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Apprentice Spitfire project takes off

KMF apprentices on the Spitfire project

KMF apprentices are undertaking their biggest challenge to date, with the construction of a full-size sculpture of the iconic WW2 Spitfire, designed by Butt Lane, Stoke-on-Trent born R.J. Mitchell.

The design is the creation of artist and self-confessed Spitfire fanatic, Suhail Shaikh. Suhail, who creates highly detailed paper sculptures, recalls how his passion for the Spitfire was kindled at an early age: "I first saw a picture of a Spitfire when I was a small boy growing up in India. I was attracted by its shape. This made me dream of one day building a full-size replica Spitfire."

KMF MD Gareth Higgins commented: "We hope that the replica will be sited in a great location and will become an iconic symbol of the city, much in the way that the Angel of the North now symbolises the North-East."

Suhail had created a scale model paper Spitfire two years previous. This came to the attention of Operation Spitfire — an educational project also dedicated to restoring and preserving the Spitfire based in the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. KMF apprentice mentor, Steve Dalton, traced Suhail through his website. Steve then contacted Suhail to explore the possibility of creating a full-sized Spitfire model at KMF Precision Sheet Metals.

Since April 2016, Suhail has been overseeing the project, which will see a full-size prototype sculpture made of mild steel. The actual sculpture, made of stainless steel should be completed in autumn 2017.

Suhail explained: "This for me is about engineering meeting art. It is a joy to work with the apprentices, who have such open minds and are willing to exchange ideas."

Julian Mitchell, Chairman of Operation Spitfire and great nephew of R.J. Mitchell added: "Operation Spitfire is all about igniting inspiration through restoration. What Suhail, KMF and their apprentices are doing embodies everything we could possibly hope to achieve."

The Spitfire project is being incorporated into the bid for Stoke-on-Trent to be UK City of Culture in 2021.

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