British farmer and aviation enthusiast David Cundall was living out his dream of digging up more than 100 crated World War II Supermarine Spitfires, but that dream has turned to a nightmare. Funding for the expedition has been cut off after none of the aircraft were found buried near the runway of Myanmar’s (formerly Burma) Rangoon International Airport, which was a Royal Air Force base during the war.
Cundall was convinced the airplanes are there by interviews with several veterans who claimed to have seen them preserved and crated, then buried near the airport. Cundall still believes the fighters are there, now saying they must be much closer to the modern airport’s runway. The government will not allow him to dig there for fear of undermining the pavement.
Metal detected at the site of the first dig turned out to be remnants of steel matting, known as pierced steel planking, used during the war for runways, taxiways and parking revetments. The six-week excavation project had been backed by Wargaming.net, a Belarusian video game company. In a statement, a company spokesperson said, “No one would have been more delighted than our team had we found Spitfires [but] we knew the risks going in, as our team had spent many weeks in the archives and had not found any evidence to support the claim of buried Spitfires.”
For his part, Cundall said he intends to return to Myanmar, “…when we have permission to dig at the new site.” He said that getting approval could take months.