Another look back into the archives of 2021 and another visit that hasn’t been giving a full report as yet. Originally booked in for November 2020, inevitable delays and changing of lockdown rules eventually meant I was able to enjoy a return to the Heritage Hangar for the first time since December 2019. At that stage the Greek Spitfire MJ755 was just approaching completion (and it’s first flight would follow around a week later), long time resident Spitfire IX LZ842 was still just a fuselage and Peter Teichman’s Russian Spitfire IX was alongside LZ engineless and simply a fuselage.
Fast forward to a blustery Sunday in May 2021 and the restoration side of the Heritage Hangar looked very different indeed. MJ755 was looking resplendent and very much ready to fly (the aircraft in fact departed for Greece early the following week), LZ842 not only had wings but was sitting on it’s undercarriage preparing for engine runs (and has since flown). Peter Teichman’s Russian Spitfire had moved on to such an extent that it was already home at North Weald at the time of this visit.
This type of progress is one of the reasons that regular visits to Biggin Hill are so rewarding. Each visit takes the form of a guided tour of the hangar with a great chance to ask questions and get an up close look at the airframes in the collection. What makes it even more enjoyable is that relatively few of the Biggin based machines appear elsewhere in the country, so you are seeing some rare machines.
Other notable rebuilds on show included the next two seat Spitfire due to fly from Biggin, at the time just put on it’s gear and the wonderful Mk I project which was still in it’s component parts.
It wasn’t just restoration projects that had changed since my last visit. Two additional 2 seat machines had joined the fleet since late 2019, with Hurricane II BE505 now part of the regular pleasure flights market having been converted to a two seater. I had not seen this airframe since Peter Teichamn’s last appearances with it some years ago so it was great to get another chance.
The other new addition was Spitfire TIX TE308, looking great in the “Grey Nurse” shark mouth scheme. Living under the route for many of the Biggin flight experiences I have gotten used to seeing this iconic machine in the air but the tour was a great chance to get up close to the airframe carrying out flight operations (another first for me, being at a tour while the pleasure flights were active).
This was also the first sighting I’d had of Spitfire XVI RW382 in the USAAF scheme “Porky II”. At the time the airframe had remained elusive but since became very active and as it will now be part based at Duxford, we should be seeing more of this unique scheme in the air.
Of course there are all manner of other treasures on display at the Heritage Hangar and with the arrival of the TP-40 earlier this year and the recent acquisition of a P-51D Mustang, it almost certainly must be coming up time for another visit!