01 Feb Spitfire TE517 to be restored to flying condition at Biggin Hill
The Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar and The Spitfire Company (Biggin Hill) Ltd are gearing up for 2021 with a number of important restorations forthcoming over the next twelve months. Renowned for its quality of work and the fact that the More4 series ‘Inside the Spitfire Factory’ shown during 2020 gave the public the first real viewing of a Spitfire factory at work, many individuals have expressed an interest in owning one.
Such is the case for Spitfire Mark LF/IX TE517 which has returned to the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar for restoration to flight after a period of storage.
Built by Vickers-Armstrong at their Castle Bromwich factory TE517 was one of a Spitfire build totalling 1884 under the contract No. B 98168730. Fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 engine, it was rolled out from the factory in early spring, 1945 and was initially allocated to No. 33 Maintenance Unit based at RAF Lyneham.
After a brief period of storage the aircraft was allocated to No. 313 (Czech) Squadron on 25th July 1945 then based at RAF Manston in Kent. The end of the war saw the squadron transfer to Prague on 24th August as part of the Czechoslovakia contribution to the war effort. It remained in the country until its return to the UK where the squadron was disbanded and TE517 was ‘Struck off Charge’ (SOC).
Sold to the Israeli Air Force and serialised 20-46, the aircraft was ‘Bought on Charge’ (BOC) on 30th August 1945 and served with the IAF till ‘Struck off Charge’ nine years later. Languishing in a Kibbutz in Israel but still complete, the aircraft was recovered by aviation collector Robs Lamplough and bought back to the UK where it was given the reserved serial number G-BIXP. This was never taken up.
The restoration back to flying began in early 1980 at an unknown destination in Bristol. In August 1984 ownership passed to Charles Church with further restoration being undertaken by Charles Church (Spitfires) Ltd at Winchester from 9th April 1985 till 1992. Now registered as G-CCIX the restoration continued till the airframe was sold to Kermit Weeks of Tamiami, FL, Florida. The aircraft remained there from 1992 till 2002 when it was returned to the UK and to Booke-Wycombe Air Park. Currently the Spitfire is now with The Spitfire Company (BH) Ltd for a full restoration to flight.
Robin J Brooks. PR-Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar.
Images copyright Peter Arnold Collection
We’ll post updates on this and other 2021 restoration projects as they progress.