by John Parker
Hunter Fighter Collection Incorporated, a registered not-for-profit charity based at Scone, NSW, Australia has commenced its most ambitious project yet – the restoration to airworthy status of Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I X4009, a veteran of the Battle of Britain, and personal mount to Australia’s third most prolific WWII fighter ace, Flight Lieutenant Paterson (Pat) Clarence Hughes, DFC. Given that pedigree, X4009 will become one of the most significant Spitfire identities resurrected thus far when she flies again in a few year’s time.
Emerging as construction number 945/6 S-74889 from Supermarine’s Eastleigh factory on the south coast of England, X4009 made her first flight on July 24th, 1940. Following X4009’s acceptance, the Royal Air Force initially sent her to No.37 Maintenance Unit at RAF Burtonwood, near Warrington, Cheshire on July 28th, before issuing the fighter to an operational unit, No.234 Squadron in St.Eval, Cornwall, on August 18th.
From the time of its first arrival until that last, fateful flight roughly three weeks later, Pat Hughes was X4009’s sole pilot; he scored 10 of his estimated 17 victories in this Spitfire during 21 operational sorties. During the evening of September 7th, 1940, the aircraft crashed near Sevenoaks, Kent after an engagement with an enemy Dornier Do17 southeast of London. While Flt Lt Hughes was able to exit his stricken fighter, sadly his parachute did not deploy, ending the brief, but consequential life of an Australian hero.
Sometime during the 1970s, an excavation team recovered what remained of X4009, with Ross and Ann-Maree Pay acquiring these parts in more recent years. The Pays, in turn, generously donated X4009’s wreck to the Hunter Fighter Collection, and these parts will now form the basis for the aircraft’s resurrection as a flying memorial to Paterson Clarence Hughes, DFC.
The fighter’s rebuild recently commenced at Airframe Assemblies on the Isle of White in Britain, with the Australian Government providing an AU$150,000 ‘Saluting Their Service Commemorative Grant’ to cover these initial expenses. Following the completion of work at Airframe Assemblies, Vintage Fighter Restorations (VFR) will complete the remainder of the Spitfire’s restoration to airworthy condition in Australia at their facility in Scone, New South Wales.
VFR, a division of Pays Air Service, has an enviable international reputation for the rebuild, restoration and operation of vintage military aircraft, and Supermarine Spitfires in particular. The company has recently completed the restorations of two Spitfire Mk.IX’s, MH603 and MH415, with both fighters now flying. Another Mk IX is well under way, while two Mk.Vs have also begun their rebuilds with VFR.
Once completed, Spitfire X4009 will reside with the Hunter Fighter Collection in Scone. The restored aircraft will participate in displays and commemorations across Australia, but when at home, the Spitfire will serve as an exhibit at Hunter Warbirds Aviation Centre in Scone NSW. It is expected the aircraft will be viewed by thousands of visitors every year, as well as many more who see her flying at displays across Australia.
Vintage Fighter Restorations will oversea the operation and maintenance of the aircraft once it is flying again. Since the Spitfire belongs to the Hunter Fighter Collection, a not-for-profit charity, it will remain in Australia and not be sold, ensuring that the nation’s public will always have access to it.
To help bring this project to fruition, Hunter Fighter Collection Incorporated is now seeking donations to help fund X4009’s rebuild to flying condition, a goal which, given VFR’s past performance, has a realizable five year timespan. Contributions to the Hunter Fighter Collection are tax deductible in Australia, and can be made securely online via the link HERE, or through direct email contact with the organization via email@example.com to discuss donation options.