A retired engineer has been given permission to take to the skies in a hand-built replica of a Spitfire that took him 16 years to assemble.
Steve Markham spent 11,250 hours piecing the aircraft together in a barn at his home, assisted by his wife Kay.
Now, 16 years after he started the project, the qualified pilot has received the green light to fly the handmade plane.
Although his first planned trip is to travel across the Solent to the Isle of Wight for ice cream, Mr Markham has his sights set further afield.
He said that next summer he was going to "get up early" and fly to Rome with his wife, have "a nice Italian lunch" and "then fly back the same day".
The 200mph aircraft is a replica of the PL793, a Photo Reconnaissance Spitfire, which was based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire in the last year of the Second World War.
Mr Markham, who lives near the base, said he had wanted a Spitfire ever since he was eight years old and saw Reach for the Sky a 1956 biopic of the aviator Douglas Bader.
He said the PL793 models, which were “painted blue to help hide in the sky", were the spy planes of their day, adding that his plane was a tribute to the RAF servicemen who flew them.
He said|: “Without the RAF and their success in World War Two, the lives of my generation would have been very different. We owe them a great debt.”
Mr Markham had tried to buy vintage models but always got outbid, so he decided to build his own.
He bought a kit for the aircraft’s frame in 2006 but he sourced the engine parts, propellers and paint separately.
He said: “If you want to buy a World War Two original Spitfire it now costs between £2 million and £4 million. This is a much less expensive way of doing it.”
He described it as a "complicated beast" to put together, with some parts not fitting properly that had to be replaced.
Mrs Markham helped him with the rivets that required two people to set in place and also made the leather upholstery.
He said: “She’s been wonderfully supportive throughout the whole process.”
Mr Markham finally completed the Spitfire in 2017. However, it has taken five years to get a full flight permit from the Civil Aviation Authority.
In 2018 it was flown by a test pilot but the engine overheated, so it had to come back to his workshop for repairs.
On later test flights he was restricted to a range of 35 nautical miles from the airfield and was not allowed to have passengers.
In July 2022, Mr Markham successfully completed the test flight programme and was granted permission to venture further afield and to be accompanied.
Since he started construction he has been asking visitors if they could donate to the RAF Benevolent Fund, which supports serving and former RAF members and their families.