Photo by: Dean As
Photo by: Dean As
After a four year absence and a transnational maintenance session, the “Black Spitfire of Ezer Weizman”, the oldest, most famous of Israeli airplanes, returned to the skies last week
For the first time since November 2011, the renowned “Spitfire 57” took off for its second maiden flight. The plane is more commonly known as the “Black Spit”, or as the plane of Ezer Wiezman, a former IAF Commander and the seventh president of Israel. The plane entered service in the IAF at the end of 1949 and kept flying even after removing the Spitfires from active service. For decades, the “Black Spit” took part in the airshows held during Israeli holidays and IAF’s pilot course graduation ceremony.
Three and a half year ago, the plane was grounded for overall maintenance work and was transferred to “Arkia” company for maintenance. The plane was then completely disassembled and reassembled in cooperation with IAF’s Transport Branch, the IAF Museum, The Ministry of Defense and other IDF Units. Many parts of the plane were replaced including the radiators, gas pumps, tires and upholstery, some of the parts being shipped in from Britain and Germany.
“It’s like flying on it for the first time”
With the completion of the four-year-long renovation work, test flights were conducted in order to confirm the flight readiness of the plane and return it to IAF’s Museum. “This is a historical airplane, one of IAF’s first ones”, said Colonel (Res.) Oded (Dedi) Rosenthal, minutes before the takeoff, who has been flying the “Black Spit” for 25 years. “It is a great privilege to fly it and get it back in the air. I’m very excited and yet completely ready for the flight”.
If the test flights continue to run smoothly, the plane will be approved for flight in the next few days and Rosenthal’s aspiration to get it back in the air will come alive in time for the next pilot course graduation ceremony two months from now. “Flying on the Spitfire after a four-year break is like flying on it for the first time. The flight was amazing and went on with no issues or problems. I can’t wait to join IAF’s airshows again”, said Rosenthal, immedialty after landing.
From Britain to Hatzerim
The Spitfire is a warplane developed In the 1930s by the “Supermarine” aircraft manufacturer for Britain’s Royal Air Force and took a significant part in World War II, mainly in the Battle of Britain. The “Black Spit” joined the Royal Air Force in May 29, 1945, was transferred to the Czech Air Force and then sold to Israel in October 1948.
The plane arrived in Israel in November 1949, received the number 2057, and entered service in the “First Fighter” Squadron. It was then used for training purposes in the “Scorpion” squadron and the “Third Spitfire” Squadron, known today as the “Knights of the Orange Tail” Squadron.
In 1954, most of Israel’s Spitfires were sold to Burma, but a few planes remained in Israel at the initiative of Major General Ezer Weizman, the then-Commander of Ramat David Airbase. One of those planes was Spitfire 2057 (or 57 after shortening) which shortly afterwards became Weizman’s private plane and was painted black at its command to resemble the plane of the British Airbase Commander under which Weizman served during WWII.
Weizman stuck with the “Black Spit” even after completing his army service and kept flying it in IAF’s airshows. Wiezman’s association with the plane was so great that it was decided to fly it over cemetery, during his funeral.
One of Sixty Active Planes
No less than 20,531 different models of Spitfires were manufactured by the end of February 1948. However, there are only 60 active planes left around the world, most of them in Britain and the US, raising the Black Spitfire’s value tenfold.