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 The intention being to replace the outdated models which were then currently in service with the Royal Air Force….

R.J. Mitchell – Public domain

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”….

Supermarine Spitfire Prototype K5054 Replica

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 P7350, flies alongside Hurricane LF363.
Spitfire P7350 (front) flies alongside Hurricane LF363 (back). P7350 (Mk IIa) is the oldest airworthy Spitfire in the world and the only Spitfire still flying to have actually fought in the Battle of Britain. LF363 (Mk IIC) was the last Hurricane to enter service with the RAF. The aircraft currently wears the colours of Hurricane Mk 1 P3878 ‘YB-W’, the aircraft of Flying Officer Harold Bird-Wilson of No 17 Sqn during the Battle of Britain. This image is available for non-commercial, high resolution download at http://www.defenceimages.mod.uk subject to terms and conditions. Search for image number 45151794.jpg —————————————————————————- Photographer: SAC Neil Chapman Image 45151794.jpg from http://www.defenceimages.mod.uk

‘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….

A Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 of No.19 Squadron RAF being re-armed between sorties of Fowlmere, near Duxford, September 1940. From the collections of the Imperial War Museums – Photo CH 1367
Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI Photo credit : Chowells via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.5

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