Warbird News and Restoration Projects

A Warbird is a term that defines an ex-military aircraft which is now operated by civilian organisations or individuals. These classic aircraft are often the result of extensive restoration projects, taking vintage planes and making them exhibition or even flight worthy. The focus of these projects is to preserve these machines and protect their historical legacy.

On this page, you’ll find all the latest news about Warbirds including updates on restoration projects, exhibitions , aviation museums and events where you can see them in action and much more.

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Spitfire missions of Rhodesian-manned 266 Squadron

From a special Key Publishing magazine on the Spitfire, Andrew Thomas outlines the exploits of the Rhodesian-manned 266 Squadron

Historic Aviation Quiz: The Spitfire Mk.I

With August 4, 2023 marking the 85th anniversary of the Spitfire Mk.I entering Royal Air Force service, we dedicate this week’s quiz to a type that combined elegance, speed, lethality and maneuverability and opened the chapter for what is regarded one of – if not – the most iconic aircraft in aviation history…

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RAF Spitfire warpaint – Camouflaging a classic

The RAF’s Supermarine Spitfires wore a wide variety of camouflage schemes which illustrate how single-seat fighter camouflage evolved considerably between 1938 and the immediate post-war period. Paul E Eden examined the subject in the March 2013 issue of Aviation News.

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Spitfire Mk.III ­– The forgotten fighter

In the January 2012 issue of Aviation News, Barry Wheeler described the Spitfire Mk.III, which played a brief but significant part in the progressive development of Britain’s greatest fighter.

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Spitfire versatility: three pilots’ diverse combat experiences

Through the experiences of a trio of pilots, Air Cdre Graham Pitchfork highlighted the versatility of an amazing fighter in the February 2013 issue of FlyPast

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Warbird pilot Brian Smith's Spitfire love affair

The world’s most illustrious airworthy Spitfire, the Old Flying Machine Company’s MkIX MH434, is 80 this year. To mark the occasion, one of its pilots reflects on his privileged association with this outstanding warbird — and the Hanna family

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American Spitfires – a lesser-known story

In the September 2012 issue of Aviation News Jonathan Garraway and Andrew Thomas assessed the often overlooked use of the Spitfire by the US military during World War Two.

D-Day veteran Spitfire airborne in UK after 22-year absence

ML417 flies again from Duxford with revised appearance

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How Rolls-Royce bought a Spitfire for £250

When Rolls-Royce decided it wanted a Spitfire, the company ended up with a wartime veteran that once escorted Churchill’s aircraft —and which gave excellent service for more than four decades

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Aeroplane meets... Meier Motors

The team behind the German warbird restoration shop with a host of outstanding, and rare, projects to its credit

Preserving Warbirds for future generations

The use of warbirds ranges from racing and restorations to exhibiting at airshows where enthusiasts will be treated to close up contact with legendary aircraft like the Supermarine Spitfire, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and the Messerschmitt Bf 109.

The name Warbirds once referred to World War II era fighter aircraft like the North American P-51 Mustang, North American T-6 Texan and Hawker Sea Fury, but in recent years it has come to mean any former military aircraft type now flown by airforce heritage squadrons, civilian organisations and private owners. 

There are a lot of airshows that have static and flight displays by Warbirds and the United States has many of them. Enthusiasts, as well as airforce heritage squadrons and civilian organisations, fly their aircraft at these shows. A high-profile enthusiasts’ project, the Silver Spitfire, flew its original 1943 build Supermarine Spitfire in a shining silvery livery around the world with the help of sponsors. The Spitfire is a popular Warbird and other military aircraft favoured by restoration enthusiasts include the Mikoyan MiG-15 and Grumman F6F Hellcat, along with the Spitfire and Mustang.

The airshows in the USA include, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin; the Alliance Airshow in Fort Worth, Texas; Dayton Airshow in Dayton, Ohio; the History of Flight Airshow in New York state and the Indianapolis Airshow in Indiana. Outside of the USA, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom also have a number of Warbird shows. New Zealand has the Classic Fighters Omaka in Blenheim and the Warbirds over Wanaka in Wanaka. Australia has Warbirds Downunder in Temora, while the UK's Warbirds airshows include Flying Legends, which takes place at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, and the Bedfordshire, UK-based Shuttleworth Collection which has displays in the summer. France also has an annual show, La Ferté-Alais, which takes place 50 kilometres south of Paris.

Don’t miss our dedicated page on international airshow news & updates.

The future of Warbirds and Warbird projects

Future generations will be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of Warbirds from airforces’ days gone by as restoration projects increase in number and widen in aircraft type worldwide. Find here the latest information about projects from Australia to Italy, and aircraft types from the World War II Helldiver to the 1950s Thunderstreak.

Whether the airframe to be restored was found in the Pacific’s Solomon Islands or had been retired to a safe hangar, the challenge can be a full bottom up reconstruction or trying to find a missing engine. The committed individuals and companies that restore these Warbirds have a story to tell in the great lengths they will go to in the hope of seeing these aircraft fly again.

The stories can be as simple as replacing damaged skin fabric and lubricating mechanical systems back to a functional state, which was what was needed for an RAF Westland Lysander; but they can be as challenging as a decades long, slow search for parts and reconstruction; which was necessary for a Royal Australian Air Force Curtiss P-40N Kittyhawk which had crashed on Rattlesnake Island, just off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Often the key areas for these restorations are missing engines or control system parts, wing or tail repair, a need for new nose and main gear tyres and seats for the pilots and navigator.

Obstacles to be overcome to return a Warbird to flight have included fixing a troublesome elevator pushrod, replacing cockpit cowl rails, or stripping off a worn-out faded livery and replacing it with a fresh coat of paint. It is the commitment to the Warbirds and the stories behind their return to flight that are as engaging as the sight of seeing the beautiful machines soar among the clouds once more; and all those stories can be found here.

Other military aircraft categories

Looking for military aircraft news or updates from your favourite military aircraft airshows? Or information on other military fighter aircraft?

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