The Supermarine Spitfire is arguably one of the most beautiful flying machines ever constructed, but today, only about 35 remain in flying condition. That number may soon increase by a full dozen, if the Brits can manage to dig up a bunch of aircraft that have been buried somewhere in Burma since 1945.
More than 20,000 Spitfires were produced before and during World War II, but by 1945, it was clear that jet aircraft were the future. When the war ended, nobody knew what to do with all of the leftover fighters, and while some were scrapped and others were just pushed off of aircraft carriers directly into the sea, 12 brand new Spitfire Mark XIVs that had just arrived in Burma were carefully packed into crates and buried (engines and machine guns and cannon and all), just in case they were ever needed again. The picture below shows this operation in process:
That was over 60 years ago, and one enterprising British farmer has spent more than a decade trying to find all these airplanes and dig them back up again. The only people who knew for sure where he should look were the blokes who buried them in the first place, most of whom are, at this point, extremely old. But after lots of detective work, 12 trips to Burma, and a couple hundred thousand dollars, David Cundall (of Sandtoft, near Scunthorpe, just off the M180) has managed to find the exact location of the burial crates and verified with a borehole camera that they're still intact.
The final step to this operation is to get the Burmese government to allow the crates to be excavated and recovered, at which point the condition of the aircraft inside can be determined. The hope is that at the very least, some combination of parts from the 12 original crates will be able to be combined to reconstruct at least one 100% original and flyable Spitfire, and the fantasy, of course, is that all 12 will be in good enough repair to restore and fly.