Stan Harper's
Italian Spitfire

by Stan Harper

This article appeared in the June 1998 issue of the Falco Builders Letter.

As a 16-year-old, I couldn't wait to reach the age when I could go and learn to fly a Spitfire. I remember clearly wandering round the ancient city walls of York with my mates looking for excitement and willing away the time when the three of us could join the RAF. Quite suddenly, a Spitfire shot by at what seemed like ground level and at an enormous speed. Of course, it was gone in a few seconds, but that impression was to stay in my mind forever.

Eventually, I did reach the age when all my dreams of Spitfires and the like would be realised-or would they? The RAF alas had proved to be too efficient and the war was virtually at an end and so too was aircrew training. It was therefore somewhat surprising to find myself a few years later piloting a Horsa glider, having had in the meantime enjoyed a full six weeks EFTS course with the RAF on Tiger Moths. However, the Spitfire still remains and always will be a dream.

Stan and son Chris

Back in Civvy Street and after a brief flirtation with Austers at the local club, I swapped it all for a wife, a mortgage and a pram -- you know, the whole calamity! With a growing family and following my work with the electricity supply industry, my flying interest had to take a back seat. Nevertheless, however, inevitably my wings began to itch until finally I gravitated back to the flying scene and renewed my PPL. The Spitfire was further away than ever by now, and I had to accept that the dream would never be reached. Then, out of the blue, or rather out of the pages of the aviation magazine came the prospect of at least owning a very attractive aeroplane. The Falco had now arrived on the homebuilt circuit.

Here was a VP.1 with curves, performance and, of course, a price tag to match! Could I afford it? Could I build it? Could I fly it? One requisite for anything like this project was to have married the right wife in the first place! This I had done, although she was not and is not even now interested in flying, I received her blessing. So off I went on the enterprise, and I have to confess I regret it not one iota!

Preparations for the first flight.

The shed was built, and I could now get down to the serious business of building my own flying machine. Although signals came from work of possible reduncancies they didn't actually materialise so I had to plod along in the evenings. The whole exercise took a mumble of years, and I was well past retiring age by the time it was finished. However, it has been most enjoyable. I learned a lot along the way, including expletives in both English and Italian, but I also learned that I should have started the whole project years ago. Prospective builder -- please note!

A couple of years back my language got stronger, the light at the end of the tunnel was getting slowly brighter but my arteries were getting harder and eventually they won. I was knocked out of the race until the medics could sort me out, but unfortunately not good enough for flying. However, I was determined to finish the Falco and succeeded early this year and saw it fly for the first time. Success indeed!

First flight celebrations! Austin (pilot), Stan,
Kathryn (daughter) and John (son-in-law).

Obviously, there were the inevitable hiccups along the way in spite of Mr. Frati's excellent design and Scoti's skillful intepretations. I have many people to thank for their assistance and help. To them I am eternally grateful. My message to those of you now involved is -- keep at it! The final result is well worthwhile the effort, and the feeling of success is quite indescribable.

Having built and flown a Falco, who wants to fly a Spitfire anyway?