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Spitfire pilots return to UK after epic round-the-world trip | UK News

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Two British pilots have landed back in the UK after flying to 100 locations across 30 countries in a newly restored Spitfire aeroplane.

Steve Brooks, 58, from Burford, Oxfordshire, and Matt Jones, 45, from Exeter, Devon, took four months to circumnavigate the globe in the first trip of its kind.

The project, called Silver Spitfire – The Longest Flight, started and finished at Goodwood Aerodrome, the base of Boultbee Flight Academy, which was the first school for Spitfire pilots, in West Sussex.

The journey in a single-seater Mk IX Spitfire, originally built in 1943, followed by a chase plane for safety, followed a route to Scotland, then westbound across the US, Canada, Russia, India, Europe and back to Britain.

British pilots Matt Jones (L) and Steve Brooks, stand in front of the IWC MK IX Silver Spitfire
Image:
British pilots Matt Jones (L) and Steve Brooks, flew around the world in the IWC MK IX Silver Spitfire

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Jones said: “We’ve been travelling for four months – it’s a long time to be away from home, but we have seen the planet from two or three thousand feet over the wing of that aeroplane and that’s a great honour.”

Mr Brooks said that seeing how “vast” the planet was from the aircraft is what he will take away from the experience.

“The big open spaces of nature, completely unclaimed by man… that’s what I’ve come away with. The realisation of how big our home is,” he said.

Mr Jones said the aeroplane is “completely original” aside from some navigation aides such as a GPS and an iPad.

“It flew in World War Two – 51 combat missions – so flying it now is exactly the same as flying it then. There’s no autopilot, it’s pretty much hands-on,” he said.

“The wonderful thing about flying these aeroplanes is that they give you so much feedback.

“Modern aircraft is quite sterile by comparison, but this thing just talks to you the whole time.

“They say it’s like they become your own wings and that’s exactly how it feels – you stop thinking about flying a machine and you think they’re your own – it just takes you wherever you want to.”

Mr Brooks added: “It’s quite immersive – you don’t get in the Spitfire, you wear it and become it – and the wings are your wings. But you are thinking as part of the machine.”

The IWC MK IX Silver Spitfire landing at Goodwood Aerodrome after
Steve Brooks and Matt Jones successfully circumnavigated the globe
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The IWC MK IX Silver Spitfire landed at Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex

The pair said that they “100%” felt a connection with the young men who were using Spitfires in wartime.

Mr Jones said: “We’ve been involved in Spitfires for the past 10 years now have had the great honour of meeting some of those Battle of Britain pilots, no longer with us, and actually flown them in a two-seater that we have.

“So it’s very rare that you ever fly this aircraft without thinking about the sacrifice these guys made.

“Just looking back, flying 2,000ft over the channel and seeing the white cliffs of Dover on the horizon – this was a sign that meant so much to pilots back in the day who had been fighting for our freedom.

Matt Jones is greeted by his partner Nikkolay James and their nine week-old baby, Arthur Jones, upon landing in the UK
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Matt Jones is greeted by his partner Nikkolay James and their nine week-old baby, Arthur Jones, on his return

“They saw those white cliffs and that was coming home – that was the end of their day’s work.”

Ahead of the pair’s departure in August, a glamorous event was held and attended by celebrities including Gone Girl actress Rosamund Pike, Rocketman star Taron Egerton and formula One driver David Coulthard.

Mr Coulthard said seeing off the pilots “was very emotional, and it’s fantastic to know it’s been a great, successful trip”.

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