Greece prepares to welcome on Thursday a historic Spitfire from the Hellenic Air Force which was last seen slicing through Greek skies 68 years ago.
The MJ755 is to fly over Athens once again when it returns from the United Kingdom, where it was fully restored and returned to flight-worthy condition.
Speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), Dimitris Kolias, the vice-president of the foundation called Ikaros, which financed the restoration of this unique plane for the HAF, said the “Spitfire will leave England on Tuesday, May 25, and after flying via France and Italy will arrive in Greece on Thursday.”
The MJ755 made her first engine runs in late December of 2019. In January 2020 she was ready for her first flight, conducted by veteran British pilot Peter Kynsey. There is a small, and somewhat shaky, video of the first flight below.
“It will land on Corfu, then at Ioannina and from there it will fly to Tatoi. In fact, once it enters Greek airspace it will be given an honor escort by Greek fighter aircraft.
“In total, it will fly for 10 hours from England to Athens,” Kolias added, saying the aircraft was expected to land in Tatoi at 3:00 PM on Thursday.
He said that the training of the Greek pilots who will fly the plane during anniversary events will begin in the UK in June because everything was now closed due to the pandemic.
History of the Spitfire in Greece
The MJ755 was one of 77 Spitfires presented to the then Hellenic Royal Airforce to help rebuild Greece’s fleet; it was delivered to Athens by RAF pilot George Dunn DFC on February 27, 1947.
In April of that year, it joined the 335th Royal Hellenic Pursuit Squadron in Sedes while from 1949 it was used as a training aircraft for military pilots in Tatoi.
In 1950, it was transferred to the State Aircraft Factory in Faliro, where it was converted to a photo-reconnaissance plane.
Its last flight was in 1953 before it was permanently grounded and turned into an exhibit, first at the Tatoi air base and then in the courtyard of the War Museum in Athens.
It was transferred back to Tatoi in 1995 after the creation of the Air Force Museum; in 2018 it was sent to a special restoration facility at Biggin Hill Airport outside London for a complete restoration.
Greece had received its first Spitfire from the British in the Middle East at the end of 1943. Initially they equipped the 336 Interceptor Squadron and afterwards the 335 Interceptor Squadron.
After extensive military action over North Africa and Yugoslavia, the Greek Spitfires returned to Greece in October of 1944.
After they took part in the early battles of the Civil War, they were replaced in combat duties by new versions and, beginning in 1947, they were used for training in combat tactics in the Air Force Flight School.