This week’s plane of the week is the British Supermarine Spitfire.
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries during and after World War Two. The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft. It was also the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. The Spitfire continues to be popular among enthusiasts, with 53 Spitfires still flying, while many more are static exhibits in aviation museums throughout the world.
The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works. Mitchell designed the Spitfire’s distinctive elliptical wing to have the thinnest possible cross-section, which enabled the Spitfire to have a higher top speed than many other fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane. Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith took over as chief designer, overseeing the development of the Spitfire through its many variants.
During the Battle of Britain, from July to October 1940, the Spitfire was perceived by the public to be the best RAF fighter, though the more common Hawker Hurricane shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Nazi German air force, the Luftwaffe. However, because of its higher performance, Spitfire units had a higher victory-to-loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes.
After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire overtook the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s. The Seafire was a carrier-based adaptation of the Spitfire which served in the Fleet Air Arm (I think that’s like the Marines or something) from 1942 through to the mid-1950s. Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp, it was strong enough and adaptable enough to use increasingly powerful Engines and, in later versions, Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,340 hp. We need one of those for tractor pulling.
Next week: A plane built around a gun.