MUKILTEO — From ice caps in Greenland to the Statue of Liberty to Paine Field, a British World War II plane is making its way across the world.
The Silver Spitfire began its journey in England on Aug. 5. Over the next three months, the single-seat fighter will make stops in 24 countries including Russia, Japan, India, Pakistan, Greece, Italy, Germany and France. Before the first-of-its-kind journey continues, the plane made famous for its role in fighting the Nazis is getting routine maintenance at Paine Field.
“The Spitfire is particularly important to the British,” pilot Matt Jones said. “It stood for a nation and a people who were prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed in and that was democracy. It’s always played a huge part in the U.K. populace’s mind, so to have any part in flying one is a great honor.”
The plane, built in 1943, landed at Paine Field on Monday and will be on display at the Historic Flight Foundation until Thursday when it heads through Canada to Alaska.
“It’s a great thing for Heritage Aviation to have something like that stop in and give you a chance to use your facility for someone else’s benefit,” museum founder John Sessions said.
Sessions has a Spitfire of his own. Now, out of the about 40 operational models in the world, two are at the foundation.
Sessions met with the Silver Spitfire’s team in England during the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, when the Royal Air Force defended the United Kingdom against large-scale aerial attacks by the German air force, the Luftwaffe.
Spitfire owners from across the world were invited to take part in a flyover and Sessions had his plane shipped overseas for the ceremony.
“He always said if you’re ever coming this way, stop in and see the collection,” Jones said. “Sure enough, we picked up the phone and said, ‘Actually, is there anyway we could come to a friendly hangar where you’ve got a Spitfire so you know about them and do one of the services?’”
Sessions’ plane is the same model as the Silver Spitfire. During the war, his was one of many flown by a group of Czechoslovakian pilots who fled their country and joined the British Royal Air Force.
At the Battle of Brittain event in 2015, Sessions flew alongside instructor pilots from the Royal Air Force. He said they were a bit dubious about flying alongside an American civilian.
“By the third show, we were all buds,” he said.
So far, the Silver Spitfire has traveled nearly 7,500 miles.
“There have been some amazing moments and some frightening moments too,” said Jones, co-founder of the English Boultbee Flight Academy. “The combination of the two makes the amazing ones even more special.”
Flying across Greenland’s ice caps, he said, was especially tricky.
“You can’t see anything,” Jones said. “You’ve got no depth perception. You have no sense of how high you are. It could be 10,000 feet below you, it could be 1,000 feet below you. That in itself is quite frightening. But, to get to the other side of that and see these azure blue lakes that form on the last part of the ice cap was just a phenomenal sight and the feeling of euphoria that we made it.”
The four-month flight will cover 27,000 miles. Jones said he expects to meet former Spitfire pilots along the way.
“The whole thing is about commemoration,” he said. “So if we can commemorate the people throughout the world who flew them and inspire a few people along the way, ourselves included, that’s why we’re doing it.”