Shuttleworth collection Spitfire
An iconic World War II aeroplane that flew in the films Pearl Harbour and Battle of Britain is currently undergoing a £300,000 restoration project at The Shuttleworth Collection in Bedfordshire - the aeronautical and automobile themed visitor attraction that is home to over forty unique airworthy aeroplanes.
Work on the Spitfire began in 2007 and was initially expected to last only 18 months, yet six and a half years and 20,000 man hours later, engineers at the Collection are only now able to predict a completion date for the project, in 2015.
During the Second World War, the Spitfire was flown by a distinguished Czechoslovakian pilot who escaped from the occupied Czech republic in 1938 and finished the war with over 10 confirmed enemy aircraft destroyed. Squadron Leader Frantisek Dolezal DFC flew the AR501 whilst he was commander of 310 Squadron. It also flew with No 312 squadron and was involved with escorting American bombers at the time the famous Memphis Belle documentary was filmed.
In 1968, the aeroplane was cast in the 1968 Battle of Britain film, because at the time it was one of only a handful of Spitfires that was airworthy, and it subsequently featured in the 2001 American film, Pearl Harbour. Up until 2005 when the decision was made to carry out the essential work required to preserve the aircraft for future generations, visitors to the Shuttleworth Collection were able to see the Spitfire take to the air during its popular summer air shows.
The biggest challenge for the restoration project has been replacing the 18,000 rivets that keep the structure of the aeroplane in place. Originally made of magnesium alloy, a material that is highly prone to corrosion over time, every rivet has had to be replaced.
Jean-Michel Munn, chief engineer at The Shuttleworth Collection said; "This project has seen significant challenges but we're hoping to fly the Spitfire next year. 95% of this aeroplane is the original which attacked German planes during the war, and our engineers have worked tirelessly to ensure as far as possible that the historical integrity of the aircraft was not compromised during its restoration.
“In terms of its structure and components, on completion this aircraft is estimated to be the most original airworthy Spitfire still in existence", he added.
Visitors to the Shuttleworth Collection are able to view the progress of the Spitfire restoration project in Hangar 1 at Old Warden Aerodrome near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire.
Anybody interested in visiting, or attending one of the Shuttleworth Collection's summer airshows is encouraged to visit www.shuttleworth.org for more information.
About The Shuttleworth Collection;
The Shuttleworth Collection is a unique collection of over forty antique airworthy aeroplanes. Based at Old Warden Park in Bedfordshire, the collection is open to the public all year round, with special flying days and evenings take place from May to October, where visitors have the opportunity to see the aeroplanes fly.
The Collection is under the custodianship of the Shuttleworth Trust, a charitable organisation created in 1940 by Dorothy Shuttleworth in loving memory of her son Richard, after his tragic death in a flying accident aged 31.