Over the past 7 years Aero Legends has gone from strength to strength, which is reflected in the impressive volume and quality of flying experiences we have delivered and continue to offer. This success is largely down to our fantastic customers, pilots, staff and volunteers all of whom contribute in their own way to our ability to preserve such an iconic collection of historic aircraft.
March 2017 witnessed the maiden flight of Spitfire NH341 ‘Elizabeth’ marking the end of a three year, multi-million pound restoration by The Aircraft Restoration Company, Duxford. Most importantly, we preserved an important piece of our history and provided the platform within which the brave pilots who flew these aircraft in the pursuit of our freedom can be commemorated. The maiden flight event was shared with hundreds of customers who had followed the restoration and had pre booked to fly her.
Now 4 years after our proudest achievement, we are delighted to announce that Spitfire MJ444 will be joining the Aero Legends stable. Spitfire MJ444 is a Mk IX Spitfire built at Castle Bromwich in 1943. She served in 403 Sqn RCAF, 443 Sqn RCAF and 411 Sqn RCAF like her sister aircraft, NH341 ‘Elizabeth’.
Spitfire MJ444 served with 411 Sqn RCAF from 21st September 1944 before transferring 403 Sqn RCAF. During her time with 403 Sqn she was flown by Flying Officer Mac Reeves and extensively by Flying Officer Stephen Butte DFC under the leadership of Wing Commander ‘Johnnie’ Johnson. F/O Stephen Butte is shown photographed at North Weald, in 1944 and upon his return in 2002 in one of the revetments now used for Aero Legends flying experiences.
MJ444 was then transferred to 443 Sqn on the 14th December 1944 while both Squadrons were based at B.56 Evere (Belgium). She was flown by both Pilot Officer Gomm and Flt Lt E H Fairfield who successfully bailed out of the aircraft on the 13th January 1945 after being hit by flak near St Vith.
Spitfire MJ444 will be restored to a two-seat dual control trainer configuration over 26 months. Following an assessment of our options, we’re delighted to once again be working with the market leaders in warbird (specifically Spitfire) restoration, The Aircraft Restoration Company who will oversee the restoration to flight and the following test flight programme. They have not only restored the finest Two-Seat Spitfire flying, NH341 ‘Elizabeth’, but are responsible for the restoration of the Silver Spitfire which recently circumnavigated the earth and own, restored and operate the ‘NHS’ Spitfire.
Airframe Assemblies will be rebuilding a range of key components for the restoration and will be instrumental in Spitfire MJ444’s return to flight. Our in house engineering division, Vintage Aero will be providing their assistance to rebuild a number of key components.
You will be able to keep up to date on the restoration of MJ444 via a restoration video series on the Aero Legends website and Facebook page. For those that want a greater level of “Spitfire fix” we’ll soon be launching a range of experiences to enable you to witness first hand all the great milestones through the course of the restoration and to fly in the aircraft following her completion in May 2023.