Spitfire T.IX PV202
This Spitfire aircraft was built as a single-seat LFlX fighter at the Castle Bromwich factory of Vickers Supermarine in 1944 as part of contract No. B981687/39. It was delivered to the Royal Air Force at No.33 Maintenance Unit at Lyneham in Wiltshire as PV202 on 18/09/44 where it was brought up to operational standard for service delivery.
The aircraft moved to an operational pool of pilots and machines at No.84 Ground Support Unit at Thruxton, Hants, and on 19/10/44 finally entered service with 33Sqn. 135 Wing of 2nd Tactical Air Force, based at Merville, Northern France, carrying the codes “5R-Q”. The Squadron was tasked mainly with ground support of offensive operations as the allied forces pushed further into Europe and was also engaged in the harassment of enemy troop movements by carrying out strafing attacks on road and rail convoys. The aircraft moved to its new base at Maldegem in Belgium before returning to the UK on 14/12/44 at 84GSU, Lasham when the Squadron converted onto Hawker Tempest Aircraft.
PV202 had carried out 20 operational sorties with ten pilots from Britain, Denmark, Holland and South Africa during its service with 33 Squadron. A move between M.U.’s took it to 83GSU at Dunsfold in January 1945 before being issued to 412Sqn. Royal Canadian Air Force operating from Heesch in Holland where it carried the Squadron identity “VZ-M” later changing to “VZ-W”. Operations were still to strafe anything enemy moving on the ground and the Squadron eventually moved further into Germany itself, being based at Rheinand Wunsdorf forward operating airfields. On 04/05/45 Fg Off H.M.Lepard carried out the last of PV202’s 76 operational sorties with 412 Sqn. With the war in Europe at an end, the Sqn. returned to Dunsfold at the end of May and PV202 was flown to the famous 29MU at High Ercall for storage in July 1945.
The aircraft remained at High Ercall until selected by Vickers-Armstrong for conversion into trainer configuration in 1950 as part of an order from the Irish Air Corps. It was converted at their Eastleigh Factory and test flown as G-15-174. Delivery was completed to the IAC on 15/06/51, where it was given the new identity IAC161.
The Tr.9 Spitfires were used to train pilots for the IAC Seafire fleet and the course included gunnery practice, for although the Spitfire was primarily a trainer, it was equipped with two .303 Browning machine guns, one in each outer wing bay. In time, the IAC retired its Seafire fleet and the Spitfires took on their duties until in 1960 they too were retired. Most of the Tr.9 aircraft passed to the ground technical training school at Baldonnel where they were used as instructional airframes for the training of aircraft engineers for the Air Corps. IAC161 fulfilled this role from December 1960 until it was sold to Tony Samuelson, a collector who was supplying aircraft for the Battle of Britain Film Company.
Samuelson bought four Tr.9 aircraft from the IAC, two of which were made airworthy and used in the filming. IAC161 however, remained on the ground and was never used, remaining in store in Cricklewood. In April 1970 Tony Samuelson sold his four Spitfires and also an airworthy Hurricane to Sir William Roberts. IAC161 was moved to a farm at Flimwell and later the fuselage moved to Shoreham, before heading north to join Roberts’s “Strathallan Collection” aircraft museum in Scotland.
Little or no work was carried out on IAC161 and in 1979 it and its sister aircraft IAC162/ML407(now operated by Carolyn Grace) were put up for sale and went to new owner Nick Grace, who moved the pair to St. Merryn in Cornwall. Grace kept IAC162 for himself and sold IAC161 to Steve Atkins who moved the various parts of the project to a barn on a farm at Saffron Walden, only a few miles from its current home at Duxford! Here a band of volunteers were involved in starting the mammoth job of restoring the Spitfire to fly.
