On this day in history : 5th March 1936 – Iconic British fighter plane of the Battle of Britain, the ‘Spitfire’, makes its first test flight from Eastleigh Aerodrome, Hampshire….
The Spitfire was the creation of Reginald J Mitchell – who had been asked by Sir Robert McLean, Chairman of Vickers-Armstrongs, to design a fast and manoeuvrable fighter aircraft…. The intention being to replace the outdated models which were then currently in service with the Royal Air Force….
Piloted by Captain Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers, Vickers-Armstrongs Chief Test Pilot, Type 300 K5054, powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine took off from Eastleigh Aerodrome (now Southampton Airport)…. On landing after the 8 minute flight Summers told the ground crew “I don’t want anything touched”….
Three months later the Air Ministry put in an order for 310 Spitfires – an order worth £1.25 million…. The aircraft went into service with the RAF in 1938…. It was the only British fighter plane to be in continuous production before, during and after WWII. It remained in service until 1954 – the last ones being used for photo reconnaissance work….
‘Spitfire’ – an old English word meaning of strong and fiery character…. Mitchell was less than impressed with the name chosen for his aircraft…. He is reputed to have said “just the sort of bloody silly name they would think of”…. Mitchell died in 1937 – he was never to know how successful the aircraft would become…. As for the prototype K5054 it crashed at Farnborough in 1939….killing the pilot. It was scrapped instead of being repaired….