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Author Topic: Spitfire MK9-TE308 History (N308WK)  (Read 6577 times)
Bluedharma
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« on: April 03, 2009, 07:38:03 PM »


EARLY LIFE AFTER THE WAR

This aircraft was built on April 19th, 1944 as a single seat "low back" Mk IXe at the Castle Bromwich
Aircraft Factory in Castle Bromwich, United Kingdom (U.K.) and delivered to #39 MU (Maintenance Unit) RAF (Royal Air Force)
Colerne on June 9th, 1945.  It is interesting to note that all Spitfires were built as single seat originally, including this one.  [10]
The TE308 finished out the end of the World War Two as a single seat model Mk IXe never seeing combat in RAF storage. [10, 12] 
It then stayed in storage for the next five years until January of 1950. It was then sent to #29 Maintenance Unit High Ercall Shropshire.
After being sent to #29 MU it was then sold to Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd as non-effective on July 19, 1950. [1]

THE CONVERSION TO TYPE 509 (TWO SEATS)


After the end of the World War Two on September 1945, there wasn't a demand for Spitfires. Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd
still had many trained employees and production facilities after the war. The world was moving to the Jet age and new avenues
were always being explored for the continued use of their aircraft.

As a result of looking for new uses, a program of converting a number of existing Spitfires into two cockpit armed trainer
versions for sale to foreign governments around the world.

Plans called for nine to be built for Holland, ten for India, and one for Egypt. There are rumors that TE308 was the aircraft
converted for Egypt, but the sale fell through. [13] This is difficult to prove as only a few pictures of the aircraft exist at this time, and none clearly show the Egyptian identification.

The conversion plans called for the front cockpit to be moved forward 13 1/2 inches. [10] Rear seat instruments were
fitted and the back seat was provided with a large bubble canopy. Only part of the wing guns were retained and fuel
space was added in the wings to replace one lower fuselage tank that was removed.  [1]

The student was to fly in the front cockpit while the instructor supervised in the rear one. In total, 20 Spitfires were
converted from the single seat to the two-seat trainer. [14]




LIFE IN THE IRISH AIR CORPS

Once the TE308 was converted to the Type 509 configuration at a Southampton factory, she was sent to the
Irish Air Corps (IAC) with five others on July 10, 1951 [1]. Delivered on July 30th, she was already painted the
standard "Irish" green, and took the number IAC 163. Flying a variety of missions, sometimes carrying bomb racks,
TE308 only suffered one forced landing during this time.  Retired in the fall of 1961, she continued to be flown by the
IAC for instructional use and ground running practice.  On March 4, 1968 she was decommissioned and sold to
collector Tony Samuelson and Spitfire Productions Ltd.. Tony purchased a total of five Spitfires and one Hurricane. [6]   
This, according to some, would make Tony owner of the worlds seventy-eighth largest air force. [6]

On April 4, 1968 the TE308 was officially registered as G-AWGB and flown from Ireland to the UK on May 8, 1968.
 





BATTLE OF BRITAIN MOVIE

Tony Samuelson owned four trainer aircraft purchased from the IAC, of which two were used for the Battle of Britain movie.
First completing an overhaul on May 27, 1968 she was delivered to the filming location in Debden. TE308 flew with the
camera located in the front cockpit. The forward looking "Spitfire" images in the movie were filmed by the TE308. The
other (trainer) Tr. 9, called MJ772 didn't fair as well after a belly landing brought about by an engine fire early on in filming.

As the filming continued, several different "codes" were applied to the side of the aircraft to vary the appearance.
Producers selected several codes that were never actually used during wartime service.

There were some worries that people would be offended by code letters on the side. By changing the letters, it
prevented the complaint that this or that squadron never took part in an event. Here is the known code letters applied during filming. [5]

AI-E 20 P Duxford   AI-E 0 S Duxford
CD-A S Cambridge    CD-D 20 P
CD-F S    CD-J P Debden
CD-K - P Cambridge    CD-K - S Cambridge
CD-O 20 P Duxford CD-O S    DO-H - S Bovingdon
DO-K - P Duxford    DO-L S Duxford
DO-L - P Debden    DO-S - P Duxford
EI-J S Duxford

When filming of the Battle of Britain was completed, the aircraft was stored at the Samuelson Film Services hangar
at Elstree around November 1968 and there it sat. Everyone would ask the current owner, "When are you going to
go solo in your Spitfire and Hurricane?"[6] After soloing once in MJ772, Tony Samuelson soon came to realize that
this hobby may soon end. With the 70's oil crisis and the stock market crash, he had to put his private ‘Air Force'
Spitfires, Hurricane and helicopter up for sale [6]. For over a year the Spitfires remained up for sale, posted in for
sale section of Flight magazine. [6]   Finally, in April of 1970, Tony Samuelson sold his four Tr.9 Spitfires to Sir William J D Roberts.

THE TRIP TO THE AMERICAS

Still carrying the British Civil code G-AWGB, the TE308 was stored briefly with the "Strathallan Collection" in the
aircraft museum in Scotland.
On July 16th, 1970 Sir William sold the aircraft to a Canadian businessman, Donald J. Plumb (Don). It was officially
shipped on September 11th, 1970 and arrived in Toronto, Ontario on October 9th, 1970. [8]

Don Plumb had the aircraft refurbished and registered as CF-RAF. At the time, it was Canada's only licensed and
flying Spitfire. [8] Both he and a gentleman named Jerry Billings (a retired Royal Canadian Air Force squadron leader
who flew Spitfires during World War Two) [8] flew in the aircraft. The two often flew together with Jerry in the back
seat and Don in the front. 
 





