Nearly 62 years after the last of them took to the skies in India, a Spitfire aircraft of World War II vintage entered Indian airspace on Saturday and landed in Kolkata. The Supermarine Spitfire, considered one of the best fighter aircraft ever built till the jet age, were ordered by several countries where they had seen service during the War. But it holds special significance for Kolkata, where, during the War, these aircraft of the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) would take off and land on Red Road.
“The vintage aircraft’s visit to Kolkata is part of the Silver Spitfire expedition started by two pilots from England in August. Their aim is to cover 27,000 miles with a stopover at 100 locations across nearly 29 countries. During this trip, Steve Brook and Matt Jones plan to weave a pattern through countries in which Spitfires flew during the War. It took Brook and Jones nearly two and a half years to restore the aircraft. In its flight from Mandalay to Kolkata, the aircraft was piloted by Jones,” said a source associated with the expedition.
A support aircraft is following the Spitfire with a film crew that is making a documentary on the tour. When the aircraft landed in Kolkata, it had to wait on the taxiway for a while due to an overheated engine. But the pilots had anticipated this since the Spitfire has a range of only 300km. While the trip has raised great enthusiasm on social media, officials at Kolkata airport were happy to see such an aircraft up close. An ATC official said he had heard of Spitfires from his grandfather.
According to Air Vice Marshal (now Air Marshal) Vikram Singh’s book ‘Spitfires in the Sun’, nearly 100 Spitfires were left behind in India after Independence. The Indian Air Force bought over a 100 more and flew them till 1957. The ace fighter pilot recorded details of all the Spitfires that served in the IAF. In the eastern theatre, Spitfires operated from bases like Barrackpore, Alipore, Amarda Road, Baigachi, Double Moorings, Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong.
Source: Times of India