On June 16th, 2021 Supermarine Spitfire F.Mk.IX MH603 performed its first engine runs at Vintage Fighter Restorations (VFR) in Scone, New South Wales, Australia. Our good friend John Parker from WarbirdsOnline was on hand to capture this exciting restoration milestone, and we are grateful for his report below.
A large team of engineers, including Greg Johnson and John Keen, completed the myriad tasks necessary for fitting the Spitfire’s Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, which recently returned from overhaul in the USA. It was indeed a laborious process to refit the Merlin engine and connect up the various hydraulic, electrical and fuel systems, not to mention the instrumentation and make it all functional.
With the assistance of Alf Morgan, VFR’s expert ‘engine whisperer,’ the Merlin was deemed ready for its first run to confirm functionality. While they conducted a brief engine start on Friday June 11th to ensure that pressure levels were appropriate and the absence of leaks, Wednesday June 16th became the “go” day for the full engine test regime. Alf Morgan was in the cockpit for the first full running of the aircraft in over 70 years!
Once Alf had completed all of the pre-start system checks, the big moment arrived and he fired up the Merlin for two short runs before ‘giving it the beans’ for a more thorough evaluation. The powerful, 1650 cubic inch, liquid-cooled V-12 piston engine ran smoothly and ran through all of its initial tests without incident.
This marked a huge milestone for the VFR team and Ross Pay after years of work on the aircraft. While the team will still have to perform a series of engine runs on the ground to check and re-check the other systems on the aircraft, it was the last significant hurdle before the Spitfire can make her first post-restoration flight. At this stage, there is no definitive timing for this to take place, but with each passing day, the number of items awaiting completion grows smaller and smaller.
We will be on hand to witness and report back when MH603 becomes Australia’s 4th airworthy Spitfire! Our thanks go to Ross Pay and the team at Vintage Fighter Restorations and Pay’s Air Service for assisting with this news item.
Many thanks indeed to our friend John Parker at WarbirdsOnline for this article.