Thursday, 18 October 2012

60 Moth balled Griffon Engined Spitfires found

Buried Spitfires in Burma to be excavated: Sydney Morning Herald and London Telegraph:

Myanmar (Burma)'s government has signed an agreement with a British farmer to allow the excavation of dozens of rare Spitfires buried in the country at the end of World War II.
The historic hoard may hold as many as 60 of Britain's most famous fighter plane, the largest number of Spitfires left anywhere in the world.

Revered for their role in the Battle of Britain in 1940, there are only 35 Spitfires still flying around the world. It is thought that those buried in Burma could be worth £1.5 million ($2.3 million) each. 

The deal was made possible by the intervention of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who discussed bringing the planes home when he met the Burmese President, Thein Sein, in April.
David Cundall, a farmer and aviation enthusiast, struck the historical equivalent of a gold mine when he found the planes in February, almost 70 years after they were carefully greased and wrapped to preserve them, before being buried in crates.
"We estimate that there are at least 60 Spitfires buried and they are in good condition," said Htoo Htoo Zaw, Mr Cundall's Burmese business partner. "This will be the largest number of Spitfires in the world."
"We want to let people see these historic fighters, and the excavation of these planes will further strengthen relations between Burma and Britain."
Work on digging up the planes will start at the end of this month.
The find is considered even more valuable because the Spitfires are rare Mark XIV fighters, equipped not with the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin engine but the more powerful Griffon type.
Although more than 20,000 Spitfires were built in Britain during the World War II, only 2,042 later models were powered with Griffon engines and just a handful are still flying.
Mr Cundall, 62, spent 16 years and more than £130,000 of his own money scouring former RAF airfields in Burma for the planes, after receiving a tip-off that they were buried at the end of a runway in August 1945.
It is thought the aircraft were abandoned in Burma before they ever took to the air because they were no longer needed with so many Spitfires then flying and the war ending.
According to the Burmese press, Mr Cundall and Mr Zaw signed the deal to excavate the planes on Tuesday in Rangoon with Tin Naing Tun, Burma's director-general of civil aviation.
Burma's transport minister, Nyan Tun Aung, was cited as hailing the agreement as a milestone in Anglo-Burmese relations, and as recognition by the British government of Burma's recent pro-democracy reforms.
Mr Cameron made retrieving the planes a priority when he travelled to Rangoon in April to meet Mr Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi.
But the deal was delayed after a tussle between Mr Cundall and the British businessman Steve Boultbee Brooks over who had the right to extract the planes.
Most of the Spitfires are expected to be returned to Britain, with some remaining in Burma on display.
Telegraph, London

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