Painstaking Restoration Of Rare Two-Seater Completed
With its Rolls Royce Merlin engine and beautiful elliptical
wings, the Supermarine Spitfire is both a design icon and a piece
of British history. Last week, the number of airworthy Spitfires
grew... as a rare two-seat variant took to the skies for its first
time following a lengthy restoration.
At 1605 local time on Friday October 17, test pilot Jonathan
Whaley strapped into the valuable classic and took it aloft for a
15-minute flight from Thruxton airfield in Hampshire, England.
The aircraft in question was built as a single-seat fighter for
the Royal Air Force in 1944, and registered as SM520. After World
War II, it was sold to the South African Air Force, though details
of its service in that country remain unknown.
Discovered in a Cape Town scrap yard in the 1970s, it was
acquired by the late Charles Church and brought home to the UK.
Church began to restore SM520, but when he died in 1989 the
aircraft was sold to Alan Dunkerley, who in turn resold it to Paul
Portelli in June 2002.
The aircraft has been restored by Classic Aero Engineering at
Thruxton. Gloucestershire-based Retro Track & Air has
overhauled the mighty Merlin engine, and German company Hoffman
provided the huge four-bladed propeller.
During restoration, the decision was made to convert the
aircraft into a rare two-seat Tr.9 configuration. In the late
1940s, Vickers-Supermarine converted a number of Spitfires into
two-seaters, and the type was exported to countries such as Ireland
and the Netherlands.
The team of Bruce Ellis, Gavin Langford and Gareth Ellis, aided
and abetted by Irene Sanders and Simon Netton, have used original
blueprints to turn SM520 into the very latest Spitfire Tr.9.
Until now, just five two-seaters were in airworthy condition
around the world, but SM520 -- which is now registered as G-ILDA
with the UK Civil Aviation Authority -- today became the sixth.
More than 20,000 Spitfires were built, but fewer than 50 remain
airworthy today. The aircraft will now continue testing in the
hands of Jonathan Whaley and Dave 'Rats' Ratcliffe.
Sadly, Portelli passed away before he could see his beloved
Spitfire take to the skies... and SM520 is now being offered for
sale. The aircraft will be sold with a full UK Civil Aviation
Authority Permit to Fly. Offers in excess of £2.0 Million
(about $3.5 Million US) are being sought.