A change in business made Atkins relocate to Sussex and the Spitfire moved too. The aircraft was restored as a two seater, but a modified rear canopy arrangement was incorporated to the rebuild. After many struggles, the Aircraft was eventually fully rebuilt and made a first post restoration flight from Bae Dunsfold on 23/02/90 now wearing its 412 Sqn colours as PV202 “VZ-M”. At this point Atkins relinquished ownership to shareholder Richard Parker who went on to operate the Spitfire extensively on the airshow scene until selling it to collector Rick Roberts on 14/07/92.
Roberts also operated the aircraft extensively and during this time it suffered an undercarriage malfunction at its home base at Goodwood. Following repairs at Earls Colne the aircraft changed its colours to the earlier 33 Sqn markings as “5R-Q”. Roberts sold the aircraft in March 2000 to Greg McCarrach who intended to export the Spitfire to his base in South Africa, but it was written off in an accident.
The salvage was offered for sale and inspected by Aircraft Restoration Company (ARC) and Historic Flying Ltd. (HFL) engineers to see if a rebuild was possible. Karel Bos, owner of HFL bought the wreckage and it arrived at The ARC workshop at Duxford on 28/02/01 where a partial strip down was undertaken before it moved into the new ARC/HFL hangar in June 2001.
Since then a comprehensive and detailed rebuild has been carried out by ten engineers at HFL. Although highly experienced in the rebuilding of Spitfires of differing marks, PV202 brought its own challenges by way of its damage and the very fact that it was the first Tr.9 variant the company had tackled. A decision was made by Karel Bos to present the aircraft in the colour scheme it wore when delivered to the IAC in 1951 and to convert it back to its original configuration with the bubble top rear canopy. Amazingly the original rear canopy assembly was traced to being in store in Norfolk and was acquired for the project. Detailed research was undertaken to obtain the correct colour match for the original IAC Green paint scheme. A Rolls-RoyceMerlin 66, correct for this mark, was rebuilt in America by Paul Szendroi of Universal Airmotive and replaced the previously fitted Packard (American built) 266 Merlin.
The aircraft was substantially complete by February 2004 and first engine runs were undertaken on the 27th of that month. At that point it was confidently expected that the Spitfire would make its airshow debut that season, but during ground testing of the engine it became apparent that all was not well. A component had failed and it would require removal of the complete engine to facilitate a repair. IAC161 would remain grounded for the rest of 2004 whilst a replacement component was sourced and the engine stripped and repaired in-house.
Veteran spitfire pilot, Alex Henshaw joined John Romain in G-CCCA on her first flight following restoration in March 2005
By December 2004 the Spitfire was ready for engine runs, the first taking place on the 3rd of the month. Testing continued and full power runs were carried out on 23 December. Following further final preparation the Spitfire took to the air from Duxford for its first post-restoration flight on 13th January 2005 in the hands of ARC Managing Director and pilot John Romain. It was not John’s first flight in this particular aircraft though, as it is also the one in which he had his very first Spitfire flight, as a passenger, back in the 1990’s.
Following extensive flight testing, the aircraft was awarded it's Permit to Fly by the CAA. It emerged onto the busy airshow scene in 2005, where it was distinctive not only for its unusual colour scheme, but because it was the only Tr.9 to be flying in its original colours and configuration. All the others fly in colour schemes representing their time as single seat fighter variants.
In March 2007 the Dutch owner had the aircraft painted in Royal Netherlands Air Force colours to represent ‘H98’, one of three Spitfire Trainers sold to the Netherlands in March 1948. The aircraft showed off her new colours at the Antwerp Airshow in May 2007, before going on to appear at many air shows and events in the UK.
To reflect countrywide celebrations for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, 2010 has seen the aircraft appear in yet another new livery. This time, the aircraft has been painted to represent Spitfire X4474 of Duxford’s 19 Squadron. Spitfire X4474 was a late production Mk1 flown by Sergeant Bernard Jennings of 19 Squadron during the Battle of Britain in September 1940. The Squadron was based at Fowlmere airfield, near Duxford during the battle.