World War II enthusiast who has spent 16 YEARS building exact replica of Spitfire in barn at his home is given official permission to take to the skies

Retired engineer Steve Markham spent a whopping 11,250 hours building his replica of the iconic British planeIt took the trained pilot 16 years to complete his Spitfire inside a barn near his home near Odiham, Hampshire The aircraft will make its first trip across the Solent to the Isle of Wight - where Steve will buy an ice creamBut he has ambitions of flying even further, with trips planned to Scotland and the Italian capital of Rome 

A Second World War enthusiast who spent more than a decade building an exact replica of a Spitfire has finally been given permission to take to the skies.

Retired engineer Steve Markham spent an astonishing 11,250 hours painstakingly piecing the ‘iconic’ British aircraft together in a barn at his home, ably assisted by wife Kay.

Now, 16 years after he started the project, the qualified pilot – who as a child was inspired by classic movie Reach for the Sky – has finally got the official green light to fly the hand made plane.

Although his first planned trip is for the couple to travel across the Solent to the Isle of Wight for ice cream, Mr Markham has his sights set further afield.

He said: ‘Now I can fly anywhere. I could go up to Scotland for a day, but I can also take my wife.

‘My first flight will be for ice cream on the Isle of Wight. We’ll go across the Solent and around the Isle.

Flying high: Second World War enthusiast and trained pilot, Steve Markham, has spent 11,250 hours painstakingly constructing his homemade Spitfire. He is pictured in the cockpit of the iconic aircraft at his home near Odiham, Hampshire

Flying high: Second World War enthusiast and trained pilot, Steve Markham, has spent 11,250 hours painstakingly constructing his homemade Spitfire. He is pictured in the cockpit of the iconic aircraft at his home near Odiham, Hampshire

The project to build the replica took Steve about 16 years to complete. He now hopes to take his first flight across the Solent to the Isle of Wight soon - where he will pick up an ice cream

The project to build the replica took Steve about 16 years to complete. He now hopes to take his first flight across the Solent to the Isle of Wight soon – where he will pick up an ice cream

The 200mph aircraft is a replica of the PL793, a photo reconnaissance Spitfire, which was based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire in the last year of the war.

The 200mph aircraft is a replica of the PL793, a photo reconnaissance Spitfire, which was based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire in the last year of the war.

‘But my wife has family that are Scottish, so at some point, we want to fly up to Scotland, so that’ll be the next long flight.

‘The aircraft has such range that it can go from here to Rome non-stop. Next June, when the days are longer, I’m going to get up early and fly to Rome.

‘I’m going to have a nice Italian lunch with my wife and then fly back the same day.’

The 200mph aircraft is a replica of the PL793, a photo reconnaissance Spitfire, which was based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire in the last year of the war.

Mr Markham, who lives near to the base, said he fell in love with the famous fighter plane after watching the film biography of aviator Douglas Bader.

‘I’ve wanted a Spitfire ever since I was eight years old and I saw Reach for the Sky,’ he said.

‘The PL793 was the most successful of the Odiham-based RAF aircraft.

‘They were painted blue to help hide in the sky. They were the spy planes of their day, and so very little was written about their achievements.

‘They were the best of the bunch. My model is in memory of their amazing work. It’s a tribute.

‘Without the RAF and their success in WW2, the lives of my generation would have been very different. We owe them a great debt.’

In the past, Mr Markham – who has had a pilot licence since the 1970s – tried to buy vintage models but always got outbid, so he decided to build his own.

He bought a kit for the aircraft’s frame in 2006, but he bought the engine parts, propellers and paint separately.

Steve bought a kit for the aircraft's frame in 2006, but he purchased the engine parts, propellers and paint separately to then assemble them all in his barn, pictured

Steve bought a kit for the aircraft’s frame in 2006, but he purchased the engine parts, propellers and paint separately to then assemble them all in his barn, pictured

Steve was ably assisted by his wife, Kay - pictured in the cockpit of the Spitfire - throughout the 16 years it took to build the  aircraft

Steve was ably assisted by his wife, Kay – pictured in the cockpit of the Spitfire – throughout the 16 years it took to build the  aircraft

Steve adds the finishing touches to the wing as he sprays paint onto it inside his barn workshop in Hampshire

Steve adds the finishing touches to the wing as he sprays paint onto it inside his barn workshop in Hampshire

Steve described the aircraft as a 'complicated beast' to put together. The aircraft enthusiast is pictured working on his Spitfire's engine at Popham Airfield near Basingstoke, Hampshire

Steve described the aircraft as a ‘complicated beast’ to put together. The aircraft enthusiast is pictured working on his Spitfire’s engine at Popham Airfield near Basingstoke, Hampshire

He said: ‘The Spitfire is one of the most iconic aircraft, and everyone who has ever flown one has said how wonderful they are to fly.

‘If you want to buy a World War II original Spitfire, it now costs between two and four million pounds. This is a much less expensive way of doing it.’

He described it as a ‘complicated beast’ to put together, with some parts not fitting properly that had to be replaced.

Mrs Markham helped him with the rivets that required two people to set in place and also made the leather upholstery.

He said: ‘She’s been wonderfully supportive throughout the whole process.’

Over the years word of his aircraft soon spread, and he had people asking if they could come to see it in the early stages which slowed down the process.

He said: ‘I would say yes, you can come see it. But it did mean stopping work on the aircraft for half an hour to an hour at a time. It slowed down what needed to be done.’

He finally completed the Spitfire in 2017. But it has taken five years to get a full flight permit from the Civil Aviation Authority.

In 2018, it was flown by a test pilot but the engine overheated, so it had to come back to his workshop for repairs.

On later test flights he was restricted to a range of 35 nautical miles from the airfield and wasn’t allowed to have passengers.

In July of this year, Mr Markham successfully completed the test flight programme and was granted permission to venture further afield and to be accompanied.

Since he started construction he has asking visitors if they could donate to the RAF Benevolent Fund, which supports serving and former RAF members and their families.

When he first finished the replica, Mr Markham had a roll-out party where 200 people attended that raised £4,000 for the RAF fund.

The RAF helped him in return, letting him use an airfield for test flights.

For 10 years before he retired he supplied parachute training simulators to the RAF and he was ‘always welcomed into the RAF community.’

The complete Spitfire ‘flies beautifully,’ he added.

‘It feels fantastic. It’s gorgeous. It’s quite fast.. It’s about twice as fast as the other aircraft I’ve flown before. It’s something special.’

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