AN Abingdon garage owner might try to keep a full-sized replica Spitfire on his forecourt as a permanent memorial to brave wartime women pilots. The model of the famous Second World War fighter has been catching the eye of passing motorists and passengers since it was installed at Peter Jewson’s Lodge Hill Garage on Oxford Road last month.

But owner Mr Jewson said the plane did not yet have permission to become a permanent landmark.

Mr Jewson, 79, who has owned the garage for almost ten years, said: “I have asked for temporary planning permission but I don’t know how long the plane will be able to stay for.

“We could get a petition up to say ‘Let’s keep it’. It’s a beautiful shape and it looks very authentic.”

Mr Jewson bought the plane to honour a little-known group of Second World War pilots. Women from the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) flew Spitfires and other planes from factories in cities, such as Southampton and Coventry, to their operational air bases.

But many of the 166 women perished during their missions.

Mr Jewson, who learnt to fly in 1957, said: “They had no radios, no weather reports and no bullets in the guns. If you met the enemy you were in trouble.” The garage owner is also trying to raise funds for a permanent national memorial near Slough for ATA pilots.

Among those who lost their lives was Amy Johnson, the pioneering aviator who was the first woman to fly from Britain to Australia solo.

Mr Jewson said: “I bought the plane for about £6,000 a couple of years ago after flying into a little aerodrome near Birmingham and then I spent another £6,000 getting it up to scratch.”

In 2008, Freydis Sharland, 88, of Benson, was one of a number of ‘Spitfire Girls’ awarded official recognition by the Government.

She was in the ATA during the Second World War, flying damaged and repaired aircraft to stations round the country. She amassed hundreds of hours’ flying time and flew 45 different types of aircraft.

Mrs Sharland flew Spitfires into RAF Benson. She also flew Mosquitoes, Blenheims, Wellington bombers and Tiger Moths to bases across the country.

Roger Cox, head of planning for Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “This sounds like a worthy cause, but if Mr Jewson wants the plane to stay, planners at the Vale will need to see a full planning application.”

Council leader Matthew Barber said: “With the former airfield at Dalton Barracks in Abingdon, I think keeping the plane is an interesting idea, although I couldn’t comment on the planning issue.”

Today, Mr Jewson was holding a 1940s lunch at the garage attended by surviving ATA pilots, including Joy Lofthouse, who was one of the first female pilots to fly a Spitfire in the Second World War. A ceremony at noon is open to the public.