Spitfire 80th Anniversary
All photos by our Aerodrome writer Michael Clegg
Saturday 5th March 2016 is the 80th anniversary of the first flight of what has now become a British icon - the mighty Spitfire
On 5th March 1936, Eastleigh Aerodrome near Southampton was to play host to one of the most significant events in the history of British aviation. As Vickers Supermarine’s chief test pilot Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers strapped himself into the cockpit of the Supermarine Type 300 interceptor prototype K5054, he knew that he would be flying one of the most advanced aircraft the world had ever seen. During a brief eight minute flight, the aircraft showed so much promise, that on landing, Summers reputedly told the engineers waiting on the ground ‘Don’t touch a thing!’
The Supermarine Type 300 was soon given the name ‘Spitfire’ and an enduring aviation legend began to take shape. Arguably the most famous fighter aircraft of all time, the Spitfire proved its pedigree during the savage dogfights of the Battle of Britain and went on to serve valiantly in every theatre of conflict during the Second World War. Produced in more numbers than any other British combat aircraft the basic Spitfire airframe proved to be so adaptable that the aircraft saw significant upgrade and improvement throughout its sixteen year service life. Using what was essentially the same airframe, the last Spitfires were producing more than double the power of the first machines and its maximum take-off weight and rate of climb had also doubled.
The graceful, sweeping lines of the beautiful and distinctive Supermarine Spitfire sometimes make it difficult to imagine that this was actually one of the most deadly fighter aircraft the world has ever seen. Representing Britain’s defiance in the face of adversity and her prowess in the field of aeronautical excellence, the Spitfire is as iconic today, as she was ground breaking when she first took to the skies 80 years ago.