The Iconic-WW2Aircraft Spitfire is believed to have been purposely built for an indoor museum in the late 1970s and sold a few times since then. It represents a Mark 9 version of the aircraft that was introduced from July 1942 onwards as a stopgap measure to counter the threat from the Luftwaffe's Focke-Wulf FW 190A. To save time and resources, the early versions were built onto Mark 5 fuselages (with prominent rivets), and fitted with the Merlin 61 engine.
This replica came up for sale in summer 2015, in a very poor condition with its frame weakened by age and parts of its fibreglass exterior beginning to break off. Brothers Steve and Mel Heappey bought the aircraft in August 2015 and commissioned its restoration. The first phase, which involved permanently fixing the (original) undercarriage to the fuselage to make it easier to move around, was completed in May 2016. The second phase, to fit out the cockpit with original instruments sourced from militaria collectors and sellers, was carried out during the summer of 2016. A further phase of restoration, mostly to the interior of the cockpit, was carried out during the winter of 2018.
The aircraft was purchased with the markings of the machine flown by ace pilot James Edgar “Johnnie” Johnson, the highest scoring RAF fighter pilot to survive the war with 34 aircraft claimed destroyed with a further seven shared destroyed. For the 2017 and 2018 seasons this colour scheme was restored and the aircraft displayed as a replica of Johnson's aircraft.
For the 2019 season, the aircraft will have a new, refreshed paint scheme representing an aircraft from 601 Squadron, a little known amateur RAF squadron originally formed in 1939 in a London gentlemen's club and composed of aristocrats and adventurers. Through the battles of Britain, Malta, the African desert and Italy, the squadron's composition was transformed, and by war's end only a minority were British and none of the millionaires were left. The squadron existed beyond the war, flying DH Vampire and Gloster Meteor jets until disbandment in 1957.
Find out more about 601 squadron on Wikipedia.
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