Military

Published on September 7th, 2015 | by Mark Dwyer

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Ex Irish Air Corps Spitfire Engine Failure in Kent

Pilot Rob Davies had a lucky escape following an engine failure of Spitfire MJ772 this morning near Woodchurch in Kent. The aircraft landed following a suspected engine failure shortly after 10am. The pilot was uninjured and speaking shortly after the incident said “I’m fine, it was a very simple engine failure, I walked away unscathed.”

The aircraft (D-FMKN) which served as ‘159’ from 1951 to 1963 received “substantial damage” on 3rd May 2012 when the landing gear malfunctioned and its pilot made a belly landing at the grass strip at Bremgarten close to the French/Swiss border North of Basel. The aircraft returned to the air at Bremgarten on 9th April 2013.

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A brief history of “159” from www.warhistoryonline.com

This Supermarine Spitfire, coded MJ772 was built at Castle Bromwich under Contract No. B981687/39 during 1943.

On the 20th December of that year the Spitfire was delivered to RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire and later, on 20th January 1944 MJ772 was assigned to No.341 Squadron (Alsace). 341 Squadron was based at that time at Perranporth in Cornwall. The squadron tactical code was ‘NL-R’. No.341 Squadron was formed on 15th January 1943 at RAF Turnhouse situated near Edinburgh, Scotland, with personnel from the Free French Air Forces (Forces aériennes françaises libres), in particular the personnel of the Free French Flight (also known as Groupe de Chasse n°1 « Alsace »).

The unit was equipped with Spitfire VB’s, the first commander being Squadron Leader René Mouchotte. The squadron moved to RAF Biggin Hill on 21 March 1943 and, re-equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire L.F Mk.IXs, began to take part in sweeps over France. The squadron then moved to Cornwall on 11 October 1943 for similar operations over Brittany,relocating to RAF Merston on 14 April 1944 to join No. 145 Wing. Interesting note, the famous ace Pierre Closterman had his first aerial combat flying as the wingman of Squadron Leader Mouchotte. While in Cornwall, MJ772 carried out about 50 operational sorties before being damaged as “Cat.Ac FB”.

After repair, the fighter was on the 22nd June 1944 assigned to Squadron No.340 (Ile de France), whose tactical code was “GW-A”. No.340 Squadron RAF (Free French) was formed at RAF Turnhouse in Scotland on 7th November 1941 as part of “Le Groupe de Chasse IV/2 Ile de France”. The squadron was first equipped with Spitfire Mk I fighters. Becoming operational on 29th November 1941 with the operational code ‘GW’, they flew fighter sweeps from April 1942 over northern France. The squadron was based at Redhill Aerodrome (Gatwick) and at RAF Biggin Hill. In spring 1943 Squadron No.340 joined the 145th Wing of the Second tactical Air Force (2 TAF) and flew fighter covers for the Normandy landings.

By 19th August 1944 MJ772 was with No.84 GSU (Ground Support Unit) at Thruxton, and a few days later with No.33 MU Lyneham. On 27th September 1944 the fighter was allocated to No.83 GSU (Ground Support Unit) at Bognor/Sussex, and then from November 1944, Westhampnett /Sussex. MJ772 was damaged again on 20th January 1945 as “Cat.Ac”.

Repairs were carried out on her and the Spitfire was back on duty in February with No.83 GSU. On 19th July 1945, No.49 MU (Maintenance Unit) were ordered to move aircraft, including MJ772, to Heston Aircraft, where it underwent a major inspection, before awaiting collection in December 1945. A move to 29 MU High Ercall, Shropshire, followed in January 1946, where it stayed until sold to Vickers Armstrongs Ltd in July 1950. As Vickers had a contract from the Irish Air Corps for two-seat Spitfire trainers, MJ772 was one of those converted. This Spitfire flew with the Vickers test serial G-15-172 and was Serialled 159 on delivery to the IAC at Baldonnel in 1951. 159 served with “A” Flight Fighter Squadron of the IAC for a number of years, until withdrawn from use in January 1960 with 1402 flying hours.

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About the Author

Mark Dwyer

Mark is an airline pilot flying the Boeing 737 for a major European airline. In addition he is also a Type Rating Instructor, Type Rating Examiner and Base Training Captain on the B737. Outside of commercial flying Mark enjoys flying light aircraft from the smallest 3 Axis microlights up to heavier singles. He is also an instructor and EASA Examiner on single engines and a UK CAA Examiner. He flies the Chipmunk for the Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF). Mark became the Chairman of the National Microlight Association of Ireland (NMAI) in 2013 and has overseen a massive growth in the organisation. In this role he has worked at local and national levels. In 2015, Mark won ‘Upcoming Aviation Professional Award’ at the Aviation Industry Awards sponsored by the IAA. Mark launched this website back in 2002 while always managing the website, he has also been Editor and Deputy Editor of FlyingInIreland Magazine from 2005 to 2015.



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