Dig for Burma Spitfires Begins Next Month
If successful, the Spitfires found in Burma could nearly double the current total of 37 flying examples remaining in the world. (EAA photo)
December 27, 2012 - The excavation for reclaim never-used Spitfires that were buried by British troops in Burma (Myanmar) nearly 70 years ago is expected to begin in less than three weeks, according to The Irrawaddy news service in Burma.
It's believed that as many as 36 Spitfires, still in the packing crates in which they were shipped in 1945, are at the site near the Rangoon International Airport. The first EAA report of the rare airplanes' existence last April became 2012's most popular individual news story on EAA.org, with more than 31,000 page views.
David Cundall, a British aviation enthusiast who first discovered the aircraft cache in 2004 but kept it secret for eight years, told The Irrawaddy that after archeologists review the digging site for a week in early January, excavation will begin on January 12. Cundall has received permission from Burmese authorities to exhume the never-flown aircraft and remove them from the country.
The excavation project is expected to take four to six weeks. The aircraft are believed to be in excellent shape even 68 years after British troops buried them to prevent other forces from using the airplanes, which they did not want to ship back home. The troops buried the Spitfires in tarred wooden boxes, on top of large teak timbers to assist drainage and under a wooden roof before covering the burial site.
According to Cundall, half of all aircraft exhumed will go to the Burmese government, while Cundall will receive 30 percent of the recovered aircraft and his Burmese agent 20 percent. Companies have already indicated interest in restoring the airplanes, which are estimated to be valued to as much as $2.4 million.
Cundall has also received permission to excavate Spitfires at two other sites in Burma. Those sites may contain the extremely rare Mark 8 Spitfires, of which only one airworthy example remains.