Replica Spitfire On Show 2016
Perhaps no other aircraft is as iconic of the air defence of Britain during the 1940s as the Spitfire. To save time and resources, the early versions were built onto Mark 5 fuselages (with prominent rivets), and fitted with the Merlin 61 engine.
The model on display at this years event is believed to have been purposely built for an indoor museum in the late 1970s, and to have been sold a few times since then. It represents a Mark 9 version of the aircraft that was introduced from July 1942 onwards as a stopgap measure to counter the threat from the Luftwaffe’s Focke-Wulf FW 190A.
The replica came up for sale in summer 2015. It was in very poor condition – with its frame weakened by age and parts of its fibreglass exterior beginning to break off. Brothers Steve and Mel Heappey bought the aircraft in August 2015, and commissioned its restoration. The first phase, which involved permanently fixing the (original) undercarriage to the fuselage to make it easier to move around, was completed in May 2016. The second phase, to fit out the cockpit with original instruments sourced from militaria collectors and sellers, has been carried out during the summer of 2016.
The aircraft was purchased with the markings of the machine flown by ace pilot James Edgar “Johnnie” Johnson, the highest scoring RAF fighter pilot to survive the war with 34 aircraft claimed destroyed with a further seven shared destroyed. Born in 1915 in Leicestershire, Johnson was called up for service in 1939 and – in summer 1942 – took command of No. 144 Wing (Canadian pilots), hence the red maple leaf in a white circle alongside his own initials “J.E.J.”. Johnson remained with the RAF following the war, eventually retiring as an Air Vice Marshal in 1966. He died from cancer in January 2001 aged 85.
Mark Anthony Craig