Big Plans at Biggin Hill as Classic Spitfire Plane Restored

Image Credit - Peter Arnold via Fly a Spitfire.
Image Credit - Peter Arnold via Fly a Spitfire.

Biggin Hill announce exciting plans for bringing iconic Spitfire planes back to life.

Their website reports on Spitfire IX MA764, built in 1943 and currently being restored at Biggin Hill’s Heritage Hangar. Owned by Mark Collenette, the plane has been there since February. The aim is to have it airborne by 2022.

The Spitfire is one of three restorations announced for the year. The others are MK XIV and TE517. “Flying a Spitfire” covers the news. This section of the Biggin Hill website is dedicated to public tours of the hangar and access to an impressive array of aircraft history.

“At any one time, the hangar is a hive of activity with several ongoing restorations” the Heritage Hangar team write. 6 planes have been restored at the location.

Visitors are able to tour the hangar, climb aboard Spitfires and Hurricanes and most dramatically of all take a flight.

Biggin Hill’s Heritage Hangar. Image courtesy of Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar.
Biggin Hill’s Heritage Hangar. Image courtesy of Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar.

Biggin Hill detail the action-packed history of their latest project. In late 1943 IX MA764 took part in “RAMROD 333”. The Spitfire helped escort bombers flying over Lille, France in order to take out targets on the ground.

In the cockpit was Flight Sergeant D Bostock. As the mission was completed, a hair-raising situation ensued. Flying towards what they believed to be Allies, Bostock and co received a shock when they realized it was in fact the enemy!

Their opposite numbers made the same mistake. Fly a Spitfire notes it was “only when they were within a mile or so of each other” that people twigged.

A friendly flypast turned into a lead-fueled dogfight. Getting into difficulty, Bostock bailed out. Presumed dead, he finally made it back home thanks to the French Resistance.

The Spitfire crashed, where it was resurrected by an aviation group in the early 21st century. Bostock’s helmet, initialled “DB”, caused added excitement, with some believing it to be the property of famous flyer Douglas Bader! The plane returned to Britain in 2006.

A key part of the Battle of Britain, Spitfires are an emblem of the British spirit during World War II. Last year an “NHS Spitfire” took to the skies to thank medical staff for their work fighting the pandemic and raise money for charity. “Thank U NHS” was painted on the underside.

“Thousands of names, nominated by the public, have been added to the plane to reflect those who have contributed during the battle against coronavirus” reported BBC News.

A remarkable story behind the creation of the Spitfire emerged recently. The “Supermarine Spitfire” as it’s known needed an upgrade to carry eight guns instead of the original two. (Supermarine being the plane’s manufacturer.)

This was a challenge facing Captain Fred Hill back in 1934. As HistoryNet writes, eight weapons would “seemingly weigh down the Spitfire”, as well as presenting considerable issues fitting them on comfortably.

Captain Hill was helped in his task by Hazel Hill… his 13 year old daughter who “possessed savant-like abilities in mathematics.” Together they made the Spitfire the ultimate Daddy-Daughter assignment! This coverage focused on a report by the BBC.

Spitfire MA764 is in considerably better shape, with hopes of it taking to the air again in 2022. Image courtesy of Fly a Spitfire.
Spitfire MA764 is in considerably better shape, with hopes of it taking to the air again in 2022. Image courtesy of Fly a Spitfire.

In 2018, website History Hit mentioned how the world famous aircraft got its name in the first place. Coincidentally, this also happened because of a young person.

They note that, while firepower played its role, the title “likely owes just as much to Sir Robert McLean’s pet name for his young daughter, Ann, who he called ‘the little spitfire’.” McLean was manufacturing chairman at the time.

Additionally, History Hit write that over 20,000 Spitfires left the production line before soaring into the heavens. A typical cost was $17,438 (£12,604), the equivalent of $942, 248 (£681,000) today. 238 Spitfires reportedly remain, in varying states of repair.

In a refreshing move, the plane delivered “altitude chilled beer” on D-Day, dropping beer kegs from the wing space where bombs usually went!

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This latest restoration shows that respect for wartime heritage is very much alive. Wannabe pilots and history fans will be keen to check out the results in the less restricted future…