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Spitfire 5518 Restoration Project join forces with Performance Centre

For all those Aviation Enthusiasts that frequented airshows in the 1990’s will fondly remember seeing the SAAF Museum’s Spitfire Mk-IX gracing the sky, she sadly crashed at an air show at Zwartkop in 2000 and was consigned to a container until recently. A group of volunteers from the Friends of the SAAF Museum, Pretoria Branch have taken on the massive task of returning this beauty to where she belongs.

SAAF Museum’s Spitfire Mk-IX

The Spitfire in question, 5518, arrived in South Africa in 1947 and was based in the Cape and later moved to Waterkloof Air Force Base before she was decommissioned 1954. She was then mounted as a gate guard at Waterkloof for twenty three years where the weather took its toll on the “Old Girl”. In the early 1990’s the South African Air Force Museum, with Col Tony Smit at helm, motivated the restoration of an iconic Spitfire to flying condition to serve as the star attraction at Air Force Air Shows to promote the Air Force and aviation amongst the youth. 5518 was the chosen one and after four years of hard work she took to the skies as "The Spirit of Reutech" sporting a new number 5553.

Spitfire 5518 as a gate guard

Ian Grace and Col Tony Smit approached the Museum Council with a presentation laying out a plan to restore this amazing aircraft to flying condition. Finally, after persistent lobbying the Pretoria Branch of the Friends of the South African Air Force Museum were given the “go-ahead” to manage the project on behalf of the South African Air Force Museum.

As we all know that restoring a “War Bird” is not simple at all, sourcing parts for an aircraft that was last built in the early 50’s in a mammoth task and when they are finally located the financial implications are immense. As a result, progress has been slow but this may change in the future with a joint venture between Performance Centre and the Spitfire Restoration Project.

Performance Centre acquired ten licenses to convert standard 5.0 L Mustangs into RTR Spec 5 wide bodies, each one of these will be limited edition Spitfire replicas supercharged vehicles. The first of which was unveiled at a function at AFB Swartkops on the 28 November. The first Mustang of the series,5518 or DBH, pays homage to Capt. Bob Rogers, who later went on to become Chief of the SAAF.

Robert Harry Doherty “Bob” Rogers was born on 7 November 1921 in Warden in the Orange Free State. He matriculated from Maritzburg College in 1938, upon which he enrolled as a medical student at the University of the Witwatersrand until mid-1940, before joining the South African Air Force as a volunteer for active service in World War II, first qualifying as an air gunner. When he volunteered to train as a pilot, he went to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) for training. By October 1941, Rogers was assigned to 208 Squadron (RAF) in Egypt, where he flew Hurricanes and Spitfires in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Austria. He was shot down near Benghazi in 1942 but managed to escape capture. In August 1942, despite having a finger shot off, he fought off four Luftwaffe ME 109s. By December 1943, he had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and placed in command of 225 Squadron, RAF. For his services he was awarded a DSO and DFC and Bar. Even his father, who was a captain in the army, had to salute him, much to the delight of both men. Towards the end of World War II, Rogers was put in charge of his old squadron, 40 Squadron.

This project will eventually raise R750 000.00 towards the rebuild of 5518, the restoration project will receive R75 000.00 for each Mustang that is sold. The remaining vehicles will each have a custom number badge and be named after one of the Aircraft flown by a famous South African airman in World War II. The buyer will have the honour of choosing the Warrior that their car will pay homage too.

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