Roger Cook, Pynelea Photo Bureau, reports from Duxford on the IWM's latest restoration
On 10 November the Imperial War Museum at Duxford rolled out its latest restoration project, Spitfire Mk F24 VN485. This follows a year of intensive restoration and conservation by a team of 25 Museum conservators and volunteers.
The Mk 24 was the final version of the Spitfire and only 80 were built. The first Mk24 Spitfires were accepted by the Royal Air Force in April 1946 and proved popular with pilots since the aircraft was reliable and stable, but still sensitive to the controls, resulting in a highly manoeuvrable fighter. It could outperform every jet aircraft at the time of its introduction in 1946, yet it never saw frontline service with the RAF; the jets were at the beginning of their development, the Spitfire was at the end. The Mk24 was powered by a 2,050 hp Rolls-Royce Griffon V12 engine and had a maximum speed of 454 mph with a service ceiling of 43,500 feet.
VN485 was one of the last ever Spitfires built by Supermarine, rolling off the production line in 1947. In September 1947 it was delivered to 9 MU, Cosford by Flight Lt Tarkowski and taken on charge that day. Although the Second World War was over, tension was escalating in the Far East and in June 1949, VN485 was one of a number despatched to RNAS Renfrew for shipment to Seletar in the Far East and stored. In September 1950, it was shipped to Hong Kong, arriving at the end of October and readied for service. In September 1951, it was issued to 80 Squadron at Kai Tak before being transferred to the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force in May 1952.
In April 1955, VN485 flew its last official sortie, a formation flypast with three other Spitfires for the Queen's birthday flypast. At the end of July 1955, the aircraft was placed into storage at Kai Tak with a total flying time of just 242 hours. In September, VN485 was officially struck off charge and, a year later, was issued to RAF Kai Tak as a museum piece and placed on display. The aircraft was generously gifted to the Imperial War Museum by the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force in 1989. The aircraft will now take its place in Duxford's AirSpace, due to open in 2006.
Present at the roll-out was Flt Lt Adrian Rowe-Evans, who last flew VN485 in the Queen's Birthday Flypast in April 1955.
With thanks to Tracey Woods of the Imperial War Museum.