The Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar arranged a special reunion at their facility near London England this week between the world-renowned Spitfire historian, Peter Arnold, and the company’s two-seat Supermarine Spitfire Tr.9 TE308 – an aircraft he had first taken flight in some fifty years ago.
When it comes to the history of the world’s surviving Supermarine Spitfires, it is doubtful that anyone can surpass Peter Arnold for his knowledge and expertise. Indeed Mr. Arnold has traveled the globe in search of lost examples of Britain’s most famous fighter plane and has served as an invaluable resource to numerous restoration teams over the past half century regarding the provenance of the airframes in their workshops. He has also rescued a number of examples from the brink of oblivion, including several virtually extinct variants such as the Spitfire Mk.XII (EN224) and Seafire F.XVII (SX300 & SX336). Needless to say, Peter Arnold has many friends in the vintage aviation community, so it should not come as a surprise that ‘Mr.Spitfire’, as he is known by many, might receive a special, Spitfire-related treat following his recent 80th birthday… a flight in TE308.
Describing this event, the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar noted:
“Peter Arnold has been to most countries in the world researching and recovering Spitfires, many of which have gone on to be restored to airworthy condition. When Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar learnt that Mr Arnold had recently reached 80 years old and that he had first flown in Spitfire TE308 some 50 years ago they extended a warm invitation.
The Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar offers passenger flights in rare-two-seat Spitfires, and to that end had, by amazing coincidence, acquired from the USA the very Spitfire that Peter Arnold had flown in over half a century ago. They were delighted to reunite the same man with the same Spitfire after all these years.”
TE308 flew Peter Arnold over the countryside in Kent, a landscape which saw considerable aerial clashes between the Royal Air Force and Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, and then along England’s south coast with its famous chalk cliffs. To capture the magic in the skies, well-regarded aerial photographer Richard Paver flew alongside Mr Arnold in a GippsAero GA8 Airvan, photographing the Spitfire from the air during its flight.
Remarking for this article about his recent adventures with TE308, Peter Arnold noted: “This flight came as a surprise with only a casual first mention last Friday. It was great to re-acquaint with an old friend that I flew a number of times with both Don Plumb and Bill Greenwood. Noted were several safety modifications to reduce risks with the numerous non aviation passengers, namely removal of the grip on the undercarriage selector, deleting the magneto switches, deleting the hood winding mechanism, deleting the brake lever and the fitting of more positive foot location platforms clear of the controls. It was a privilege to once again fly this sensitive thoroughbred and I am deeply grateful to the BHHH team for making it possible.”
About the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar: Founded by Peter Monk, the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar presently houses the largest concentration of Spitfires in the world. In addition to restoring Spitfires, they also maintain and provide Spitfire flights for passengers through their sister company FlyaSpitfire.com.
Many thanks to Richard Paver and the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar for the images in this article, and to Peter Arnold for describing his experiences.