AN aircraft engineer who specialises in making bespoke furniture from parts of planes has started one of his most ambitious projects to date.

Stuart Abbott is working on a replica Spitfire created in honour of a teenager who died flying with the RAF during the Second World War.

It was originally commissioned in the 1960s by the Svendsen family and presented to the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum in Sussex in memory of their son Aksel.

But it now needs extensive repairs and re-painting with the work being done by North-East aviation specialist Stuart Abbott.

The 37-year-old was approached by The Spitfire Society because of his work turning spare parts into everyday objects.

Mr Abbott said: “It is mind-boggling. From starting out making an office chair from an airline seat in the garage, now I am in this giant workshop with a replica Spitfire.

“For me this is quite iconic, yes it is only a replica, but it shows the progress I have made in the last five or six years for companies to trust me with it, for me to work on it for it then to go out on display for people to see.”

The pilot who flew the original aircraft, Aksel Andreas Svendsen, below right, was born in Copenhagen in 1922 and moved with his family to Britain in 1929 to live in Exeter.

The Northern Echo:

He was 17 when the war broke out and he volunteered to join the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserves.

In April 1942, the young pilot was posted to RAF Ibsley and No 234 Squadron.

Later that month, while carrying out an operation with his squadron over France, flying Spitfire BL924 from RAF Tangmere, he was shot down and killed.

Mr Abbott said: “This was replica of Aksel’s actual Spitfire and it was built to be on display in museum.

“Because he was an only son there were no relatives to pass this on to so it was on display for 20 years and the museum took custody of it.

“Over the years the stress has set into the airframe and it has rippled the airframe at the back.

“The Spitfire Society that owns that as has come to me and said ‘look with your skills, can you see what you can do?”

“It is so people can so what the Spitfire would have looked like new, not looking a bit worn and torn.”

When it is finished it is expected to be display at the North-East Aircraft Museum in Sunderland.

Originally from Hull, Mr Abbott joined the RAF as an aircraft engineer in 1998 but left after ten years’ service due to medical reasons.

He went on to work in civilian aviation but it was chance project in his spare time that has led to a lucrative side line and a global reputation for work.

He said: “I started because I was working for a company where we were stripping aircraft down for parts.

The Northern Echo:

“I was working in my garage at home and we needed a computer chair. I found some aircraft seats and thought I would make the chair out of one.

“But I did not do it quite right and it was too big for the table so we needed to get rid of it.

“It was kicking about the house so I put it on eBay and it sold within two hours. “That was six years ago I got £250 for it which was quite a lot of money to me.

“When that happened I thought I had hit the nail on the head and since then I have sold around 200 of these chairs.”

The Northern Echo:

He still works as an engineer, but on his days off he runs Stu-Art Aviation Furniture from a unit in Felling, Gateshead.

Now looking to expand to bigger premises in Durham, he has a turnover of around £100,000 a year and uses eBay to sell his work to private customers and corporate clients around the world.

His reputation has grown so much he has appeared in television, on shows like Flipping Profit with the BBC and co-presenting George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces after producers loved the way he turned an aeroplane cockpit into a summer house.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Abbot, who is a father-of-two, said he could make something as small and niche as a bag tag for an air steward, a clock for an old pilot or big flight-themed features for corporate customers such as KLM or Air France.

He has made a gin cabinet from an old ammunition box, a boardroom table from an old Mini and his workshop tea-making facilities started life as a cabin crew station on a passenger plane.

He said: “At first it was difficult because I was just a guy asking for aircraft parts. “Now companies come to me and ask me what I want.

“It is upcycling on a massive scale. I am always looking for new projects. The more bonkers the better.”