Aug 14, 2019

Two Brits want to go around the world on a World War II plane...

Two British aviators took off on Monday in the south of England to try to complete the first round of the world in a Spitfire, a British plane used in World War II.

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The plane was demilitarized for the adventure, stripped of its cannons and its painting, thus exposing the silvery and bright metal that covers it.

"We hope to show people all the beauty and aesthetics of the Spitfire, which is the most majestic device there is," said Steve Brooks, one of its pilots, to AFP.

The 76-year-old plane took off from Goodwood Airfield, near the south coast of England, for a four-month journey of 43,500 kilometers.

Brooks, 58, and Matt Jones, 45, partners in a school of pilots, will command the "Silver Spitfire" for nearly 30 countries.

Spitfire played a crucial role in the battle of England, when the United Kingdom fought the threat of an invasion of Nazi Germany.

For Brooks, the apparatus "represents the freedom of humanity".

With this trip around the world, Brooks and Jones want to pay tribute to those who designed, built and piloted Spitfire.

Of the 20,000 aircraft built, less than 250 remain, of which only about 50 are in condition to fly, the majority based in the United Kingdom.

Pyramids and the Grand Canyon

The plane will first fly to Scotland, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean through the Faroe Islands, Reykjavik, Greenland and remote areas of northern Canada.

The expedition, financed largely by a Swiss watch manufacturer, will have about 90 stages in North America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

The plane will fly over several of the world's emblematic sites: the Grand Canyon (United States), Mount Fuji (Japan) and the historic monuments of Egypt and Greece.

The plane will also pass through the Great Wall of China and land in the "pink city" of Jaipur, India.

"Seeing the Silver Spitfire above the Golden Gate, the Statue of Liberty or the Pyramids of Giza will be fantastic," Brooks says in advance.

A true soul

For Brooks, flying a Spitfire is a unique experience. "It is one of the most incredible sensations ... Once inside, we are part of it. It's like driving a collection car. It has a real soul".

The plane is powered by a powerful 27-litre Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 engine. "The engine noise reverberates all over the body," says Brooks, the first pilot to fly from one pole to another by helicopter.

But it's a real challenge: "It's a good, old-fashioned technology that requires instinctive piloting," he explains.

The plane should return to Goodwood on December 8. It was built in 1943 and participated in 51 combat missions, escorted bombers and bombed targets on the French coast. It was stored in a museum before being rehabilitated - its 80,000 pieces were dismantled, checked and repaired.

"It's a perfect piece of silver, which flies through the sky," Brooks says, referring to the bright color that remained after the removal of the military paint.

By Robin Millard/AFP