Skip to comments.The Spitfire - an appreciation (75th anniversary)
Posted on 03/06/2011 7:12:13 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
The Spitfire - - an appreciation
By George Kerevan
75 years ago today, as darkness loomed across Europe, an achingly beautiful aircraft soared into the heavens on its maiden flight. The plane would become both an eight-gunned instrument of freedom and a near-spiritual symbol of it. The Spitfire was born.
AT 4:35pm on the afternoon of 5 March, 1936, a pilot called Joseph 'Mutt' Summers walked across the grass of Southampton Airport - currently a hub for Flybe. Summers had spent a tiring day testing a new RAF bomber. Now, he had to squeeze in the first flight of a new fighter called the "Spitfire". A plane that would become a legend and - arguably - hold the pass in 1940 long enough to save us from fascism.
But in 1936, the conventional wisdom in Britain was that "the bomber would always get through". Many considered new fighter planes like the Spitfire a waste of money.
Mutt Summers pressed the starter button and the Spitfire took to the air for the first time. Unlike the wood and canvass biplanes then serving as the RAF's frontline fighters, the Spit was a monoplane of all-metal construction. It had a retractable undercarriage and a fantastic speed of over 350mph. In combat it would be armed with eight machine guns. At last, here was something that would stop any bomber.
The Spitfire was the inspired creation of a true engineering genius, Reginald Joseph Mitchell. He was born in 1895, the son of two Stoke-on-Trent primary school teachers. His poor background precluded university, so he began an
(Excerpt) Read more at living.scotsman.com ...
Contest: A Spitfire from the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and a 3 Squadron Typhoon fly in formation over Lincolnshire (from the Daily Mail)
Thats really close. I would be a bit worried.
I don’t have any scientific evidence, but am absolutely convinced
that hearing a Merlin engine fly by increases testosterone production.
Perspective compression caused by telephoto lense.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
Winston "Obama hates me" Churchill, 20 August 1940.
I’ve been fortunate to see as many as 13 Spitfires in the air at one time, at Goodwood in West Sussex. To make it even more dramatic, Goodwood was known as RAF Westhampnett during the Battle of Britain, so I actually saw the planes in their natural environment. It was soul-stirring.
I’m partial to the B-24 Liberator.
I’m surprised they were able to get off the ground considering the collective weight of the stones it took to fly a mission over Europe in one.
“THE prototype weighed 5,250lbs loaded and had a speed of 349mph. When production ended in November 1945, the final version of the Spit, the Mk 24, weighed twice as much and flew 200mph faster.”
A wonderful and historic and graceful airplane by any standard, but I don’t think prop planes can fly 550 mph because propellers either cavitate or break the sound barrier or both at those speeds. I don’t think even turbo-prop planes can fly 550 mph. I think the author means “100 mph” faster.
As a kid, I incessantly drew Spitfires (and Phantoms) while in school. I think it had much to do with my poor grades...
What at beautiful, beautiful aircraft. A hot rod of the sky...:)
Wow! That’s got to be a large percentage of those still flying.
Exactly. I would give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was a simple typo, but...one never knows!
I always thought the Spitfire was the most beautiful aircraft ever made.
From reading books from both sides I don’t think the Spitfire was really superior to the Messerschmidt. Each had their strong points but it was basically a tie.
GREAT article! Thanks for posting it.
My father worked in the B-24 Liberator factory before being drafted. He was put together the training for women to show them how to properly rivet the structures. I still have his training manual he created.
The F-4U Corsiar is my favorite WWII bird, Spitfire would be 2nd.
I don’t have the url but youtube has footage of
a Merlin engine running a cut down prop on an
I used to have a record of the german “Ring” racers,
what a sound those early engines had.
My great grandmother said she saw the new Liberators fly over pretty much every day while she was working in her victory garden.
To me the Spitfire is the the most aesthetically beautiful aircraft that has ever existed!
Second most is the Chance - Vought F4U Corsair.
Alain DeCadenet. His fairly attractive daughter had been married to John Taylor of Duran Duran.
Sadly the Spit and the Battle of Britain was largely waste as they largely surrender to Islam like America is doing.
