New Spitfires joining the worldwide population are still an incredibly regular occurrence which is a great testament to those involved in resurrecting these classic fighters. 2018 saw a real resurgence in one of the most elegant variants of the iconic fighter, the Mk V. While none of the aircraft featured were technically “new” restorations, a number of airframes were making their first appearance in over 10 years or simply the first regular appearances as part of this years shows.
Five of these airframes were reunited at Duxford in September, though they did not fly together, which is a modern day record, to the best of my knowledge. With six airworthy examples now in the UK and seven technically flying in 2018 these are certainly great days for fans of this development of the Spitfire.
The “Old Guard”
Three of the now six UK based MK Vs have been long-term regulars on the airshow circuit and will no doubt be familiar to many of you.
AB910 has been operated by the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight for many years, though featuring a 4 bladed prop and other non-standard features until a rebuild which was completed in 2015. The aircraft now wears a very smart D-Day scheme which made a great impression when first unveiled and is still one the fight’s most striking aircraft.
EP120 is another airshow legend. This machine has a significant combat history all of its own and has been part of the Fighter Collection now for decades.
For much of its flying career this Spitfire has flown in the clipped wing configuration thrilling crowds with countless displays around the UK and Europe including some memorable joker slots in the hands of Nick Grey and the Spitfire Horsemen routine back in 2013 (for which EP120 briefly regained its wingtips).
BM597, operated by Guy Black’s Historic Aircraft Collection is another machine that almost seems part of the furniture. Seen by many as Charlie Brown’s Spitfire ‘597 alongside HAC’s Hurricane would be a common sight at venues up and down the country not so long ago.
The fleet display a little less these days though it always great to see this particular Mk V, having been one of the most active examples. In 2005 this Spitfire made history returning to the island of Malta alongside the Hurricane, wearing a distinctive temporary blue scheme for the occasion.
The Returning Pair
It would have been October 2005 when the Shuttleworth Collections Spitfire MK.V AR501 landed following its final public display before going in for overhaul. A painstaking restoration and rebuild would follow that would not see the Spitfire fly until early 2018. Extensive test flying followed and to the joy of many the Spitfire returned to collection shows in May of this year.
Another highlight is the fact the Spitfire has lost its wingtips again, recreating the iconic look that many associate with this example. Over the season Jim Schofield has very much made this Spitfire his own with some show stopping aerobatic displays.
Tom Blair and his collection Spitfire Ltd made a significant impact on the UK airshow scene in the mid 2000s, acquiring a number of UK based fighters and new restorations. One such restoration was Spitfire Mk V JG891, which at the time featured the characteristic tropical chin filter. This made the Spitfire really stand out across the few UK appearances it made. As Blair reduced his collection this Spitfire was sold to Comanche Fighters having already returned to the US in the winter of 2007.
With Comanche Fighters the Spitfire had a makeover, being repainted into the markings of Robert Stanford Tuck’s aircraft. While promoting the Dunkirk film in 2017 the Spitfire suffered a landing accident and was subsequently rebuilt at Duxford again. Rolled out shortly before Flying Legends the Sptifire had again acquired its original scheme, another welcome return 10 years on from its first appearances on these shores.
A Regular, at Last:
EE602, otherwise known as “Mabel” first flew following restoration at Biggin Hill in 2015. However, aside from the “Hardest Day” flypast in 2015 and an appearance at Damyns Hall, public appearances had been limited.
That was at least until the airframe was sold to Anglia Aircraft Restorations and moved to Duxford/Sywell. Since making this move the Spitfire now makes regular appearances at shows up and down the country and even made the journey to Europe in September. It is great to finally see this airframe displaying regularly as it is a particularly nice example of the type.
Though EP122 did not technically make any public appearances in 2018, this Spitfire V did technically fly in 2018, albeit one flight from Biggin Hill to Duxford ready to be shipped to Comanche Fighters in the United States. As it turns out this was effectively a swap with JG891 so the UK based Mk V count stayed neutral.
EP122 was based at Gozo during the war and is a simply stunning restoration in a unique paint scheme. UK appearances were limited with only the September 2016 Duxford show giving a chance to see this Spitfire fly in its paintscheme.
Though not part of the 2018 season, I felt that it was worth including the sixth Mk V to have flown in the past year.