So far this year I’ve put together the histories of all the airworthy Spitfires in the United Kingdom and North America. It only seems fair then to put together the list for the rest of the world, starting closer to home with Europe and ending up In Australia.
Mk XIX PS890 / F-AZJS
Christophe Jaquard’s Spitfire XIX has to be one of the most interesting Spitfire’s on the planet, with quite an interesting past. Delivered to RAF Benson in 1945, ‘890 was shortly transferred to the Royal Thai Air Force and eventually was donated by King Bhuminel of Slam to Ed Maloney, of “Planes of Fame” fame, in 1962.
The Spitfire was then kept in storage on and off until 1994, when rebuild work began in earnest. PS890 flew again in 2002, so far so normal in terms of a Spitfire’s story, but what made the first restoration of this aircraft special was the non-standard features it gained. For a start it was powered by a Griffon 58A from an Avro Shackleton! This of course meant that it was also fitted with contra-rotating propellors, making it the only Spitfire since the war to be fitted with such a system, Seafire VP441 aside.
As if this modification wasn’t enough the wings were also clipped, giving this Mk XIX a very “Reno” look. These modifications were not just for fun, they were chosen by Steve Hinton with a few to breaking the piston engine climb to height record, though this was never achieved.
After a few years at Chino the Spitfire was sold to French collector Christophe Jaquard, and the Spitfire flew again in France in May 2005. There were two notable differences when the Spitfire appeared following its ocean voyage, the colour scheme had been corrected to the right shade of blue, rather than the pale blue used during the first restoration. ‘890 also regained its wingtips during the process.
After a few years in this configuration it was decided to return the Spitfire to original condition, returning to a five bladed single propellor arrangement and painted in the colours of 152 Squadron East Africa.
Mk VIII MV154 / D-FEUR
Built in southampton in 1944, ‘154 was delivered to the RAF in September but was ultimately sent to the Royal Australian Air Force in December 1944. After two years in storage at RAAF Richmond she was struck off charge in October 1948. 1949 saw ‘154 move to the Sydney technical college, where she stayed until 1961.
After passing through a number of private owners in Australia the aircraft found its way to Robs Lamplough at Duxford in 1979. Robs rebuilt the aircraft over a number of years, with the first flight taking place on the 28th May 1994. This was followed by a 16 year presence on the UK airshow scene, before ‘154 was sold to Max Alpha aviation in Germany.
Since moving in 2010 the Spitfire has been seen back in the UK on a number of occasions as part of the Flying Legends display.
Mk TIX MJ772 / D-FMKN
Built at Eastleigh in 1950 as a single seater, ‘772 was almost imediatley converted to two seat standard and was delivered to the Irish Air Corps on the 5th June 1951. She remained in service until 1963, after which she was sold to Film Aviation Services at Biggin Hill, where she remained stored in a dismantled state.
After a brief stay in Belgium ‘772 returned to the UK, this time ending up at Elstree, where she eventually flew again following restoration in July 1967. Of course being an airworthy Spitfire in the 60s it is of no surprise that she starred in the 1968 Battle Of Britain film. After a number of private owners in the 70s, she ended up with the Champlin Fighter Museum in 1981.
Shortly after arriving in the states the aircraft tragically crashed. She was rebuilt again though, this time as a single seater, flying again in 1992. In 2000 she moved to the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle and later had a stint on display at the Oshkosh museum.
Around 2007 after some 30 odd years away from Europe ‘772 moved to Germany, where it was announced that Meier Motors would restore her back to two seat configuration.
Returning to flight in 2012, ‘772 is now unique in terms of two seat Spitfires in that she can easily have the rear cockpit removed, allowing the owner to display the aircraft in single seat configuration.
Mk XVIII TP280 / N280TP
A recent addition to the Hangar 10 fleet, based at Zirchow, is the Griffon powered Mk XVII. Previously owned by Rudy Frasca, the Spitfire was sold earlier this year and dismantling work began in early February in preparation for the journey to its new owner. ‘280s service career started with the Indian Air Force in 1947, wearing the identification code HS654.
After thirty years in India, like many this Spitfire was recovered by Ormond Haydon-Baillie and returned to Duxford. Two years later the remains of ‘280 were sold to Rudy Frasca and restoration work began at Audley End.
On the 5th July 1992 TP280 took to the skies again and was promptly shipped across the Atlantic to its new owners. Its most recent change in owners means that there will now be two Mk XVIIIs flying in Europe and that Germany will have its first Griffon engine Spitfire. An excellent addition to the European scene.
