Spitfire 5518 restoration progresses with new canopy


The first step on what is going to be a long journey to make South African Air Force (SAAF) Spitfire S/N5518 display-worthy has seen the canopy of the iconic fighter restored.

The SAAF Museum Spitfire Restoration Project is going ahead with various parts of the rebuild as and when funds and sponsors allow. At the same time the crowdfunding project to build a new hangar/workshop at AFB Zwartkop to house the aircraft while restoration is underway continues.

Retired SAAF pilot and also a former SAAF Museum Officer Commanding, Tony Smit, is one of those at the helm of the project.

He reports there is there is now a canopy ready for the aircraft. This was done for the project by Anthony Macdonald, chief executive of Associated Chemical Enterprises; Charles Dresse, operations manager at Associated Chemical Enterprises and Oceanautics Acrylics technical director, Paul Bopapi. “They did an outstanding job and their support is much appreciated,” Smit said, adding next on the list for restoration is the aircraft’s windscreen.

“Anyone wanting to help should go to https://gogetfunding.com/help-to-restore-spitfire-sn-5518/,” he said.

The project aims to rebuild a Mark 1Xe Spitfire, serial number 5518, built in May 1945 and delivered to the SAAF two years later. It was retired from service in the first quarter of 1954 and preserved in non-flying condition as a “gate guard” on a plinth at AFB Waterkloof. After the only other Spitfire in South Africa – Evelyn – was exported 5518 was taken off its plinth, stripped down and re-evaluated. Parts were then either restored and re-used or remanufactured in a combined effort by the SAAF Museum, 1 Air Depot and what was then the Atlas Aircraft Corporation (now part of the Denel Group).

Restoration was completed in 1995. Five years later the Spitfire was declared “Category 5” after crashing into the southern boundary wall of AFB Zwartkop during a SAAF Museum airshow. Smit said the plan is to again return 5518 to original condition.

In addition to the crowdfunding project there is also a non-profit, public benefit organisation where donations and funding can go. This, project director Ian Grace said, allows for tax benefits or refunds.

Almost all the surviving components of 5518 are stored in three different locations at the SAAF Museum. This is because of space limitations and the initiative to build a specialist hangar/workshop will bring all the bits together, making work easier.