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11 years in the making: Pilot builds replica Spitfire at home

Steve Markham, a pilot who lives in Hampshire, has built a replica of a Photo Reconnaissance Spitfire that was once based at RAF Odiham. 

Steve Markham Spitfire

To raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund, Steve hosted a party at his home near RAF Odiham on 20th July, 2019. With over 190 guests in attendance, Steve raised an impressive £2,700 for the RAF Benevolent Fund. 

The event, which guests were encouraged to donate £15 entry to, featured wartime-themed food, drink and music, an auction, and tickets fashioned to look like ration books. 

Sqn Ldr Rhos Edwards, representing the RAF Odiham Chief of Staff, gave a talk about the Chinooks at Odiham. Also in attendance was Air Commodore (ret.) Andy Verdon and Wng Cdr (ret.) Neil Mitchel, both neighbours and close friends of Steve. 

Steve Markham Spitfire

Steve was originally inspired to start the project after seeing the film Reach for the Sky about Douglas Bader when he was 8 years old. Bader flew Spitfires in the Second World War despite having two artificial legs, and Steve instantly fell in love with the Spitfire.

It has taken 11,450 man hours over an 11 year period to build the Spitfire to completion in 2017. The first flight of the Odiham Spitfire PL793 took place a year later in August 2018 at Enstone Airfield, near Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. The flight lasted just seven minutes and showed that the engine was overheating. Steve has spent the last year correcting that problem, with further test flights taking place in May and June of this year.

Steve Markham commented: "Building the Spitfire has been a labour of love. I’ve joked that if I had been in charge of building Spitfires, we would have lost the Second World War twice over - it has taken me so long!"

"The next steps will be to conduct an extensive flight test programme so that the aircraft can obtain its Permit to Fly. The most recent test flight in June showed a level speed of 185 knots (213mph) with just two thirds throttle, and a 2500 feet per minute climb rate. The aircraft has been built with wet wings, just like the original Photo Reconnaissance Spitfires, which will give it range to go from Odiham to Rome non-stop."

Steve has been an aircraft owner since 1972 and has maintained wooden vintage aircraft under the LAA scheme. However, this was the first time he has built an aircraft from scratch or worked on a metal aircraft. 

Steve plans to continue supporting the RAF Benevolent Fund in any way he can using the Odiham Spitfire. Without the RAF's success in the 40's he would not have had the education, career and freedom to fly that he has enjoyed. There is a big debt to repay.

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