A Spitfire whose restoration was shown on TV took to the skies to return to Greece in May, watched by a special VIP.
A historic plane that starred in the Channel 4 TV series ‘Inside the Spitfire Factory’ departed Biggin Hill for a new life in Greece at the end of May.
Spitfire LFIX MJ755 was restored to flying over a period of three years by the Spitfire Company (Biggin Hill) Ltd on behalf of the Icarus Foundation in Pireaus.
Originally rolled out of Castle Bromwich in December 1943, the plane was allocated to the Middle East Air Force and No 43 (China/British) Squadron in August 1944. It flew from bases in the South of France and Italy before finally ending up at Klagenfurt, Austria, and the end of the war saw MJ755 taken on charge by the Greek Air Force.
It served with No 335 Squadron, and in 1949 was sent to the Reserve Pilots Training Centre. An overhaul in 1950 at the State Aircraft Factory saw two fuselage cameras fitted for reconnaissance purposes until MJ755 went into storage after its last flight on 8 December 1953.
It was later displayed at Tatoi Air Base before going on show at the Hellenic War Museum in Athens, which was created in 1992.
Then a decision was made to get the aircraft restored to flying condition, so on 23 March 2018 MJ755 arrived at the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar and into the hands of the expert engineers. The result was one of the most authentic and original restorations ever carried out. As the restoration progressed it was made public for all to see in the six-part TV series, and in 2020 it took to the air once more, in the skilful hands of pilot Pete Kynsey.
The aircraft remained in the hangar until Tuesday 25 May 2021, when – again flown by Pete Kynsey – it commenced the long haul back to Greece via the South of France
And a very special veteran was present to see the journey begin. George Dunn, DFC, now 97, was a Halifax bomber pilot during the war and took part in the Peenemünde raids in Germany. At the end of the war he was tasked with flying ex RAF Spitfires to Greece, and it was to everyone’s amazement that on one of Biggin Hill’s Veterans’ Days his logbook revealed he had actually flown MJ755 on test flights during 1946, after which he helped deliver several Spitfires to Greece.
Now a regular visitor to the hangar, George was on the apron to wish Pete Kynsey good luck and wave him off, all the time wishing it was him flying it to its new home.
It is hoped that the Spitfire will grace the skies of Greece for many years to come to remind the people of that country that they and the iconic plane played an important part
in bringing peace to Europe.
Inside The Spitfire Factory can still be seen on the Channel 4 iPlayer: channel4.com/programmes/inside-the-spitfire-factory