Mk XVI RW386 / SM-BIL
Built in 1945, this Spitfires first squadron service took place with 604 squadron in 1947. From 1950 onwards the airframe was used as an instructinal tool, passing through RAF Skellingthorpe, Honningston and Colern, before ending up as the gate guardian at RAF Halton in 1957.
‘386 remained on duty at Halton until 1982, when Doug Arnold bought the aircraft, starting restoration work two years later. Shortly after work began however, the Spitfire was placed back into storage. While work continued on and off over the next few years it wasn’t until 2005, when the project moved to Duxford, that work really got going.
On the 2nd March 2006 RW386 flew once again wearing the codes “NG-D”, with flight testing complete the airframe moved over to Sweden to join new owners Biltema, with whom the aircraft is still based and performs regularly at airshows.
Mk IX TE554 / 4X – FOG
Surprisingly enough Israel is home to an airworthy Spitfire! TE554 was built in 1945 and was delivered to 33 MU in May of that year. After spending August with 310 squadron the airframe was transferred to the Czech Air Force. In 1948 ‘554 was transferred once again, this time to the Israeli Air Force, allocated the code 57.
Seven years later, in 1955 the aircraft was struck off charge, though was kept in airworthy condition, becoming part of the Israeli Air Force Museum. Initally based at Ramat David Air Base, ‘554 moved to Be’er Sheva Air base in 1976, where she reamined until 1995. In ’95 there was another move, this time to Hatzerim Air Base where the aircraft still resides.
This Spitfire is very special to the nation of Israel as it was flown by one of their President; Ezer Weizman, who flew with the RAF during the war. The unique gloss black paintscheme comes from Weizman’s training days, when the Spitfires on base were painted black to aid identification.
I’ll admit that I was fully prepared to give this aircraft a brief visit in the “Rarely Flown” section, as I hadn’t heard about it flying for some time. However I then came across this article:
Aside from some wonderful air to air photographs of the rarely seen Spitfire, this post also confirms that the Spitfire flew in 2011 and apparently flies around 40 sorties a year. So the aircraft has at least been active in the last 5 years or so.
Mk VIII MV239 / VH-HET
This aircraft was built in 1945 after which it was handed over to number 6 maintenance unit, shortly after joining the flight, on the 20th March, the aircraft crashed.
Following the accident the Spitfire was shipped to Sydney and joined the Royal Australian Air Force on the 26th June 1945, eventually being stuck off charge in September 1949. Though officially part of the air force ‘239 did not fly as the airframe was in storage at RAAF Richmond throughout its service career.
Following the Air Force it was time for another ground based role, as part of the Sydney Technical College until 1961. In ’61 the airframe was bought by AJ Oates who stored the Spitfire out in the open until 1972 when it was loaned to the Camden Museum of Aviation.
In the 1970s ‘239 finally lived again, having been restored to taxiing condition. In 1982 Jack Davidson bought the project and continued to restore the aircraft to flying condition.
MV239 returned to the skies 40 years on from the accident on the 29th December 1985.
In 2000 she moved to the Temora Aviation Museum and was repainted into the colours of Wing Commander Bobby Gibbes’ “Grey Nurse”.
Mk XVI TB863 / VH-XVI
TB863 was built in 1945 and its first squadron was with 453 Squadron on the 24th March, the aircrafts final squadron was 691. In 1950 this Spitfire played the part of the enemy at a Farnborough show, being painted up as a yellow nose 109! In 1951 ‘863 was struck off charge, eventually being acquired by Pinewood Studios in 1955.
This Spitfire’s main role was in the film Reach For The Sky before being placed into storage at the studio until 1967. In ’68 the airframe was dismantled to be used as spares. Given that this happened at Henlow it is more than likely the spares were used for the Battle of Britain film fleet.
Later in ’68 the airframe moved to Southend to A.W Francis who began restoration work, eventually displaying it at the Southend Historic Aircraft Museum. In 1982 the project was moved to Booker, before being sold on to Stephen Grey and the Fighter Collection in 1984.
Restoration work was finished at Duxford in 1988 with the first flight taking place in September. By the time of this flight the Spitfire had already been sold to Tim Wallis, so the Spitfire was shipped to New Zealand in October.
TB863 flew for many years with Wallis’ Apline Fighter Collection, performing regular displays. Two landing accidents happened along the way, which led to the aeroplane being repaired.
