British pair to fly restored Spitfire around world
Two British aviation enthusiasts will fly a newly restored Spitfire 27,000 miles around the world in the first trip of its kind.
Pilots Steve Brooks, 58, from Burford, Oxfordshire, and Matt Jones, 45, from Exeter, will stop off at 100 locations in 30 countries over a five-month period from August 5 to Christmas time.
The project, named Silver Spitfire – The Longest Flight, will depart from Goodwood-based Boultbee Flight Academy, the first-ever school for Spitfire pilots, in Sussex.
The pair will first head to Scotland, then westbound to places including the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and India and back to Britain with a single-seated Mk IX Spitfire, followed by a chase plane for safety.
Mr Brooks, who co-founded the school in 2010, said: “We want to take the Spitfire to the people. Ten years ago we bought a Spitfire and weren’t sure what to do with it, but we wanted to inspire people in life through aviation.
“From that we came up with the idea of the school. Up until then, Spitfires sat in museums behind red ropes and no-one was allowed near them.
“During World War Two, RJ Mitchell, who designed the Spitfire, realised we needed something to defend our freedom. From the moment it was built, the Spitfire was about freedom.
“When you say Spitfire to a British person, an Indian person, all around the world, there is this sense of freedom.
“This (project) is about taking back and sharing it with people all over the world.”
Mr Jones said: “It stands for a time where there was world conflict at that time, a nation that pushed through the whole of Europe and our little island stood firm.
“The aeroplane enabled for the first time the Nazi war machine to be stopped and purely because people gave up their lives for themselves and their family.
“The world would have been very different without the Spitfire and people recognise this.”
The single-seated Spitfire was rehabilitated at IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire, with the same technology that was used in 1936 when it was designed.
“This won’t be like flying a regular plane,” said Mr Brooks.
“To get round the world you’ve got to nurture it and understand it. There are dangers.”
Mr Jones said: “We’ll have to be careful of a few things. The way we can fly, only going where we can see where we can go, we can’t fly at night, or through clouds.
“We’re not greatly pressured into having to be anywhere, so we have to respect its limits.
“It’s also important to note that no-one will be shooting at us, like they were back in the day.”
“In the Spitfire you’re doing three miles a minute,” said Mr Brooks.
“You’ve never been lost until you’ve been lost at three miles a minute. It’s a terrifying feeling.
“So we have to be careful.”
The pair said they will be taking regular breaks and switch at different stops.
A chase plane, which will have a full-time captain, an engineer, as well as a film and camera crew to video the journey for a documentary, will follow the Spitfire.
Either Mr Jones or Mr Brooks will also be in the plane whenever they are not flying the Spitfire.
Mr Brooks, who is a property developer by trade, and Mr Jones said that their families have been comforted by knowing enough preparation had been done to keep them safe.
As part of the journey, the aviation enthusiasts will travel to Scotland, then spend a couple of nights in Iceland, head through Greenland into Canada, before heading across the US into Russia and then Asia.