Wellington, Dec 3 NZPA – A group of aviation enthusiasts, the New Zealand Warbirds Association, will be missing one of its warbirds on Sunday when it stages an open day at Ardmore aerodrome to mark the 48th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US Navy fleet at Pearl Harbour.
Former aerobatic champion Doug Brooker crashed his Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX — one of only five two-seater versions of the Spitfire left flying — on the runway there at 11.50am today.
The plane’s propeller, undercarriage and fuel lines were damaged when Mr Brooker “bounced” it on coming into landing, collapsing the undercarriage as the plane skidded 50m on its belly along the asphalt to stop, nose-down, on its crumpled propeller.
Senior Sergeant Peter Raynes said Mr Brooker was shaken but injured.
It was the pilot’s second crash landing in the plane — reported to be valued at between $3m and $4m — so far this year.
During a test run for Wings Over Wairarapa at Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome in January, the plane’s undercarriage was said to have “malfunctioned” and the propeller blades snapped as it belly-landed at the end of the runway.
Mr Brooker also walked away unscathed from that landing.
He said when he bought the plane from Florida last year: “I used to read Biggles and I always wanted a Spitfire … It’s the ultimate big boy’s toy”.
A semi-retired computer company developer who was an aerobatics champion in 2006, Mr Brooker was less talkative today: “I don’t feel like talking right now,” he told journalists.
Built in 1943, the fighter was used as both a fighter aircraft and as an escort for Lancaster bomber raids into Europe, but it was written off in 1948 after suffering damage … in a landing accident.
Later rescued from a scrapyard and rebuilt for a Briton living in Florida, Peter Godfrey, it has since been worked on in New Zealand by Avspecs, an Auckland company that specialises in warbird restorations.
At one point, it was impounded by US Customs — apparently because they still considered it to be a deadly military machine.
At the time, Mr Brooker declined to reveal how much he paid for the Spitfire, which comes complete with replica wing-mounted machine guns, except to say the price was “very reasonable”.
He had it painted in desert colours and the markings of the aircraft flown by Colin Gray, who became New Zealand’s highest scoring fighter pilot of World War 2 after shooting down 27 planes.
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