PR Spitfire flies at Duxford




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John Romain brings Spitfire XI PL983 in to land at Duxford after the first flight on 18 May. Note the outsize serial number, painted on with reference to a picture taken at Eastleigh in January 1948. COL POPE

Supermarine Spitfire PRXI PL983 flew again from Duxford during the evening of 18 May with John Romain at the controls following a long-term rebuild with Historic Flying Ltd. After landing, Romain reported that PL983 is very fast, has light handling and a high stalling speed.

The machine is fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin 70, the correct mark of engine for the XI — the powerplant having been rebuilt by Retro Track and Air in Gloucestershire — and has a newly constructed, unarmoured PRXI-style windscreen, the frame of which was built using an original PRXI windscreen for reference. The leading-edge fuel and wing tanks fitted to the PRXI have not been installed, the machine just having the standard 85-gallon tank in the fuselage as on the MkIX. The deep chin cowling particular to the PRXI has not been refitted.

Reference for the markings came from a photograph of PL983 taken at Eastleigh shortly before it was presented on loan to the US civil air attaché to the UK, Livingstone Satterthwaite, in January 1948. The machine was originally delivered to No 1 Pilots’ Pool at the RAF photo-reconnaissance HQ at Benson in November 1944, and was transferred to No 34 Wing, Second Tactical Air Force in January 1945. While operating with No 4 Squadron in April 1945 from Mill in the Netherlands, PL983 sustained battle damage, and following repairs went on to serve in occupied Germany that September.

“After landing from the first flight, John Romain reported that PL983 is very fast, has light handling and a high stalling speed ”

After use with the US Embassy Flight, PL983 was donated to the Shuttleworth Collection and ferried to Old Warden in 1950. Having spent many years sitting outside, a rebuild to fly was started in 1975, but financial difficulties saw the aircraft sold during April 1983 to French former fighter pilot Roland Fraissinet. It was acquired by Doug Arnold and moved to Biggin Hill in 1987, before being bought in early 2000 by Justin Fleming and operated thereafter by Rolls-Royce and Bentley motor engineer Martin Sargeant. Tragically, Martin was killed in PL983 during an airshow at Rouen on 4 June 2001. The remains were subsequently acquired by Propshop Ltd at Duxford and it was re-registered as G-PRXI during February 2003.

The project was progressed at Duxford on an ‘as and when’ basis, when manpower was available. A new fuselage was built by Airframe Assemblies on the Isle of Wight, incorporating as many parts as was practicable from the remains of the original. The wings and tail were built by Historic Flying.

It is hoped that PL983 will return to Old Warden for a Shuttleworth show at some time in the future, but in the meantime it was due to have made its display debut in the static park at the RAF Cosford Air Show on 10 June, exhibited with a selection of wartime PR cameras.