We’ve been pretty skeptical, and still are. Back last April, when we wrote about this project, we thought that whether they “are in good order of not is the big question.” It’s not answered yet. But the latest news from Burma is more encouraging than disappointing:
A team searching for scores of lost Spitfire planes that were packed in crates and buried in Burma during the last days of World War II believes it may have hit paydirt.
David Cundall, whose 17-year quest to unearth the long-lost planes has cost him his life savings, told a news conference today that searchers have found a crate buried in muck in the northern Kachin state capital Myitkyina. Images transmitted by a camera lowered into the wet ground were inconclusive, but Cundall called the discovery “very encouraging.”
“We’ve gone into a box, but we have hit this water problem. It’s murky water and we can’t really see very far,” Cundall told reporters in Rangoon, Burma’s main city. “It will take some time to pump the water out… but I do expect all aircraft to be in very good condition.”
Read The Whole Thing™ if only for the tale of the nonagenarian RAF veteran who’s assisting the Anglo-Burmese exploration team. And read our last story (in the link in the first graf) for the significance of the Spit as a weapon. It was one of two successful fighters that were built against a British Air Ministry specification that called for an then-unheard-of eight (instead of two, the standard since WWI) rifle-caliber machine guns. An aerial armament arms race was on! (Later marks had fewer but heavier guns, as enemy designers armored their planes against the Spit’s .303 Brownings).
It would be wonderful if more Spitfire airframes were recovered. Personally, we take a somewhat dimmer view of the prospects of something made principally of untreated aluminum, with significant components of magnesium and steel, doing terribly well under water for 65 years or so.
But we’re also mindful of two things:
- Other aircraft have been recovered from deep in lakes in Norway and Russia and been restoried to airworthiness. It all depends on the conditions “down there.” This is one reason there are more World War II aircraft flying every year. Another is:
- A rare and desirable aircraft like a Spitfire is well worth restoring. Airworthy examples sell for millions of dollars, and some restorations begin with little but a data plate, crash debris, and a series of period drawings.
So overall, we are resistant to getting our hopes up; but we’d really like to see the doughty Mr Cudnall’s efforts crowned with success.