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Spitfire replica goes on display thanks to Belfast Telegraph readers

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 27/04/2015

Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker at the event
Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker at the event
Kerry and Austin Kearney at the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire launch at the Maze in Lisburn
Kerry’s grandfather Cecil Austin in his RAF uniform
Stephen Riley speaking at the launch

A Spitfire replica unveiled over the weekend has given the famous fighter's fans a taste of what it was like in the cockpit - thanks to Belfast Telegraph readers.

Back in 1940 the Belfast Telegraph's Spitfire Fund generated an impressive £88,633,16s.5d - the equivalent of nearly £3m in today's money - to buy 17 planes to aid the war effort.

History repeated itself on a smaller scale last year after readers dug deep for our appeal on behalf of the Ulster Aviation Society (UAS), to raise the £28,000 needed for an exact copy of one of the originals - 'Down', named for the county. Saturday's event paid tribute to the aircrews who served here during World War Two.

The late Cecil Austin, father of BBC journalist Wendy Austin, was one of the pilots of the original 'Down'. His granddaughter Kerry Kearney and great-grandson Austin attended the event.

UAS chairman Ray Burrows said: "It's a sweetheart of an exhibit and people love it."

Belfast Telegraph editor Gail Walker also attended and said: "Getting the chance to sit where a pilot would have sat in the Spitfire was profoundly moving."

She added: "One inevitably thinks of the loss of those pilots who died in service and sacrifice for our freedom, but also sitting in that tiny space truly brings home the sheer courage and skill of the men who took to the skies to defeat the Nazis."

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