Start Digging! Spitfires Cleared for Excavation

Myanmar signs deal to recover some 60 Mk XIVs.

Spitfire Mk XIV

Spitfire Mk XIV

Spitfire Mk XIV

British aviation enthusiast David Cundall expects to begin excavation later this month to recover 60 or more Supermarine Spitfire Mk XIVs in Myanmar. Cundall discovered the cache of Spitfires earlier this year after searching for them for 16 years, but only signed a deal with the Myanmar government on Tuesday.

The aircraft were packed in crates late in World War II and buried by British forces at the end of a runway in what was then Burma, because they were not needed as the war was winding down. They are expected to be found “in good condition,” and are thought to be worth up to $2.3 million each in flying condition.

The Mk XIV Spitfire is powered by the Rolls-Royce Griffon engine, a 2,050-hp follow-on to the classic Merlin. The -65 version of the Griffon powering the Mk XIV incorporates a two-stage supercharger and drives a five-blade Dowty-Rotol propeller.

Some 2,042 of the more than 20,000 Spitfires built were fitted with the more powerful Griffon engine, and only a handful of the 35 or so surviving Spitfires are Griffon-powered variants. World War II RAF pilot Don Healy of 17 Squadron, based in India, described the Mk XIV as, “a hairy beast to fly and took some getting used to.

Even with full aileron, elevator and rudder, this brute of a fighter took off slightly sideways.” However, Wing Commander (and Battle of Britain hero) Pete Brothers wrote, “It gave many a Luftwaffe pilot the shock of their lives when, having thought they had bounced you from a superior height, they were astonished to find the Mk XIV climbing up to tackle them head-on, throttle wide open!”