On Battle of Britain Day, 15 September, the Goodwoodbased Boultbee Flight Academy announced its plans for the first ever circumnavigation of the globe by a Supermarine Spitfire. The flight is expected to take around four months, during which the machine will fly about 27,000 miles.
The project, which is being sponsored by the Swiss watch company IWC, is the brainchild of Steve Boultbee-Brooks and Matt Jones, the founders of the academy. The Spitfire is MJ271/G-IRTY, a MkIX which is undergoing a ground-up rebuild with Historic Flying at Duxford. The former 2nd Tactical Air Force machine will be finished in a highly polished silver scheme for the flight, and is due to depart westwards during the summer of 2019, the first part of the tour encompassing Canada and the USA. The route will then continue via south-east Asia to India, before turning towards the Middle East and flying back to Europe. The expedition will involve in excess of 150 stops in more than 30 countries. It will see MJ271 visiting locations never before visited by R. J. Mitchell’s masterpiece, and some territories, including parts of the Far East and North Africa, where it has been not been seen since the end of the war.
Matt Jones, MD and chief pilot at the Boultbee Flight Academy says, “The decision to fly the silver Spitfire around the world was an instinctive one to honour the [aircraft’s] history, the people who built it, maintained and flew it through more than 50 missions, and we want to commemorate those who lost their lives in the pursuit of freedom.” Accompanying pilots Matt Jones and Steve Boultbee- Brooks in a Pilatus PC-12 chase-plane will be project director Lachlan Monro and chief engineer Gerry Jones.
The PC-12 will be specially adapted for filming a documentary of the flight, the director of photography being famed photographer John Dibbs, who was aerial director on the recent Spitfire documentary film.
MJ271 was built at Castle Bromwich and delivered to No 33 Maintenance Unit at RAF Lyneham on 24 October 1943.
After joining No 118 Squadron at Detling, Kent on 18 February 1944 it flew a total of 16 sorties, before moving to another Detling resident, No 132 Squadron, on 26 March. This unit was part of No 125 Wing within the 2nd TAF, MJ271 flying 20 further sorties, including several as escort to B-25 Mitchells and B-26 Marauders. By the end of the war, the machine had completed at least 51 missions.
In November 1946 MJ271 was transferred to the Royal Netherlands Air Force, being retired from service at Soesterberg during September 1953. The aircraft was acquired by the Aviodome museum at Schiphol in 1976, and following restoration by a team led by Harry van der Meer went on show in March 1982. It was acquired by Historic Flying in 2006 and moved to Duxford.