RAF Group Captain Willy Hackett, MBE
Honorary Member Of The Dawn Patrol
Dawn Patrol Squadron Leader, U. K. Wing.
Call Sign.... "Wild Willy"
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Willy became fascinated by aviation at the age of four after seeing a Lightning fly over while on the beach in West Wales. He was captivated from there on. He began flying at the age of 11 with a local gliding club. He was so little he needed his mother's cast iron skillet for ballast. He went solo on his 16th birthday and an Royal Air Force flying scholarship earned him a Private Pilots Licence soon after. He left University to join the RAF as soon as he was old enough and after completing basic training on the Jet Provost at RAF Cranwell he progressed to the Hawk at RAF Valley. He then completed the Tornado F3 conversion at RAF Coningsby and from there he joined 43 (F) Sqn at RAF Leuchars before deploying to Gulf War 1 as one of the youngest NATO pilots to take part. After three tours on the F3, including conducting operations in the Balkans and Iraq and two years as the RAF demo pilot, Willy embarked on an exchange with the Royal Navy flying Sea Harriers. Here he enjoyed a 6 month cruise on board HMS Illustrious with 801 Naval Air Squadron seeing service in Iraq and Sierra Leone in Africa. Before leaving his time with the Royal Navy he served with 899 Naval Air Squadron as an instructor pilot. In 2002 he was selected for Test Pilot training at the Empire Test Pilots School at Royal Air Force Boscombe Down where he won the Cobham Trophy as the best pilot on 61 Fixed Wing course. After completion of the course he worked as the Eurofighter Typhoon project test pilot and in 2006 he joined the F35 Integrated Test Force as the RAF F35B test pilot at Lockheed Martin Fort Worth in Texas. In his personal flying Willy is a gliding instructor and a member of the Yakovlevs display team flying Yak 50 aircraft. He is a Shuttleworth Collection pilot displaying anything from a Tiger Moth to a Hawker Hind and German Storch. He also instructs on and displays the Folland Gnat. He received an MBE for services to aviation from Her Majesty the Queen in 1999. He currently flies two-seat Spitfires with the Boultbee Flight Academy at Goodwood Aerodrome giving rides to members of the public. Willy is married to Debb and they have two young daughters. Willy and his family moved to Washington DC in 2013 where he serves as the lead of the UK Lightning Project Team based in the USA.


(All the images on this page are thumbnails. Click on the image for a much larger image.)

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Willly’s first flight in the Shuttleworth Collection’s Hawker Hind. It was one of 20 delivered to the Afghan Air Force in 1938 and two returned in 1956, one to the British Museum and one to Shuttleworth.

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These next two photos show Willy with the World War I Bristol Fighter F.2B. This particular aircraft from 1918 didn’t see combat but is the only original airworthy example of this type in Europe. Until 1992 it was home to the world’s oldest working Rolls Royce engine. It was then fully refurbished and is in storage as a spare.
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This airplane is extra special to the Hackett family as Debb’s grandfather Edward Evans flew Bristol Fighters in the Great War as a sergeant pilot. He told the story of running out of munitions so dropping bricks or bottles out instead.
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A Hawker Tomtit.  A basic trainer for the RAF.  It was used by 2 very famous test pilots, Neville Duke who had 17 1/2 kills in WW II, and Alex Henshaw who tested more Spitfires than any other pilot in the world.
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The Supermarine Spitfire is probably WIlly’s favorite of all the planes he’s flown (so far). This incredible fighter was designed by RJ Mitchell and along with the Hawker Hunter, was the workhorse of the Battle of Britain. Only a handful of two-seaters exist and Willy still pinches himself that he gets to fly one of them. G-ILDA is a Mark IX owned by the Boultbee Flight Academy, the first place in the world to offer commercial lessons using the same progression of aircraft as were used in WW2. Volunteering with the company from the very beginning, Willy loves nothing more than watching the reaction of a veteran or brand new pilot when they get airborne in this amazing machine.
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This particular spitfire was… bought at auction for 1.75m and then fully restored by Stephen Boultbee-Brooks, including turning the fuselage into a two seater by moving the fuel tank. It was always Stephen’s intention to keep G-ILDA flying but he has gone so much further than that by allowing her to be used for training and now for commercial rides too. As part of the Boultbee set-up, veterans of the Battle of Britain are invited to fly in the Spitfire and then sign their name in marker inside the door. Willy has been privileged to fly two such gentle men. Very special. 
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Willy tries out the cockpit of Dick Stark's Nieuport 11 replica at the 2017 Salute To Veterans Air Show in Columbia, Missouri.


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Willy with Flight Lieutenant Jimmy Taylor, sadly just deceased.  A WW II Spitfire reconnaissance pilot who flew missions deep into enemy territory and one day on the way home his engine exploded, he parachuted to safety, then was hidden by Dutch resistance for 4 days before being captured by the Gestapo.  Jimmy went to a concentration camp and the families that sheltered him were shot by the Germans.  Jimmy never knew until about 20 years ago and he used to make a pilgrimage back to Holland every year close to the date of his capture.  I had just taken him flying in the Spitfire, his first flight since the war in a Spitfire, we even had his son airborne alongside him in formation. 
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Willy flying the VAAC Harrier.  VAAC is Vectored-thrust Aircraft Advanced Control.   It is a 2 seat research aircraft used to develop the flight control laws and control modes for the F35.  Built by research boffins in the UK, the back seat was set up like an F35 before we even had F35s to fly so they did a lot of research by taking it to aircraft carriers.  Willy then went to be a test pilot at the Lockheed Martin factory in Fort Worth Texas with the clever designers that were the brains behind the system.  That knowledge was used in the F35B that you see flying today.

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One of the things pilots remark about the Spitfire is that it feels like an extension of their body. Thanks to its Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the aircraft makes a wonderful noise and with its eliptical wings is supremely graceful. Don’t be fooled though, from the inside it is every inch a fighter.
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Here’s our Wild Willy looking very tame indeed. This is his official work photo for his role as the F35 British National Deputy. Willy and his girls moved to Washington DC in 2013 for him to take the position after beginning his work with Lightning 2 back in 2004.
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On a recent trip back to the UK Willy was flying passengers in a two place Spitfire wearing his Official Dawn Patrol "Nose Wheel?? I don't need no steenkin nose wheel!!! I'm a taildragger pilot!!" T-shirt.

We're soooo proud!!!