Spitfire PS915 (Mk PRXIX)
Built at Southampton in 1945, Spitfire PR Mk XIX PS915 entered service just too late to see service in World War Two, joining 541 Squadron at Benson in June 1945 before moving to the PR Development Unit to take part in tests of new cameras.
In April 1947 she was assigned to No 2 Squadron at Wunstorf in Germany, flying ‘Cold War’ strategic reconnaissance sorties in connection with the East/West divide of Europe and during the Berlin Airlift of 1948/49. She was returned to the UK in 1951 and, after a period in storage at Cosford, joined the Temperature and Humidity Monitoring (THUM) Flight at Woodvale in 1954.
In 1957, PS915 became a founder member of the Historic Aircraft Flight, the forerunner of the BBMF, being flown to Biggin Hill from Duxford on 11th July 1957 by Wing Commander (later Group Captain) Peter Thompson DFC. However, she was quickly retired to gate-guardian duties, serving in that capacity for nearly 30 years at West Malling, Leuchars and Brawdy. She re-joined the BBMF in 1987 after being refurbished to flying condition by British Aerospace (Warton Division) and modified to take an ex-Shackleton Griffon 58 engine with a specially-manufactured reduction gear driving a single propeller. (This is now the standard power plant configuration on the BBMF Mk XIX Spitfires).
The amazing performance of this ultimate mark of the Spitfire is demonstrated by the fact that the world altitude record for piston engine aircraft is still held today by a PR XIX. Flying out of Kai Tak, Hong Kong, in February 1952, Flight Lieutenant Ted Powles AFC climbed his Spitfire PR XIX to a recorded 51,550ft! These aircraft truly represents the ‘top end’ of piston-engine aircraft development and demonstrate the potential in Reginald Mitchell’s original, brilliant Spitfire design.
Spitfire PS915 is currently undergoing a full ‘major plus’ refurbishment with the Aircraft Restoration Company (ARCo) at Duxford asn is not due to re-join the BBMF until 2016. When it returns it will be wearing the colours of one of Ted Powles MkXIX Spitfires.