Restored ‘Silver Spitfire’ MJ271 in Round the World Record Attempt

George Winston
 
Credit Silverspitfire.com
Credit Silverspitfire.com
 
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Spitfire pilots Matt Jones and Steve Brooks plan to start the four-month trip, beginning on August 5th, 2019, at the iconic Goodwood Aerodrome in the South of England where the aircraft is based.

The circumnavigation is expected to cross the borders of thirty countries, which has meant the removal of armaments and any military markings.

The bare metal finish is what has earned the aircraft the ‘Silver Spitfire’ title. It rolled off the production line of Vickers Supermarine in Castle Bromwich in 1943. MJ271 is a Mark IX Spitfire, credited by some historians with turning the tide of the Second World War against the Nazi Luftwaffe.

Its performance at high altitude was particularly effective as it had a class-leading climb rate of four-thousand feet per minute.

The Silver Spitfire is powered by a 27 litre V12 Rolls Royce Merlin engine which delivers 1,350 BHP.

MJ271 started service with 118 Squadron at RAF Detling in Kent in Southern England where it flew sixteen operational sorties including fighter sweeps over Northern France. It also flew cover and escort missions alongside B-24, B-17 and B-26 Bombers.

The aircraft was moved to RAF Ford and 132 Bombay Squadron in the spring of 1944 where it flew a further 28 operational sorties which also included close escort as well as dive-bombing missions to the North coast of France. Then on the night of May 9th, 1944, MJ271 had a ‘wheels-up’ landing.

Following repairs, the spitfire finally re-entered service in the Autumn with the Royal Canadian Air Force pilots of the 401 (City of Westmount) Squadron in the Netherlands. A month later, and after ten dive-bomb missions, the aircraft was dispatched to RCAF-10 for further repairs and, possibly, salvage.

After the War MJ271 was moth-balled with the Royal Netherlands Air Force before its arrival some seventy years later at a hangar at Duxford Aerodrome to begin restoration work. The spitfire is believed to be more than ninety-per-cent original and is claimed to be the most air-worthy of the sixty or so surviving aircraft that regularly take to the skies.

Following a first successful test flight on July 11th, 2019, hopes are high for the ‘Longest Flight’ set to start at the beginning of August. The first leg of the circumnavigation will take the flying team North to Scotland from where they will fly on to Reykjavík in Iceland.

The route will then cross the Northern reaches of the Atlantic travelling the length of Greenland before crossing into Canada and the USA, arriving at Mojave Air and Space Port on the 23rd August.

After following the West coast of the USA and Canada the plan is to cross into Russia on September 8th, and a month later to have flown over the Great Wall of China and also Mount Fuji.

The team will include a videographer who is charged with recording the adventure from start to finish, which is set to not only break records for endurance flying for a vintage aircraft, but also for the pilots involved.

Pilot Steve Brooks holds the record for being the first person to fly from Pole to Pole in a helicopter and is also credited with being the first person to cross the Bering Straits in a land vehicle. He bought his first Spitfire at auction ten years ago and now runs a flying school Boultbee Flight Academy with Matt Jones.

The modifications to the Spitfire include the installation of eight additional fuel tanks, which will extend the range of the aircraft. All the original panels have been polished to a high sheen while the fabric tail rudder and elevator have been painted silver to match.

The Longest Flight Project supports the Royal Air Force’s 100th birthday as part of the RAF 100 campaign which aims to celebrate its history and also future plans.

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