A commercial pilot fulfilled a boyhood dream when he got to take the controls of a legendary Spitfire.
Matthew Atherton, of Rising Bridge, flies for budget airline Easyjet, but was delighted to part with a princely £5,000 for just half an hour in a restored two-seater RAF Mark 9 fighter.
Matthew’s unforgettable flight, in which he performed aerobatics as well as general handling, soaring at up to 10,000 feet, was the culmination of an intensive two-day course at a Oxford’s new ‘Spitfire Academy’.
The experience is said to have reduced some pilots to tears of joy.
Matthew, 31, who grew up in Rising Bridge, and now lives in Anderton, Cheshire has wanted to be a pilot since boyhood and joined the Rossendale Air Cadets at 15.
He said: "I’m a Spitfire fanatic. They’re a very evocative aeroplane, particularly the sound of the Merlin engine.
"The development of the history of these aeroplanes have touched an awful lot of people.
"It was wonderful, such a rush. You’re only sitting six feet from a 2,000 horsepower engine. When the engine is warm and primed usually there’s a sheet of flame which comes out of the exhaust and it all bursts into life.
"The Spitfire’s cockpit is very small which gives the impression you are ‘wearing’ the aeroplane. It’s an incredible machine."
He is a former pupil of St Mary’s Primary in Haslingden, All Saints High school in Rawtenstall and Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar school sixth form.
His parents Michael and Rosemary still live on Rising Bride Road.
Matthew has been a full-time pilot for five years and is based at Liverpool Airport.
And he has admitted it was difficult re-adjusting to the day job.
"It’s a bit of an anticlimax, however I love my job," he said.
"It’s not really the same thing at all. But the public’s perception of airline captains is pushing buttons, which isn’t really true either.
"There’s quite a lot of handling. So even though it’s completely different there’s a lot that’s completely transferable.
"It was a lot better than what I expected, particularly the instructors who ran the course who were all really experienced. It was well worth it and I would be interested in doing it again, but it’s a lot of money."