Work on Spitfire restoration hangar/workshop underway

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The dedicated and voluntary efforts going into restoration of the SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum’s crashed Spitfire reached a significant milestone when work started on a purpose-built workshop and restoration hangar at Air Force Base (AFB) Swartkop.

It’s now eight years since the Spitfire Restoration Project (SRP) was registered as a non-profit and public benefit organisation. Its sole aim is to bring back to display status Spitfire S/N5518 after the World War II single-engined fighter crashed during an air show in 2000.

In 2018 the SRP reported its “most pressing need” was a new restoration hangar and workshop. At the same time those involved said the planning phase was complete adding restoration could start once the hangar/workshop facility was complete and sufficient donor funding available.

Making the essential hangar/workshop reality is a step closer with erection work underway as of late February.

“This will remain a memorable day in the restoration of the SAAF Museum’s Spitfire 5518. The structure is being erected in phases, as funding becomes available. This first phase includes erection of a steel structure and a significant part of the roof covering and will be completed by end March,” according to an SRP communique.

The SRP steering committee acknowledged the tireless effort, work, dedication and commitment of retired colonel Tony and Shirlee Smit in overseeing the project.

“Smit was the second Officer Commanding of the SAAF Museum and responsible for returning a large number of museum aircraft to flying status. He and his wife were leaders in initiating the Spitfire project. The entire aviation community is grateful and indebted to them both, for their commitment to preserving our aviation heritage,” the committee said.

Spitfire 5518 arrived in South Africa in 1947 and served in the Cape and at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof before decommissioned. The iconic fighter then served as a gate guard at Waterkloof before the SAAF Museum motivated its restoration to flying condition to serve as the star attraction at SAAF air shows to promote the air force and aviation among youth. 5518 took to the skies in 1994 as 5553 “The Spirit of Reutech”.

The SRP needs donations of bricks and roofing to complete the hangar. People wishing to become involved or contribute should contact Ian Grace: cell: 082 452 5291 or email: [email protected].