Ya don't say...
I believe that research would prove that you are correct.
Agreed. I was going to comment that the Spitfire is one of the coolest-sounding planes I've ever heard.
I watch the Battle of Britain every chance I get. Don’t even care about the âlove angleâ of the movie. I watch to see the Hurricanes and Spitfires in action.But even above them I think the Mustang was the sexiest and best aircraft of WW2.
The Monty Python RAF “Banter” sketch.
Hahaha, great article, I remember seeing
"the first of the few" when I was a kid.
Oh, you got to love the Scotsman the only place
that has whisky as a category.
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On the website dedicated to General Robert L. Scott, there is the sound of a P-40 Allison engine roaring over. It is one of the most throaty yet beautiful sounds one can imagine.
They achieved that speed and more in DIVES. It is officially recorded, so you can look up the pilots and the dates and records. Spitfires were used for research that later resulted in breaking the sound barrier.
...The nearest the non-pilot will ever get to what it felt like to sit alone in the cockpit of a Spit is a poem by John Gillespie Magee, a Scots-Irish American who came to Britain in 1941 to fight the Nazis:
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth;
“And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
“Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth;
“Of sun-lit clouds - and done a hundred things;
“You have not dreamed of
“And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod;
“The high untrespassed sanctity of space;
“Put out my hand and touched the face of God.”
On 11 December, 1941, Magee was killed when his parachute failed to open. He was 19. At a time when the RAF is being cut to shreds, we should remember the Spit. But we should also remember the men and women who built it and flew it.
At the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, one of the more interesting displays to me are a bunch of aircraft engines cut away so you can see how they operate.
It was interesting to me that the old V-12 etc. piston engines were far more complex than the jets.
Those young guys could not have realized the weight of their stones. Therefore, they became airborne. That's why it's called glory.
I remember reading that the Spit cockpit as small
as it was, was spacious compared to a 109.
What was always amazing to me was some of the Wright
radials that would still run missing a cylinder or TWO.
It’s funny that a Griffon engined Spitfire is part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
While the spit was good, the P51 was better. Also, the last model of the spit had a square wing tip not elliptical as the original had. Also spits alone couldn’t have won the Battle of Britain, without the Hurricanes they would have been SOL.
I once saw a list of victories by spitfire and Hurricanes. It turned out the Hawkers had the same victory per flight as the spitfire.
Reminds me of something Chuck Yeager said in his book. “It is the pilot that makes the difference” assuming the planes are anywhere equal.
The only time the pilots have to really show their best skills are when they are facing the enemies best. Then the winner really is the winner.
I had the pleasure of touring a B-24 at an air show years ago. It really was rather roomy. More so than the B-17 which surprised me.
The B-24’s were notorious gas leakers. But they carried a heck of a bomb load. Conversely, by today’s standards, most people would be shocked just how little ordinance was carried by a B-17. But when you have thousands of them in one raid and they are being manufactured faster than the enemy can shoot them down, there is a certain quality that counts.
I have a WWII film of B-24’s on a mission where they are flying so close to the ground that it appears that one of the planes is literally coming within less than 10 feet of the ground - filmed from one of the other planes in the formation. I believe it was the first failed mission to Poesti.
On a side note, I was at a moving sale today of an elderly couple and as I talked to them, I discovered the guy flew as engineer on a Mosquito out of Italy during WWII. They had 50 cal guns (apparently no cannon) and their mission was night fighter. His plane was shot down once and he was credited with saving his pilot’s life when he pulled him from the wreckage.
The BF-109 was a smaller plane with a smaller cockpit. This was an advantage tho it did make the plane a very tight fit.
The All time ace of aces Erich Hartmann one flew from the advancing Russians with his mechanic in the plane too. He commented on just how difficult that was to do.
I understand that one of the biggest advantages of the German planes was that they were fuel injected while the Allied planes were all carbuereted. So inverted flight was a problem for our planes. But my favorite plane of the war is the spitfire, no doubt about it.
Yeah, maybe the later ones were outrunning ME262’s without breaking a sweat. ;)
Douglas Bader flew Spitfires in combat with two artificial legs!