising encounter we had. Ray Hanna was a consumate professional and his remarkable flying prowess was saught after by display organisers and film directors the world over.

American television executives, if you’re reading this (of course you are), please put Alain on American TV again. All of it. Right now.

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Michael Ballaban

Deputy Editor, Jalopnik. 2002 Lexus IS300 Sportcross.

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