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.
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Ellen DeGeneres leads Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany in revealing game of Never Have I Ever
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...