A replica of one of the world's most celebrated aircraft is nearly ready to take to the skies after a 16-year labour of love by Tauranga pilot Wayne Cutforth.

The Spitfire sits proudly in his hangar at Tauranga Airport, a testament to what can be achieved by someone with a passion for aviation.

Mr Cutforth said he had been mucking around with aircraft all his life, starting with models and progressing to radio-controlled aircraft and the real thing.

Then one day back in the 1990s he said to himself ,"bugger it, I'll build an aeroplane".

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He was drawn to the Spitfire's legendary qualities and bought three-quarter scale plans put out by Frenchman Marcel Jurca.

Working in his spare time, the drawings were translated into templates which then became the real thing. Now the replica of the plane that won the Battle of Britain only needs its avionics, propeller and a few bits and pieces.

The spray painter and aero club pilot reckons he would have spent about $100,000 on the aeroplane, once it was ready for lift-off at a still undetermined date.

"It is hand-made and built off a set of drawings - it is not like a kitset."'

His knowledge of flying and aptitude for things mechanical meant the biggest challenges were sourcing materials and finding the time.

"It is like doing a great big model, but you have got to know about aircraft."

Whenever he got stuck, Mr Cutforth picked the brains of Tauranga's knowledgeable fraternity of aviation buffs, including two aircraft engineer friends.

Building the fuselage and wings were the most time-consuming, while setting up the undercarriage and other specialised stuff needed the right advice.

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The project looked so daunting in 1998 that he deliberately focused on one section at a time.

"Otherwise you would have a brain explosion."

With the project now drawing to an end, he is savouring the prospect of taking the aircraft through its paces. The replica was fully aerobatic to plus 6Gs and minus 4Gs.

Running the engine in the hangar drew favourable comments about the noise it produced.

"Yeah, I was quite happy with that," Mr Cutforth responded with obvious satisfaction.