SAAF Spitfire Project Hangar Full Roof Wetting - 2023-07-01

By Russell Dixon Paver

Pilots Post reported on the first celebration of the hangar progress in March 2022, which had only the hangar framework erected with the labour and materials for part of the roof pledged, but yet to be erected. There have been significant developments in the last year and a bit and now the full roof is on the hangar structure, so it was fitting to celebrate progress in preparation for a suitable hangar for the project.

Some views of the hangar and various main items relating to the project.

Views of the hangar structure facing North from outside and facing South from inside.

The new project banner created by Gecko Signs, who also assist with project printing, reflecting the historically correct identity of the aircraft and some of the project information boards. The original painting of the DB-H Spitfire by Rynier Keet was used for the banner. The poster also shows the project website address for regular updates on progress and who to contact for donations and participation:

The completed canopy, and seat sub-assembly ready for restoration attention. The seat sub-assembly is shortly to be sent to an AMO in Cape Town for refurbishment. As each sub-assembly is completed and signed off, it will be placed in a “quarantine” space, awaiting assembly into larger assemblies.

Some of the items generously donated to the project: The Knobel family donated this so-called “baby Spitfire” which will be restored for display and educational purposes, also kindly donated - a partially completed ¾ scale Spitfire replica, which is planned for the basis of a Spitfire simulator, and some of the paintings donated by artists to use for various fund-raising activities for the project. Some work on the simulator digital instrument panel are already far advanced due to the energy and enthusiasm of younger members of the Friends.

The fuselage section of the remains of the Spitfire that forms the basis of the restoration project. This is often used for project awareness at various events in these early stages.

Young people (very persuasive sales-people!) getting involved in sales of project memorabilia for project fundraising.
The Officer Commanding of the SAAF Museum, Lt Col Gaelejwe, had arranged for the Base Fire Section to ensure that this was a real roofwetting of note, before they had to take up their normal station.

Base Fire Section providing a spectacular roof-wetting!

To open formal proceedings, Phil Scallan (Chairman of the National Executive Council of the Friends of the SAAF Museum), introduced Ian Grace, who is the energy behind this Spitfire Restoration project. Ian first called for a moments silence to remember four aviators associated with the project who had passed away since our last project event: Maj Gen (ret) Des Barker, Col (ret) Rama Iyer, Col (ret) Glen Warden and Col (ret) Butch Bester. Families and friends were present at the event. Phil then described the beginnings of the project briefly and the various major donor's roles.
Further formalities included provision of background, project progress and expected further actions and expressions of appreciation to donors and those giving of their time and energy to the project.
Ian related some anecdotes of what had typically happened around fund raising:
Felix Gosher of Children's and Elder's Flight fame created a group, having heard from Tony Smit that funds were necessary to complete the roof, and the necessary funding was raised in record time from this group.
Donors, especially in South Africa, want to know that their donations are used for the intended purpose. One day, a gent arrived and after discussing what was necessary with Ian, made a substantial donation and then called a friend of his and challenged him to equal his donation.
Many artists have made donations including Darryl Legg, Don Bell and Rynier Keet (ex OC of 5 Squadron)

Gordon Dyne, avid aviation enthusiast, generous donor to the project and himself a former Spitfire Pilot bought the original painting by Rynier Keet on the auction, used in the banner. He recounted how he had grown up near the Castle Bromwhich factory, where this Spitfire and many others were built. As a youngster, his Dad took him to see the film Reach for the Sky, and the rest, as they say, is history! Gordon asked how long it would be before he could fly the Spitfire…
Phil explained that they had done substantial research on the history of the Spitfire airframe and decided to use the 2 Squadron DB-H livery, and this was as flown by General Bob Rogers, a former Chief of the SAAF. This colour scheme was also used for the first customized high performance Mustang car by Lazarus Performance Centre, which also raised a generous donation to the project. There are still a further nine Mustang cars that can be customized to raise project funding. Colin Lazarus was thanked for this generous donation and participation in the project.
Ian also thanked Mr Dawid Laas, who has donated all the materials for the walls of the hangar.

Robert Cathro, previous Chairman of the Pretoria branch of the Friends of the SAAF Museum, and our specialist aeronautical engineer, providing his expertise to the project, briefly explains the next steps around the drawings and certification processes required.

Ian Grace in reflective pose during his expression of appreciation to the many donors, participants and interested parties.

Col (ret) Tony Smit, who was the second Officer Commanding of the SAAF Museum, and was involved in the original restoration of this Spitfire, also piloting it himself at that time, and his wife Shirlee speaking about various aspects of the project. Tony is still flying at 87 years old and has some 26000 flying hours on around 240 aircraft types.

Karen Heydenrych, our project PRO, gave an update on the website and social media aspects of project communication.

Event attendees were invited to pose for a group photograph to mark the occasion.
Various people had their pictures taken with the Spitfire fuselage section.

Professional photographer at work, with parents as subjects! Author and aviation artist Jonathan Laverick from Bostwana with his family, who have also made donations to the project. Another author, Rosalie Fox, also donated copies of her book to the project.

Bryan and Jenny Bailey, long-standing members of the Friends of the SAAF Museum, having their picture taken. Bryan is also a past Chairman of the FSAAFM and has been active in many restoration projects.

Phil Scallan enjoys a moment with Tony and Shirlee Smit.

Veteran to present - Tony Smit was the second Officer Commanding of the SAAF Museum and Lt Col Gaelejwe is the current Officer Commanding SAAF Museum, as of the first of April 2023.

To round off the formal proceedings, a toast to the success of the Spitfire Restoration project was proposed by Ian Grace. The rather old banner photograph behind Ian was taken by myself when she was still flying in 1999 on slide film! The crash happened in 2000, when I was not able to be present.
Pilots Post was again honoured to be invited to be part of the celebration of another important milestone in this project. We look forward to many more milestones on the return to flight!

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