Saturday, November 04, 2006

A mystery behind the history plane

Pune: It has all the makings of a classic mystery — a World War II German Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter which flew in the Battle of Britain vanished into thin air from the storage yard of a college campus in Karnataka’s Gulbarga town, where it lay forgotten for over 60 years. Four years and an unsuccessful police investigation later, aviation experts hunting for clues on the priceless aircraft have stumbled upon it in Europe.
Research by aviation enthusiasts based in India and the UK points out that the vintage aircraft has re-emerged on records of the United Kingdom civil aviation register as belonging to a mysterious company in the Channel Islands.
The single-seat fighter aircraft, gifted to the Nizam of Hyderabad by the British Empire in 1941 for sponsoring two RAF squadrons, was rediscovered at PDA College in Gulbarga by an Indian expert in 2002. It disappeared from the college campus — apparently picked up by a millionaire British aircraft collector. The plane was valued at over Rs 7 crore in the antiques market.
Aviation enthusiasts took up the hunt and traced the manufacturing number of the Bf 109 through photographs taken before it was stolen. Using the markings and registration numbers on the aircraft, England-based expert Lynn Ritger found that it belonged to German pilot Xavier Ray who crash-landed during a raid on the outskirts of London in 1940 after engine failure.
The breakthrough came early this year, when experts discovered an entry in the UK civil aviation registry in December 2005 matching to the stolen Messerchmitt.
“The manufacturer and construction number of G-CDTI (the new entry) is the same one traced by Ritger to the Gulbarga aircraft. As two aircrafts cannot have the same construction number, it is the missing Bf 109,” Jagan Pillarsetti, whose website, keeps a track of vintage aircraft in the country, told The Indian Express.
03/11/06 Manu Pubby/Indian Express
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