A piece of World War II history made its way to Bowling Green on Thursday, when a restored Spitfire plane landed at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport.
The stop was part of a team’s flight with the aircraft around the world, which they call “Silver Spitfire – The Longest Flight.”
“(It) is an attempt to do the first global circumnavigation in a Spitfire airplane,” project manager Lachlan Monro said. “It’s a Mark 9 and it’s a 1943 build. We’ve completely restored it over the last two years, and we wanted to showcase to the whole of the world one of the great British icons.”
During WWII, the Royal Air Force and other allied countries used the single-seat fighter aircraft as a short-range, high-performance interceptor, the website silverspitfire.com said.
Fire spews out of the exhaust when the engine is started, hence the name “Spitfire.”
The group’s plane, Spitfire MJ271, was manufactured by Vickers Supermarine Ltd. in 1943 and flew in 51 combat missions.
It was purchased from a museum in Holland and transformed into “Silver” Spitfire by engineers from the Aircraft Restoration Co. based in Duxford, England.
“We wanted to do something super special with it because it’s one of the last really, genuinely original spitfires,” Monro said.
The guns were removed from the plane, and it was encased in polished aluminum with a black-and-white insignia of the aircraft and the name of the mission.
“And of course, the Spitfire means so much to so many people, not just in the (United Kingdom),” Monro said. “We thought, ‘Well actually, why don’t we, for the first time, reunite it with many countries that haven’t seen it since it played such an important part in the war?’ ”
On Aug. 5, the plane departed from the U.K., the first of 28 countries on the route crossing all seven continents.
Since then, the plane has touched down in Faro Isle, Iceland; Greenland and Canada before landing in the United States.
Next, the aircraft will fly to Russia, Japan and beyond. The flight plan includes 87 planned stops.
Chief pilot Matt Jones and support pilot Steve Brooks take turns flying, and the rest of the group follow in a support aircraft.
The expedition is made possible by sponsorships from 11 companies. People can follow the estimated four-month journey via a flight tracker at silverspitfire.com.
“Hoards of people come to see us pretty much wherever we go,” Monro said. “It’s such a symbol of freedom, and it was always an underdog as an aircraft, so it was a defender, rather than an aggressor, and I think people really tend to relate to that.”