Labour of love to restore the spirit of Spitfire MK 805
IT was an aircraft that helped turn the tide against the German war machine, flying 38 high-risk sorties.
And, after a labour of love lasting 28 years, the spirit of Spitfire MK 805 is being revived in north Suffolk.
For the last four decades, Terry Arlow has been building a non-flying replica of the iconic RAF fighter which played a key wartime role in 1944 – carrying out low-level bombing missions, fighter sweeps, shipping scouting missions and provided escort for the ill-fated glider landings at Arnhem.
The mark IX Spitfire crashed in Belgium in September 27, 1944, after it was hit by flak after a bomber escort mission to Germany. But to celebrate the completion of the replica, the pilot of the original aircaft, Tony Cooper, was on hand to inspect it this week in a building near Lowestoft.
As a flight lieutenant in 64 Squadron, Mr Cooper, from Lowestoft, flew the Spitfire on all 38 of its operational sorties, and named the aircraft 'Peter John III' in honour of his baby son.
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When Mr Cooper settled in the replica cockpit on Monday, it was the ultimate test for its builder.
But much to Mr Arlow's joy, the 95-year-old RAF veteran said he could not tell the difference between the one he flew in the war and the one which has been built over the last 28 years.
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This praise was also vindication of a childhood dream of Mr Arlow, a 54-year-old driver from the Oulton Broad area, who built the plane from scratch – despite having no engineering or aircraft-making skills.
Mr Arlow fell in love with Spitfires when he saw the 1969 film The Battle of Britain.
The first stage of re-creating one of the world's most iconic plans saw him spending eight years obtaining the original schematics of Mark IX Spitfires.
In 1990 he started building the replica, with the first stage being the fuselage.
Using original Spitfire parts, the main bulk of the work was finished in 2009 after thousands of hours of dedication by Mr Arlow – helped by his wife, Jemma, and his sons Sam and Stephen.
Mr Arlow said: 'I am really pleased with how it has all ended up.
'I knew it would take some time to build it – but did not know it would be 28 years. Spitfires were such wonderful planes and it is a privilege to have Tony here. He seems pleased with it.'
Mr Arlow has set up a company, Simply Spitfire, which will hire out the replica fighter for second world war TV programmes, war films, promotional work and special occasions.
It will also go on display at air shows.
After crashing, the original MK 805 was repaired and sent to the Italian theatre of war, but was never called into action. It is now on display at the Italian Air Force Museum near Rome.
After clambering into the cockpit and inspecting the replica, Mr Cooper said: 'It is absolutely tremendous. It looks just like the real thing.
'Spitfires were such a wonderful plane to fly.
'They were so easy to fly, and very fast and manoeuvrable, although they were a bit cramped.
'It's wonderful to think Terry spent 28 years of his life building such a perfect replica. Hopefully it will mean Spitfire and the brave RAF men who flew in them will be continued to be remembered for many years to come.'
Anyone who wants to hire out the MK 805 can contact Simply Spitfire by calling 01502 589990 or 07979416894, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org