A WEST Oxfordshire businessman who helped build a new squadron of Spitfire planes has died aged 59.

Ian Curtis was the former owner of OXGAS, a bottled gas delivery company based in Oxfordshire, and also a housebuilder.

He built four different homes for his family over about 20 years, including three in Minster Lovell and one in Carterton.

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After his retirement in 2006, he also volunteered for the Enstone-based City of Oxford Squadron project.

It is Enstone Flying Club’s aim to build a new squadron of 12 Spitfire planes similar to those used in the Second World War.

The first two-seater Mk26B Spitfire in the £3.7m scheme was completed in September last year.

Each plane costs about £220,000 and is built from kits imported from the United States. They are built to 90 per cent scale of a Merlin Spitfire Mk9.

Mr Curtis’ friend Darren Legg said: “Without Ian’s help on the project that aircraft would never have flown.

“The quality of his work was second to none, especially considering he had no previous experience in the aviation construction. His work was really valued.”

Ian Curtis was born in Chipping Norton on March 9, 1955, to parents Joyce and Leonard, the owner of a haulier firm.

He grew up with siblings Paula, David and Colin in Minster Lovell and went to secondary school in Witney.

After leaving school Mr Curtis joined his father’s haulage business. His father also owned a petrol filling station in Minster Lovell village, where Mr Curtis worked as a teenager.

In the early 1980s he worked as a printer in Eynsham before starting his own gas supply business – OXGAS – in 1986.

He ran the firm, delivering bottled gas around Oxfordshire, until 2006 when he sold it and retired.

While running the business Mr Curtis had an unexpected flashback to his past when he discovered a canoe he had built as a 10-year-old – but sold in his early 20s – on a customer’s roof.

He bought it back and later used it to paddle down the River Windrush with his eldest son, Luke.

He said: “Dad always had a project on the go. He was a popular local figure and the number of people who have reached out to us since his death has been astonishing.

“He died too soon and we will miss him every day.”

Mr Curtis married his first wife, Hilary Reed, in 1977 and they had a son, Luke, in 1980.

The couple divorced in 1991 and Mr Curtis married Amanda Wetherald in 1994. They had two children, Thomas, in 1989, and Ashton in 1993.

Ian Curtis died suddenly and unexpectedly on December 22.

He is survived by his siblings, Paula, David and Colin, his second wife Amanda and his three children, Luke, Thomas and Ashton.

A funeral will be held tomorrow at Oxford Crematorium, at 11.15am.

It will be followed by a celebration of his life in The White Hart pub, Minster Lovell, to which all are welcome.


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