Spitfire Crash Mars 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain
Rare Spitfire flips on landing in Norway killing pilot
September 2, 2010 — A Mk XVIII Spitfire flipped on landing last month at Tynset Airfield in Norway, killing the pilot. Bertil Gerhardt was arriving in advance of a weekend air show when the accident occurred. Photos of the crash show the aircraft was mostly undamaged except for the nose, vertical tail, and cockpit windscreen.
The Spitfire is one of two owned by the Biltema Company (it also owns a P-51D), where Gerhardt worked as a pilot. Bertil had more than 30,000 hours flying time, beginning with a long career in the Swedish Air force flying frontline interceptors like the Saab J35 Drakken. He also flew gliders, the SK16, which is a Swedish version of the AT-6 Harvard, and Biltema’s P-51D.
The crash comes during a time of commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, in which the Spitfire played a pivotal role in the outcome in favor of the Allies. Britain, already reeling from the disaster at Dunkirk in the spring of 1940, fought a desperate air battle with Germany from July through September of that year. Germany had plans to invade England after the aerial onslaught in hopes that Britain would sue for peace. Germany first focused on airfields, then manufacturing, and finally civilian populations during the three-month battle.
Royal Air Force pilots were credited with turning back the attack and forcing Germany to abandon its invasion plans. Their efforts were canonized in a speech given by Winston Churchill on August 20, 1940, during the heat of battle when he uttered the phrase, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”