A FULL-SIZED replica Spitfire which tours the country raising money for the Royal British Legion (RBL) has been officially adopted by the charity.

Peter Cleminson, national chairman of the RBL, yesterday visited the Spitfire yesterday at its base at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, to give it his official mark of approval.

Affectionately known as Irene, it was lovingly crafted by local members of the charity and was the brainchild of the chairman of the Ripon branch, Howard Whiting.

Mr Cleminson said: “I think it is an unbelievable achievement.

This Spitfire is perfect in every design to the real thing and it was a privilege to sit in the cockpit.

“It will draw people in to learn about the Royal British Legion and to offer to join or help it.”

The original idea was to build a one-third scale model, but the project soon grew.

Using old blueprints, each part of the aircraft was created during 7,000 hours of work spanning 11 months.

The only exception was the canopy, which had to be manufactured by a company in Norfolk.

Completed last July, the plane has already raised thousands of pounds for the charity at displays around the country, with people paying to have their photos taken in the cockpit.

Mr Whiting said: “The idea came about three years ago when I was trying to think of a way to promote the RBL.

“It took six people drawn from the Ripon and the Fulford branch, in York, to make the Spitfire. It’s an exact replica of a real Spitfire and Joe Atkinson, a Battle of Britain pilot, said it looks identical to the planes he flew.”

The plane bears the markings of the 609 West Riding Squadron, which for a time was based at RAF Leeming.

The only missing piece is the replica’ engine, so it will never fly – although there are plans to get a Merlin engine used to fly the original to be put on display next to the replica.

The hangar space at RAF Leeming was provided by 100 Squadron.

* PROUD MOMENT:Pictured are,from left, Wing Commander Paul Wilkins, Squadron Leader Paul Fletcher, of 100 Squadron, Howard Whiting, chairman of the Spitfire project, and Peter Cleminson, chairman of the Royal British Legion, as the charity officially adopts the replica Spitfire.