Foreword

"To all pilots every aircraft has it's own personality, which always reflects it's constructors character and marks the character of those who fly it. For example the Spitfire, which is typically British: temperate, is the perfect compromise for all the qualities required of a fighter, ideally suited for its task of defence. An essentially sensible piece of machinery, conceived by cool, precise brains and built by conscientious hands. The Spitfire left such an impression on those who flew it that when they changed to other types they found it very hard to get acclimatised."

Pierre Clostermann, Pilot RAF (The Free French Forces), 23 victories - the majority in Spitfires (Mk. V and IX)

"What a bloody stupid name!"

When Reginald Mitchell, Supermarines Chief Designer, learned what his brainchild “Type 300” should be called, he was anything but happy. He had thought of the name "Shrew", however, the ministry chose “Spitfire”.

The birth of the Spitfire was typically English: delayed and over budget, as an Englishman said. The Spitfire is typically English like English sports-car romanticism with leather seats and polished walnut tree on the dashboard: beautiful but designed without any consideration for manufacturing and assembly – an engineering nightmare, which was not meant for mass-production. Mitchell and Supermarine probably never imagined that more than 20,000 Spitfires were going to be built. Because Supermarine themselves were not capable of building the whole aircraft; e.g. the wings were built at a subcontractor, who had problems delivering, because the wings were especially hard to build due to the fact that they were very thin – the thinnest ever put into mass-production. This caused massive delays in the deliveries to Royal Air Force.

Messerschmitt Bf109, which was the Spitfires German adversary, was built like a German car is built today: designed thoughtfully and with consideration for mass-production. Bf109 seems more advanced than the Spitfire: a 2nd generation semimonocoque, effective, however, somewhat less charming. Actually it only took a third of the man-hours used to build one of the later variants of the Spitfire building a Bf109.

How is and was the Spitfire?

Looking forward when you are strapped into the cockpit you can see a lot of nose – about 2,5 meters on early versions and about 3 meters on later versions. When flying level at low altitude in for example 150 meters / 500 ft, it means that you are not able to see what is going on below and in front of you for the next 4.5 kilometres / 2 miles. Looking to either side you will se the wings, because though they are beautiful they take a big part of the view to the side and below you. If you try to look back your view is restricted by the high back (cured on later versions with low back). To compensate for this shortcoming a make-up mirror was fitted on top of the frame of the windshield, giving the pilot an illusion of him being able to guess what is going on behind him. The space in the cockpit is reasonably good provided that you do not have too wide shoulders. The control column can give full motion to the control surfaces without hitting the pilot’s stomach or legs. The engine instruments are somewhat misplaced below and right on the instrument panel on a place that an engine problem does not catch the attention of the pilot until white or black smoke streams around the ears of the pilot. The rest of the instrumentation is quite good and logical.

A Bf109 has a cockpit which is only 2 thirds of the size of the Spitfires. It is supposed to be a claustrophobic experience closing the hood is being closed when you are ready to fly. When the hood is closed there is approximately only half the space to move your body compared to the Spitfire. The pilot’s legs are in the way when moving the control column and on versions with a cannon firing through the propeller hub, the breach of the cannon is placed in the cockpit between the pilot’s legs – and that does not make the cockpit roomier. All in all the Spitfire was not too bad.

In order to service and maintain a Bf109, only a few screws should be undone in order to have free access to the engine where everything was placed logically and easily accessible. On the Spitfire is was a somewhat bigger job to remove cowlings and panels. The Bf109 was probably easier to maintain in the field than the Spitfire was.

On the other hand an experienced Spitfire ground crew could re-arm and re-fuel a Spitfire in less than 8 minutes, because the ammunition was put in boxes / magazines in the wings. The weapon system itself was very simple for the pilot to operate – a safety switch and a gun-button.

The Merlin engine and it’s supercharger of the Spitfire looks more old-fashion compared to the Daimler-Benz engine of the Bf109, but is a wonder, which is dependable and working perfectly according to what was asked for.

The Spitfire has fitted a really good constant speed unit (controlling the pitch of the propeller), securing that the engine and propeller are working together so that neither the engine nor the propeller is over-revving.

In the air a Spitfire is a dream; well flying, well harmonized controls and very manoeuvrable without any tendencies to go into a sudden spin or doing unpleasant things during take-off and landing. When you are pushing the Spitfire beyond its limits during hard manoeuvres it gently starts to buffer and shake letting you know that you have pushed things too far. The Bf109 was different: heavy on the controls and thus tiring to fly during combat. It was difficult to land because the narrow undercarriage easily caused the aircraft to ground loop if the wings were not level during touchdown. Many Bf109 pilots were killed because of landing incidents.

The Spitfire is all the way a magnificent aircraft, which beautiful lines and aura that places it above the vulgar habit of war. In general the Spitfire was a superb aircraft, which was perfect for the role it was intended: a defensive fighter, which also proved itself as a tactical fighter-bomber.

Mitchell and Supermarine really got it right.

About Spitfire.dk

What is it with these old aircraft from World War II? You can maintain that they are noisy and consume huge quantities of fuel and is glorification of war.

These aircraft represent the ultimate within a technology, which could not be brought any further. The large piston engines such as Daimler-Benz 603, Junkers JUMO 211, Allison V-1710, Napier Sabre, Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp, Bristol Centaurus/Hercules, Rolls-Royce Merlin and Rolls-Royce Griffon had been developed during the 1920's and 1930's air races and the birth of commercial aviation. Things that we regard as modern technology in today's cars is actually old technology. Just think of 4 valves per cylinder in order to give the engine improved aspiration and compressors / turbochargers to increase the engine's output. These old engines had it all. Add to this the unforgettable sound. If you once in your life have heard the roar of a 1700 horsepower R-R Merlin you will never forget this sound. These aircraft, however, also represent the coming of a new age: new methods of production, principals of construction and understanding of aerodynamics.

No, it is not glorification of war. It is a fact that these aircraft were build in order to kill people. The young men, who flew these aircraft, did it for their countries. By keeping the aircraft from that period flying, we honour the thousands of men, who fought in these planes. A terrible number of these young men paid with their lives.

This website is not about war, but about one of the most prominent and superior aircraft from that period of time. An aircraft which became a legend in it's time as an active combat aircraft and which had a long career considering the days when it was active. The aircraft is the Supermarine Spitfire, which became close connected to the Battle of Britain. In spite of it's funny name it is one of the most elegant and beautiful aircraft which ever flew.

Please enjoy the sound and beautiful shapes of these aircraft!

This website is not meant to give an answer to all questions about this aircraft. A lot of books do that, however, by telling what I know and what I have been able to learn in a simple way, I hope that other people may find this interesting and beneficial.

Happy reading.


All the best,
Michael Sundsig-Hansen


Click here and send me an e-mail!

 

 
 

 

 

 

A Spitfire Mk. IIA.

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One of the best known: Messerschmitt Bf109G2 equiped for tropical operation in North Africa - "Black 6". This aircraft can be seen at the RAF Museum in Hendon, London, where she was put on static display after a landing accident at Duxford caused by engine failure.

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A Focke-Wulf FW190A which was supperior to the Spitfire Mk 5. The Mk IX was the solution. This FW190 is an airworthy size 1:1 replica built after the original drawings using some original bits, however, the engine i a Russian ASH radial engine.

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