A 1943 Supermarine Spitfire touched down to refuel in Williams Lake. B.C. Thursday afternoon, much to the delight of local aviation and history enthusiasts.
The stopover was part of a trip around the world aimed at showcasing the Second World War aircraft.
“We’ve flown 10,000 miles so far,” said Ian Smith, one of three pilots on the crew.
Nodding toward the Spitfire, Smith said she’s special.
“She’s got her own identity – we’ve named her G-IRTY. She’s a 1943 combat veteran and flew 51 missions in World War Two. But as you can see, we’ve demilitarized her and turned her into her basic form so you can see her beauty. She’s now an olive branch rather than a war machine.”
They departed from the U.K. a month ago.
Three pilots, two engineers and a cinematographer.
After Williams Lake, they were flying to Fort St. John and stopping for the night.
Before its stop in the lakecity, the crew also visited the Kelowna Airport.
Smith said the plan is to travel through Alaska, which he anticipated will take three or four days, and then across the Bering Strait to Russia.
Once they are in Russia, there will be challenges facing them because there are fewer airfields there than they are used to, he said.
“But we are a strong team and we will work together to make sure everything goes OK.”
One of the ideas behind the adventure is to share the Spitfire with people who may have never seen one in person, and so far, they’ve successfully grabbed interest everywhere they stop and have garnered a huge following through social media.
“People are excited about what we are doing,” Smith said.
Jack and Jones, a clothing company in England, has donated the use of its PC-12, which Smith called the ‘mother ship.’
When asked if the Jones referred to him, pilot Matt Jones chuckled, and said, “I wish.”
Smith said the program along the way has ‘ebbed and flowed’ because of the weather, which is why the schedule has had to be adjusted as they go along.
“We were due to stop in Seattle, Wash. because the plane needed service after 50 hours of flying, which we did. It is such an adventure on a massive scale, sometimes beyond comprehension – at least for my old brain,” Smith said, smiling. “We take it a day at a time.”
Spitfires were used by the British Royal Air Force and many other allied countries before, during and after the Second World War.
Pilot Steve Brooks said they experienced a renewed interest after the 1969 film Battle of Britain hit theatres.
“People were inspired and started refurbishing them,” Brooks said. “Originally 21,500 were made. This was one was built in Castle Bromwich.”
While has many years of flying planes to his credit, Brook has only flown Spitfires for a year.
“I love it,” he said. “It is a beautiful thing.”
One of the many local fans admiring the plane was Geoff Moore, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association travel media specialist.
As he walked around taking photographs, Moore could not stop smiling.
“My dad was a bush pilot and I flew Cessnas for 25 years,” Moore told Smith.
Stopping to dip his finger in some engine fuel that had dripped from the Spitfire onto the tarmac Moore gasped.
“I’ve been born again,” he said.
After staying at the airport for about 90 minutes, the Spitfire did a flyover, circling back two times before heading north.
To follow the Silver Spitfire’s journey go to www.silverspitfire.com.
Thank you Williams Lake for your hospitality. Next stop Fort St John for the night . pic.twitter.com/iZoomz4oCa
— Silver Spitfire (@LongestFlight) September 5, 2019