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Monday, 11 December, 2000, 20:31 GMT
Spitfire offered for sale online
Spitfire Mx XVIII
Waiting for a new owner?
A wartime Spitfire fighter plane is being offered for sale by an online auction house.

But any budding Biggles hoping to live out their fantasies in the cockpit of the historic aircraft need to be very rich.

Bidding on the eBay website begins at 1.2 million, a price tag that makes the RAF's most famous plane one of the highest-value items so far offered for sale online.

If the aircraft does sell, the new owner will be offered flying lessons.

Pristine

The Spitfire - a Mark XVIII built in 1945 - was once based in India. It came back to the UK via the US, and has been restored to pristine condition by an Essex-based company, Historic Flying Ltd.

The rebuilt aircraft took part in flying displays at Biggin Hill, Duxford and Goodwood, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.


The internet attracts a new breed of super-rich people

Patrick Peal
Historic Flying Ltd
The plane for sale is described on the eBay auction site as "one of the ultimate thrills".

"The Internet attracts a new breed of super-rich people," said Patrick Peal, spokesman for Historic Flying Ltd.

"They are people who have made their money at a younger age - like dotcom millionaires and, of course, City brokers who are looking at very healthy bonuses this Christmas.

Spitfire cockpit
Inside the cockpit

"Young, newly-wealthy people want to enjoy their wealth, not simply look at it on a wall or in the garage."

The Spitfire could attract bids from a consortium looking for an exciting investment. Wartime aircraft are in such demand for flying displays and film work that the income they generate can more than equal the considerable maintenance costs.

Lessons

But for an individual owner, there is the prospect of flying the aircraft themselves.

Four days into the auction, no bids have yet been recorded on the web site.

But Mr Peal said serious bidders will only show their hands in the closing stages of the sale.


An investment opportunity as well as one of the ultimate thrills

Online advert

"This is a very desirable aircraft and the auction has attracted a lot of interest," he says.

"Perhaps it is the new way of selling very valuable items. It gets a very wide audience across the world."

Whether or not this marketing strategy is successful will only become clear on 17 December, the day the online auction ends.

But the company that spent two years painstakingly rebuilding the aircraft is in no doubt that there is a market among wealthy enthusiasts.

And they have another two restored Spitfires on offer - offline - at similar prices.

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See also:

09 Sep 00 | UK
Spitfires regain the skies
02 May 98 | UK
Spitfires roar again
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