Reunited: WWII pilot and Spitfire that he once flew
PUBLISHED: 18:02 05 May 2010 | UPDATED: 15:39 16 August 2010
A WORLD War Two fighter pilot has signed part of a Spitfire he first flew more than 65 years ago after a million-to-one chance reunion. A series of coincidences led to fighter ace Wing Commander Peter Ayerst, 89, signing a panel from the plane, which
A WORLD War Two fighter pilot has signed part of a Spitfire he first flew more than 65 years ago after a "million-to-one chance" reunion.
A series of coincidences led to fighter ace Wing Commander Peter Ayerst, 89, signing a panel from the plane, which is about to be restored to its full aerial glory in Canada.
Wing Cdr Ayerst, from Limes Road, Beckenham, met the Spitfire's new owner, aviation enthusiast Marcel Deschamps, at a ceremony at St George's RAF Chapel, in Biggin Hill, last Friday.
The octogenarian, considered one of the war's top pilots, said: "It was delightful to meet the plane's owner, after he had gone to such trouble to send the panels over from Canada.
"I flew my first Spitfire in 1940, and this one in 1945. The Spitfire was an extremely good aeroplane. Once it was in the air, the Spitfire was the best plane in the sky."
The connection between the Mark IX Spitfire, number 5L542, and Wing Cdr Ayerst was made after Captain Peter Adams, a friend of the wing commander, noticed that the plane had been bought and was being restored in Canada.
When Capt Adams told Peter Ayerst's partner, Val Leggett, of the plane, she recognised the serial number and, after checking a log book, saw that Wing Cdr Ayerst had flown the plane in a test flight from Castle Bromwich.
Capt Adams said: "This event marks the completion of a circle that has taken over a year, and is a million-to-one chance, after I first saw an article in a magazine about the Spitfire in Canada.
"Shortly afterwards, I was in Canada and was taken to meet Mr Deschamps and see the Spitfire. It was a great thrill."
Mr Deschamps, who owns a Quebec-based transport company called Spitfire, bought the Spitfire last year for £350,000 and plans to spend more than £1million returning it to a flying state. He said: "The most amazing thing is that most of these pilots died during the war and this guy is still alive, 65 years later."
Spitfire display pilot Air Marshal Cliff Spink flew over Biggin Hill Airport last Friday as Wing Cdr Ayerst met Mr Deschamps for the first time.
Only about 50 Spitfires remain in flying condition.