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Tue, Jan 08, 2013

First Burmese Spitfire Dig Underway

Salvager Hopes To Find Airplanes Well Preserved, Eventually Flyable

After 17 years of work and research, British farmer and aircraft enthusiast David Cundall has finally begun digging at the first of three sites where he thinks crates of rare WWII Spitfire airplanes were buried as the war was coming to a close.

The first excavation got underway Friday at Mingaladon near Burma's main airport, according to the UK newspaper The Independent. The team hopes to find as many as 36 Mark XIV Spitfires interred in crates near the airport. Cundall was accompanied by a 91-year-old veteran who was in Burma at the time, and says he remembers seeing "double-decker-size crates" being readied for burial near the war's end.

A British military archive shows that 124 of the airplanes were decommissioned without ever being flown in combat at the end of the Burmese campaign. At least eight eyewitnesses said they saw British and American troops bury the crated airplanes before they went home.

Cundall said that he located the possible burial sites back in 2004, but protracted negotiations with the Burmese government have put the recovery effort on hold until now. The airplanes, if they are there, are beneath 25-30 feet of soil, packed in crates and hopefully well preserved against the elements.

If the airplanes are found and brought back to the light of day, Cundall says it could "easily double" the number of complete Spitfires known to exist.

(Spitfire image from file)



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