Supermarine Spitfire MK XVI SL721 | Mr. Van Den Bergh

  • STATUS: Airworthy
  • LOCATION: Belgium
  • OWNER: Mr. Kris Van Den Bergh
  • ROLE: Fighter
  • BUILT: 1945
  • LENGTH: 9.95 m/32 ft 8 in
  • WINGSPAN: 11.23 m/36 ft 10 in
  • ENGINE: Merlin 266
  • MAXIMUM SPEED: 446mph
  • RANGE: 740 km/460 miles
  • ARMAMENT: 2 × 20 mm Hispano II cannon; 120 rpg, 2 × 0.50 in Browning M2 machine guns; 250 rpg

Built in 1945, Spitfire Mk XVI SL721 was initially delivered into storage at 6 MU in August. In 1946, Air Vice Marshal Sir James M. Robb took delivery of Spitfire XVI, serial number SL721 and had the Spitfire painted a special shade of light blue using the airplane from 1946-48. It was then sent to a Maintenance Unit following his transfer.


In 1949 he took another active command and sought out his Spitfire, which was still in the Maintenance Unit. The airplane was used by AVM Robb until 1951, when it was again sent to a maintenance unit. The airplane was one of the most distinctive Spitfires flying in England, with its one-off paint scheme and personal markings of its pilot. Sold to private hands in 1954, it lived on a garage forecourt in the hands of the Beaulieu Motor Museum. In the 1960s, it made its way to the collection of early warbird restorer Doug Arnold, though nothing was done with the airframe other than to store it indoors – an improvement, since it had been stored outside before this and was quite weathered.In the early 1970s, Arnold sold the Spitfire to an American collector, Bill Ross of Chicago where the Spitfire was restored and painted in Battle of Britain colors with the initials JMR. Sold to Woodson K Woods in 1977 where it was rebuilt again and painted in RAF camouflage with Woodson’s initials WKW.


In 1999 son Chris Woods restored SL721 to the way it was when flown by Air Vice Marshal Sir James M. Robb in 1949 in the light blue scheme with the initials JMR.

Sold to Michael Potter of Ottawa in 2000, three years later he contacted Spitfire historian Bob Swaddling to oversee the repainting of SL721 at Sky Harbour in Goderich Ontario. Through Bob’s research they decided to have it repainted to represent No. 421 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force camouflage as AU*J which represents an aircraft flown by Flight-Lt. William Harper of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Canadian. The original AU*J (TB886) was named Dorothy II but Potter elected to replace this with 421’s adopted logo – the Indian head motif of the McColl’Frontenac oil Company which was applied to most of the squadron’s Spitfires. TB886 was the first low-back Mk. XVI to fly with the squadron and Harper had always wanted the logo applied to his Spitfire but the supply of decals had run out. Flight-Lt. Harper flew the first Canadian Mk XVI  bubble canopy Spitfire used in action during the war.


In 2018 Spitfire Mk XVI SL721 was again sold to Mr. Kris Van Den Bergh in Belgium and reassembled at the FAST Aero Workshop at Brasschaat. On May 6th, 2018 it became the first Spitfire to be registered in Belgium in over half a century and the first to depart from Brasschaat Aerodrome.


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