Sudbury firm backs WWII Spitfire project

Carolyn Grace spitfire pilot

Carolyn Grace spitfire pilot - Credit: Archant

Aerospace engineers in west Suffolk have helped to ensure the future of a classic fighter plane.

MEL Aviation, based in Sudbury, has made a £10,000 donation to help fund an engine overhaul project to keep the Grace Spitfire ML407 flying.

The plane took part in events to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, when it was officially accredited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft.

The company’s contribution will help keep the Spitfire –which is based in Bentwaters – maintained and will support the work of Britain’s only female Spitfire pilot, Carolyn Grace.

Mrs Grace, from Halstead, was left the aircraft when her husband Nick Grace died in a car crash just three years after the plane’s restoration was completed. Mr Grace recovered the Second World War Spitfire from a museum in 1979 and painstakingly rebuilt it over a five year period.

Mrs Grace, who sat in the rear seat of the plane when her husband flew the post-rebuild maiden flight, decided to cherish her husband’s memory by learning to fly the Spitfire herself. She gained an aerobatic and formation qualification and has flown the plane at classic air displays during the past 23 years. Her son Richard Grace, who operates the company Air Leasing Ltd, now also flies on the team.

MEL Aviation has used its specialist engineering knowledge to look after the extremely rare air bottles for the Grace Spitfire for many years. Their donation will go towards the overhaul of the plane’s spare Merlin engine, which will cost around £120,000.

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Nick Smith, chairman of MEL Group, said: “MEL Aviation carries out overhauls for historic aircraft components and has done for many years. It’s important to keep these magnificent aircraft airworthy for generations to come.”

Mrs Grace said the donation was gratefully received. She added: “In 2014, we commemorated the 70th anniversary of our Spitfire being ‘taken on charge’ in April 1944 by 485 (NZ) Squadron and the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings where the Grace Spitfire was officially accredited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft on D-Day.

“In 2015 we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Nick Grace carrying out the first flight following his meticulous five-year rebuild of ML407.”

To become a Grace Spitfire supporter, visit or write to The Grace Spitfire, Solo Enterprises, PO Box 1172, Halstead, Essex, CO9 2QG.