THE SINGLE SEAT

Two seat trainers were considered ugly by many at the time. There was something visually odd with the seat being 13 ½ inches
forward. Because of this, Don Plumb decided to change the appearance of the aircraft from 2 seats to 1. Many offered advice and
pleaded not to make any changes. [11] They claimed that any new look to the aircraft would still not appear as a classic. The front
cockpit was just too far forward. Don considered this in 1972 and attempted to visualize how the aircraft would look by placing his
thumb over the rear cockpit in every photo he had. After some consideration, Don decided to retain the rear cockpit area and just
panel over the rear area with a piece of metal. [2] Once covered over, the aircraft was given the livery of RA-F and from
then on flew as TE308. The registration was changed to C-FRAF, and that was carried until Don Plumb was killed in
his P51-D in 1975. The aircraft was then sold by Don Plumb's widow to Thomas Watson Jr. in October of 1976 [7].
The aircraft was ferried by Jerry Billing to its new home in Maine. The trip to Maine was not without its own adventures,
as Jerry Billing landed her at night in a snowstorm with no lights or cockpit lighting. The tower had given him clearance
to land, but he was already down. [3]

Mr. Watson received the aircraft in Maine and re-registered it as N92477.  It was maintained at the Owl's Head
Transportation Museum until the late part of 1979 being flown only occasionally. [3]

BACK TO TWO SEATS AND CURRENT DAY (2007)
On October 7th, 1979 the aircraft was purchased by Woodson K. Woods of Scottsdale, AZ. Once again, Jerry Billing
ferried the aircraft from Maine to Arizona [3]. Woodson Woods took the aircraft and restored it to the original two-seat
configuration. It was then painted as WK-C livery and shown at the Carefree Aviation Museum near Phoenix, AZ.

In 1983, the aircraft was purchased by Bill Greenwood of Aspen, Colorado. Jerry Billing provided a demonstration flight
to Bill in Carefree Arizona around the time of purchase.  [15] There were a few things missing when Bill bought it. One
was the rollover support behind the rear seat. That was remade around 1998 at QG Aviation of Ft. Collins and fashioned
to be just like the original. [4] The back canopy was already there, but a few back seat items needed to be fixed up. [15]

Painted RJ-M after the Spitfire designer R.J. Mitchell [9], Bill Greenwood regularly flies in the Colorado area. Bill is one of
the few pilots around with a significant number of hours (over 1,000) flying a Spitfire and can be seen at many air shows / events.
Because of Bill and others, we too can enjoy the sound of a Spitfire powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine flying by.


-Paul Gordon

The information in this article is true and complete to the best of my knowledge.
Your comments are welcome.
 

 



[1] Sons of Damien: http://www.sonsofdamien.co.uk/TE308.htm

[2] Bill Greenwood (current owner) http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=13322&view=next&sid=9a2afbdbeeef4b5971d09c4e6dc826b0

[3] Bob Swaddling (email correspondence)

[4] Bill Greenwood conversation at Boulder, Colorado airport (current owner)

[5] Battle of Britain http://www.strijdbewijs.nl/film/bob/pag4.htm

[6] The Life and Times of Anthony Samuelson http://www.samuelson.co.uk/blog/?p=70#more-70

[7] Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums: Peter R. Arnold http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?t=19771

[8] Jerry Billing and Spitfires: http://www.jerrybilling.com/jerry_billing_and_spitfire_te308.htm

[9] Neil Medcalf http://pacificcoast.net/~zoman/te308.html

[10] Bill Greenwood (current owner) http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=120592&highlight=#120592

[11] Peter R. Arnold http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=125480#125480

[12] Colour profiles of the Irish Air Corps http://www.wicklowsmc.com/iac-air-profiles/iac_spit_tr9_profiles.htm

[13] Peter R. Arnold http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=138797#138797

[14] Warbird Depot:  http://www.warbirddepot.com/aircraft_fighters_spitfire-greenwood.asp

[15] Bill Greenwood (current owner) phone interview Oct 29, 2007

Photos by David Greenwood (1, 2, 3)  , Jim Harley (1) and Paul Gordon (Bluedharma)

Flickr TE308 Group (for more images)

Special thanks to David Greenwood, Jim Harley, John Little, and Bill Greenwood for their help with this article.
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
« Last Edit: April 03, 2009, 09:24:54 PM by Bluedharma » Logged
Antoni
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« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2009, 08:53:21 PM »

Too wide, cannot read it.
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Bluedharma
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Posts: 2



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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2009, 09:26:51 PM »

Too wide, cannot read it.
I apologize. I have adjusted the width. I hope it has better results.

I wasn't even sure if this would be the place to post this. If it is not, please let me know and
I will ask for it to be placed in a new area.

Best Regards,
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Spits
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« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2009, 05:31:58 AM »

Hope it gets fixed and air under it,s wings soon .Nice pics and good write up. Grin
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