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Suffolk man builds replica Spitfire

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 February 2011 | UPDATED: 15:38 28 February 2011

Terry Arlow with his Spitfire aircraft. He has spent 28 years building the iconic fighter plane.

Terry Arlow with his Spitfire aircraft. He has spent 28 years building the iconic fighter plane.

Archant © 2011

It was the plane that helped turn the tide against the German war machine as it took part in 38 high risk sorties.

Spitfire pilot Tony Cooper in the replica.

And after a labour of love the spirit of Spitfire MK 805 has now been brought back to life in Suffolk.

For 28 years Terry Arlow, from the Lowestoft area, has been working to create a non-flying replica of the iconic RAF fighter.

During 1944 MK 805 carried out low level bombing missions, fighter sweeps, shipping scouting missions and provided escort for the ill fated glider landings at Arnhem.

The mark IX Spitfire crashed in Belgium in September 27, 1944 after it was hit by flak after a bomber escort mission to Germany.

Spitfire pilot Tony Cooper with his plane.

To celebrate the completion of the replica the pilot of the original Spitfire Tony Cooper, who flew it on all 38 operational sorties, inspected the plane at a building outside Lowestoft.

As a flight lieutenant Mr Cooper flew the plane in 64 squadron and named the Spitfire Peter John III after his baby son.

As Mr Cooper, 95, from Lowestoft, sat in the replica cockpit it provided the ultimate test for its builder.

And much to Mr Arlow’s joy the RAF veteran said he could not tell the difference between the one he flew in the war and the one which has been built over the last 28 years.

The praise was also vindication of a childhood dream of Mr Arlow, who built the plane from scratch – despite having no engineering or plane making skills.

Mr Arlow, a 54-year-old driver from the Oulton Broad area, has been in love with Spitfires ever since he saw the 1969 film The Battle of Britain.

The first stage of re-creating one of the world’s most iconic plans saw him spending eight years obtaining the original schematics of mark IX Spitfires.

Then in 1990 Mr Arlow started building the replica - with the first stage being the fuselage.

Using original Spitfire parts, the main bulk of the work was finished in 2009 after thousands of hours of dedication by Mr Arlow.

His wife Jemma and sons Sam and Stephen helped build the eye-catching replica.

Mr Arlow said: “I am really pleased with how it has all ended up. I knew it would take some time to build it – but did not know it would be 28 years.

“Spitfires were such wonderful planes and it is a privilege to have Tony here. He seems pleased with it.”

Mr Arlow has set up a company Simply Spitfire which will hire out the plane for second world war television programmes, war films, promotional work and special occasions.

It will also go on display at air shows.

After crashing the original MK 805 was repaired and sent to the Italian theatre of war, but was never called into action again. It is now on display at the Italian Air Force Museum near Rome.

After clambering into the cockpit and inspecting the replica Mr Cooper said: “It is absolutely tremendous. It looks just like the real thing.

“Spitfires were such a wonderful plane to fly. They were so easy to fly and very fast and manoeuvrable – although they were a bit cramped.

“It is wonderful to think Terry spent 28 years of his life building such a perfect replica.

“Hopefully it will mean Spitfire and the brave RAF men who flew in them will be continued to be remembered for many years to come.”

Anyone who wants to hire out the MK 805 can contact Simply Spitfire by calling 01502 589990 or 07979416894 or emailing arlows78@aol.com

anthony.carroll@archant.co.uk

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