Blue Skies was written as a tribute to a pilot who died during an airshow in 2007. I was present at the event, and watched the crash taking place.
The climax of the airshow was a re-enactment of the Battle of Britain, on a beautiful day that would have been similar to the summer of 1940 when the action took place. During the first phase of the ‘battle’, two Hawker Hurricanes took on three ‘Messerschmitts’ (two Messerschmitt Bf108 sportplanes, and a Hispano Ha1112 ‘Buchon’, the postwar Spanish version of the Bf109).
Just as a gaggle of Spitfires had taken off to ‘save the day’, one of the Hurricanes could be seen diving steeply, its topsides towards the crowd. This didn’t seem unusual, as during the staged dogfight, several aircraft had dived in that way, before pulling out and turning to one side of the crowdline or the other.
This time though, the Hurricane kept on diving. In a way that seemed surreal at the time, it disappeared behind a rise. There wasn’t any sound, and initially, no indication that the aircraft had crashed. It had just vanished. After what seemed like an age, a column of thick, black smoke rushed into the sky from behind the rise and only then did the tragic reality settle on the crowd.
The pilot, an experienced Hurricane pilot, film and display flier, died in the crash. Afterwards, aviation enthusiasts all over the world began to offer personal tributes. Many knew the pilot personnally, and many more had enjoyed his display flying and film work. These tributes were overwhelmingly touching, heartfelt and moving, and perhaps more surprisingly, uplifting. People who loved flying wanted to celebrate the life of a man who shared their passion. Many offered simply the words ‘Blue Skies’. I found this very affecting, as the simple expression of everything an airman could wish for. The idea of a paradise for fliers, embodying this, was the basis for the story.