Iconic WW2 ‘Silver Spitfire’ braves India's troubled air for a lavish dinner with Maharajah
The ‘Spitfire’ pilots recall their adventures in India.
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Delhi’s toxic smog isn’t only affecting those in India but it also played spoilsport to a remarkable around-the-world record flight attempt by an iconic restored WW2 Spitfire.
The British aircraft, which was painstakingly restored by IWC Schaffhausen and Boultbee Flight Academy over a period of two years, hit a major snag as it crossed into India. Due to poor visibility and poor air quality across most of northern India, the aircraft was grounded in Kolkata and the pilots had to restructure their flight plan.
“The poor visibility ultimately forced us to change our plans completely and instead of travelling to Delhi we headed to Nagpur instead,” the pilots said in a travel log.
“This flight (Kolkata to Nagpur) was a long and challenging one, but en route one of us (lead pilot Matt Jones) marked an incredible achievement: his 500th hour in a Spitfire.” The crew marked the special milestone with a customised patch on Jones’ overalls.
Dinner with a Maharaj
However, the Spitfire’s journey through India wasn't all bad.
“In Nagpur, we were greeted with open arms by our hosts from the Indian Air Force. We were so grateful for their kind hospitality, especially as we had to stay an extra day after a few other issues. When everything was finally sorted, we returned to the cockpit to make the flight to Jodhpur,” recounted the pilots.
“Once there we enjoyed a fascinating layover, visiting a local aviation exhibition, which even included our own expedition, and receiving an invitation from the Maharaja (Gaj Singh Ji) to visit the Palace. On our departure, we also had a brilliant opportunity to film above the city’s spectacular Mehrangarh Fort, which was a real highlight of our time in India.”
Up in the Poor Air
While everything turned out well in the end, poor visibility had dogged most of this chapter for the ‘Spitfire’. Poor visibility in Bangladesh earlier forced the pilots to bypass Chittagong to make a stop in Kolkata.
“We opened this portion of the expedition in beautiful Myanmar, flying from Yangon to Mandalay,” the pilots had said. “From there we were due to stop in Chittagong in Bangladesh, but we soon realised the visibility would be too poor, so instead we took in the extraordinary scenery from high above. It felt amazing to eventually reach Kolkata in India, even though more smog kept us grounded for a day.”
Fans can follow along the Spitfire’s adventures below: