Spitfire soars into skies near Biggleswade after full restoration

PUBLISHED: 15:23 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:27 29 March 2018

The Shuttleworth Collection's Spitfire AR501 during its maiden flight following its restoration. It wears the livery of No 310 (Czech) Squadron, where it served on operations in 1942 and 1943. Picture: Darren Harbar

The Shuttleworth Collection's Spitfire AR501 during its maiden flight following its restoration. It wears the livery of No 310 (Czech) Squadron, where it served on operations in 1942 and 1943. Picture: Darren Harbar

Darren Harbar Photography

A Spitfire that saw active service in the Second World War has soared into clear blue skies for a successful maiden flight after a full restoration.

The Shuttleworth Collection's Spitfire AR501 during its maiden flight following its restoration. Picture: Darren HarbarThe Shuttleworth Collection's Spitfire AR501 during its maiden flight following its restoration. Picture: Darren Harbar

The Spitfire Mk VC, serial number AR501, was restored over 10 years at the Shuttleworth Collection in Old Warden, near Biggleswade – and at the controls for the first flight was seasoned warbird pilot Stu Goldspink.

He reported that the aircraft handled beautifully, and that all systems functioned correctly with just a couple of minor adjustments required.

A second, longer, test flight was carried out the next morning – confirming the aircraft was behaving well. The flight test programme will continue over the next few weeks.

The Spitfire wears the livery of No 310 (Czech) Squadron, with which it served on operations in 1942 and 1943. It sports its original ‘clipped’ winged tips, which give Spitfires a better roll rate than the standard elliptical tips most are familiar with.

Climbing into the Shuttleworth Collection's restored Spitfire AR501. Picture: Ciara HarperClimbing into the Shuttleworth Collection's restored Spitfire AR501. Picture: Ciara Harper

The restoration was done by the Shuttleworth Collection’s full-time engineering team and skilled volunteers, and involved completely dismantling the airframe into its smallest components for inspection and refurbishment.

The project included a complete overhaul of the 1,440hp Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 engine – also carried out in-house – and the addition of a new propeller and spinner.

Chief engineer Jean-Michel Munn said: “This is a very original aircraft, and one that served in combat during the Second World War. It’s a privilege for the collection to be able to return it to airworthy status and have it back flying for visitors to experience the sight and sound of this iconic type.”

AR501 was built in 1942 and acquired by Shuttleworth from Loughborough Technical College in 1961. It was one of the Spitfires restored for the 1968 film Battle of Britain, and underwent a further rebuild at RAF Duxford from 1973 to 1975. It has been one of Shuttleworth’s most popular attractions ever since.

The collection intend to display AR501 for the first time since restoration at the collection’s season premiere and RAF 100 airshow on Sunday, May 6.

Stu Goldspink will give a pilot chat with the aircraft at 11am before the air display starts at 2pm. Veterans aged 85 or over have free entry to the show.

To find out more, see shuttleworth.org/premiere.

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