In 2006, TB863 changed hands to its most recent owners, Temora Aviation Museum based in Australia.
Mk T.IX MH367 / ZK-WDQ
This Spitfire is constructed from parts of ML417 and MH367 as well as featuring a large amount of new build construction. Originally the project was given the code DB008, but following the incorporation of original parts, the identity of MH367 was adopted.
The restoration/build was completed in Florida with the first flight taking place on the 16th September 2006. In 2008 he Spitfire was sold to Doug Brooker and shipped down to New Zealand.
On arrival the aircraft was put back together and repainted into the colours of Colln F Gray. The first flight in New Zealand was carried out by Keith Skilling on the 21st May 2008. The Spitfire suffered two accidents in 2009, both of which required substantial repairs but the aircraft is now flying again.
Mk IX PV270 / ZK-SPI
This Spitfire was built in 1943 and saw service in the Mediterranean theatre with the RAF during the Second World War. Once the war was over the Spitfire went to the Italian Air Force in 1947 and latterly the Israeli Air Force in 1953.
‘270’s busy life continued when in 1955, the Burmese Air Force took over ownership and used the aircraft for attacking Kuomintang guerrillas on the border with China.
In 1956, after an extended career ‘270 was placed in storage until being mounted on a pole at Hmawbi AB in the 1970s. In 1995 the airframe became part of the Burma Air Force Museum, before being sold on to Brendon Deere in New Zealand in 2001.
A restoration to fly was started by ITL Aviation and the Spitfire flew again on the 19th March 2009. The aircraft wears the markings of Al Deere, a legendary Spitfire pilot as well as Brendon’s uncle!
Mk XIV – NH799
Recently this number has grown again, with Spitfire Mk XIV NH799 returning to flight on the 2nd of April this year. The aircraft has been under restoration at Avspecs based at Ardmore in New Zealand for a number of years.
Originally delivered to 9 MU in 1945 ‘799 was later transferred to the Indian Air Force in 1947. The Spitfire stayed in India until being recovered by Doug Arnold in 1981, soon the dissasembled airframe was back in the UK and remained in storage until 1985.
In 1986, the airframe moved owners to The Fighter Collection at Duxford and restoration work started shortly after at Audley End. In 1994, when the restoration was nearing completion, the project was sold the The Alpine Fighter Collection based in New Zealand.
On the 21st January 1994 NH799 took off on its first post restoration flight, registered as G-BUZU. A month after this flight the aircraft was shipped to its new owners.
Once in New Zealand the Spitfire received its current registration ZK-XIV and became a part of the Alpine Fighters Collection.
Once in New Zealand the aircraft went on to fly at airshows until tragedy struck on the 2nd January 1996. While taking off from the grass runway at Wanaka, ‘799 swung off of the runway before leaping into the air. Unfourtunatley once the aircraft got airborne the tail clipped a boundary fence, causing the aircraft to roll inverted, tearing off the left wing.
Sir Tim Wallis, was at the controls at the time and was seriously injured, this accident tragically put his flying career to an end.
Following the accident the Spitfire was sold to Pacific Aerospace Corporation until 1999. The aircraft was then sold to Aviation Trading Company Ltd, who started the restoration work with Avspecs in 1999.
The Avspecs team are of course well known for their outstanding work, notably on Mosquito KA114, and this Spitfire certainly seems to live up to it. While I wasn’t fortunate enough to see the aircraft in the flesh, I have kindly been granted permission to use Errol Cavit’s excellent shots of the aircraft.
Not content with the achievement of the first flight on the 2nd April, Pilot John Lamont then hopped back in the aircraft to fly a 75 minute ferry flight to Omaka, where the Classic Fighters airshow was taking place.
As can be seen from the photograph above, the arrival was well after sunset on the Friday before the show and must have been an amazing sight for all on the airfield.
NH799’s arrival marked the first time since the war that three Spitfires have flown together in the Southern Hemisphere, it is also the first time a Griffon engine Spitfire has been seen on the Continent since ‘799’s brief flying career in the 1990s.
Though long term the Spitfire is destined to be based out of Omaka, with the Chariots of Fire syndicate. However there was still minor work to be completed following the show and NH799 was noted back at Ardmore by the Monday evening.
It is fantastic news to welcome another Spitfire to the airworthy population.
Thats it! Thats all the world Spitfires all in one place on Warbird Tails now. I’ll be updating these as the year goes on as there are quite a few new restorations nearing completion and I’m sure I’ll gather more pictures as time moves on.