Two British aviation enthusiasts, Matt Jones and Steve Brooks, took off in a polished silver Spitfire Mark IX from southern England, headed north-west on The Longest Flight, and will return to Blighty by Christmas having pushed the aircraft to new limits.
The duo are scheduled for a landing at Mojave Air and Spaceport around noon on Saturday.
When they touch back down, they will have made more than 150 stops in over 30 countries, soaring over many airspaces the Spitfire has never before entered, and flying over territories, such as the Far East and North Africa, where it hasn’t been seen since the war ended.
Named Silver Spitfire – The Longest Flight, the concept is the brainchild of not only Jones and Brooks but a small and dedicated team of enthusiasts, among them Lachlan Monro, the project director, and Gerry Jones, the group’s chief engineer – both of whom will be following the aircraft around the world in a small PC-12 support plane. When we meet in a hangar on the site of the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, the four of them are as excited as schoolboys.
Assuming a few tricky permissions are granted, the intended route will see Jones and Brooks fly the Silver Spitfire first in the direction of Iceland, then over Greenland, into Canada and the USA, before crossing the Bering Straits, over Japan, China, and Burma, into the Middle East, North Africa and finally Europe, from where it will head home.
If you happen to catch it in the skies during the trip, you will see a Spitfire like no other. Avoiding the militaristic connotations of its traditional camouflage, the livery will be bare: just sleek, polished silver, with a small Union flag on the side and the logo of IWC, the Swiss watch manufacturer that is helping to sponsor the trip. There is backing from the top, too. The government’s GREAT campaign has come aboard to support the group’s mission to tell the story of a British engineering icon to people around the world in the 21st century.