New to me - former covert spy plane back in the UK

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Jul 25, 2007
Cambridgeshire, England
Came across this on another forum but Lockheed 12A G-AFTL is back in the UK and just completed an engine test.


For those who may be unaware, G-AFTL was arguably one of the most important photo recce aircraft of all time. Procured by Sydney Cotton, it was fitted with a covert camera installation and used to capture imagery of Germany's military preparations prior to the outbreak of war in 1939. From mid-May 1939 until late-August 1940, G-AFTL flew numerous covert reconnaissance flights leveraging the extended 1,600 mile range afforded by a pair of internal fuel tanks. She was painted in Camotint, a colour which ultimately became MAP Sky as applied to the undersides of countless Hurricanes and Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.

Some notable achievements included:
  • Photographing the German fleet at Wilhelmshaven...twice. The second sortie took place just 3 days before the outbreak of war.
  • Taking the head of the Luftwaffe, Albert Kesselring himself, up for a joy ride. Kesselring was in the co-pilot's seat while Cotton surreptitiously operated the cameras from the captain's seat to capture imagery of the airfield they were operating from.
  • The last British aircraft to Germany on 24 August 1939, also used as an opportunity to collect more images en route to the aircraft's home base at Heston.

Somehow, G-AFTL survived and spent 78 years in the US. She's now back in the UK and being restored back to her appearance as a covert espionage aircraft, as shown in the photo below:


Here's some more info on G-AFTL's operational usage, including a pic of one of the camera doors beneath the fuselage:

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