No passing glory for a flying star
Sunday 04 April 1993
Why? Because the Spitfire is one of the most beautiful and charismatic of all aeroplanes. Its profile, the sound it makes, and its wartime successes have enthralled fans of all ages from around the world. True, other contemporary fighters bettered it in war, were engineered to a higher calibre, and were easier to maintain; but none quite matched the charisma of the steel-and-aluminium Spitfire.
The RAF has continued to employ Spitfires as squadron mascots or, as it calls them, 'gateway guardians'. Many have survived complete and, despite nearly 50 years in the open, in relatively good condition.
In the past five years, five of these have been rescued by Historic Flying Ltd, a vintage aircraft restoration firm in Saffron Walden, Essex, set up by Tim Routsis, a Cambridge businessman. This week, one owned by Eddie Coventry, a 56-year-old Essex double-glazing millionaire, takes to the air.
Mr Coventry is one of a growing band of peacetime Spitfire pilots. 'There are 27 Spitfires flying in Britain today and 41 worldwide,' said Clive Denney, of Historic Flying. 'It take us 13,000 man-hours to restore the gate guardians for around pounds 500,000; it costs around pounds 2,500 an hour to fly one, but there is no shortage of takers. The supply of aircraft is falling all the time, yet the number of airworthy Spitfires continues to grow.'
Mr Coventry's 1944 MkXVI Spitfire, painted silver with a red stripe is, according to its proud owner, 'better than it was when first built'. He calls it 'The FB' ('the full bollocks,' he explains) and these initials are painted below its perspex canopy.
'Eddie's Spitfire can be flown as fast and as hard as he dares,' Mr Denney said. 'We're not re- creating museum pieces, but rebuilding, as authentically as safety permits, real, working Spitfires.' The only difference is that today they are designed not to kill but simply to thrill.
In many ways an airworthy Spitfire is a mechanical pterosaur; it has no room for even the smallest passenger, guzzles 45 gallons of fuel an hour and can stay airborne for less than three hours. It is impractical to take on solo jaunts abroad, because, like a pedigree racehorse, it needs its trainer and grooms.
However, it is a practical proposition to own and fly one. Some symbol; some plane.
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
How Homer Simpson discovered the Higgs boson over a decade before scientists
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Harrison Ford plane crash: Star Wars actor 'seriously injured' after his vintage light aircraft crash lands in golf course in Los Angeles
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...
£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...
£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...