JCB aids excavation of British WWII Spitfire planes

Updated Jan 17, 2013
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Royal Air Force Spitfire aircraft participates in the Royal International Air Tattoo airshow event July 8, 2012 near Cirencester, England. A Periam Photography /

A team of 21 people is headed to Myanmar, also known as Burma, to dig and see if they can find 36 unassembled Spitfire warplanes.

British equipment maker JCB is supplying two excavators and a backhoe to aid in the treasure hunt and is also sending along Oliver Keates, a JCB equipment demonstrator and the lader of the JCB Dancing Diggers demonstration team. Keates will operate the JCB machines and offer digging advice for the operation to unearth the planes.

Why the 36 planes were buried is a mystery, but it is thought the planes were buried across three sites by a group of American engineers. According to Reuters, Stanley Coombe, who is in his early 90s, was stationed in Myanmar near the end of World War II and witnessed crates of unassembled Spitfires being buried under Mingaladon airfield, now Rangood International Airfield.

The single-seat propeller-driven Spitfire warplane was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries during World War II. As the most heavily produced warplane in Britain during its time, it is seen as one of the most iconic aircrafts in British history.

The Spitfire plane helped British forces claim victory in the 1940 aerial war against the Germans.Uncovering so many Spitfire warplanes would be a huge discovery because so few of the planes exist today.

Oliver Keates, a JCB equipment demonstrator and the lader of the JCB Dancing Diggers demonstration team, will aid in the dig.

JCB is sending along its 3CX backhoe and two JS200 excavators. The JCB 3CX weighs 17,000 pounds, has a bucket capacity of 1.4 cubic yards and has a top speed of 25 miles per hour. The JCB JS200 excavator weighs 20 metric tons, can dig to a depth of 21.8 feet and is powered by a 172 horsepower engine.

The dig is being led by aviation buff David Cundall. Online game developer Wargaming is funding the dig.