YouTube – Supermarine Spitfire
29 ft. 11 in.
36 ft. 10 in.
The Supermarine Spitfire is the most famous British fighter aircraft of WW II. It is known for its excellent handling, speed, and maneuverability.
The first Supermarine Spitfire prototype flew on March 5, 1936, had a top speed of 350 mph and climb rate of 2,500 fpm. The RAF ordered a total of 310 of the aircraft in June of 1936. The Spitfire Mk. 1 became operational in June of 1938.
In November of 1940 the Spitfire Mk Il went into service. Performance of the Supermarine Spitfire was improved with the addition of a 1,150 hp Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
In 1940, at the beginning of the Battle of Britain, the RAF had nineteen Spitfire squadrons in service. The aircraft primarily took on German fighter planes.
While more difficult to build than other fighter aircraft, the Supermarine Spitfire was quicker and more maneuverable. The large area elliptical wing gave the aircraft a light wing loading, and the ability to turn very tightly. This was the major asset when encountering the otherwise comparable and initially more heavily armed German fighters.
German pilots were quick to exploit a weakness of the early Supermarine Spitfire. The German fighter fuel injected engines had no problems running in negative gravity, as when suddenly diving. This was not true of the carbureted early Merlin engine of the Spitfire. When possible, Spitfire pilots would invert their aircraft, to create positive gravity for their engines, before entering a dive.
Luftwaffe aircraft outnumbered the British four to one. However the RAF had the advantage of being able to stay in the air longer over its own territory before needing to refuel. The RAF also had an effective early warning radar system to guide their aircraft to intercept the Germans.
When improved Axis aircraft were first introduced, they were superior to the Spitfire of the time. That changed with the introduction of the model Mk. XIV.
The elliptical design of the Supermarine Spitfire wing was sufficiently wide to allow for up to eight machine-guns, while still having the low drag of more conventional wing designs. The wing was also much thinner than other designs of the time. This design proved efficient in terms of lift distribution along the span, and gave the aircraft excellent maneuverability along with gentle handling, a unique combination.
One drawback of the Spitfire wing design was that it was time consuming to construct. In comparison to its German rivals, it has been reported that the wing of the Spitfire took three times the man hours to construct.
A feature of the Supermarine Spitfire design is that the trailing edge of the wing twists upward slightly along its length from the root to its tip. This feature is known as “washout.” Washout in the Spitfire has its advantages, especially at slow speeds and while executing tight turns. However, washout also slightly increases drag and makes inverted flight more difficult. In the Spitfire it provides just the proper balance to make the aircraft extremely pilot friendly with minimum negative effects on performance.
Proper washout causes the wing tips to keep flying after the wing roots reach an angle of attack at which they can no longer fly. This reduces the chance that the aircraft will suddenly drop a wing and enter an unwanted spin.
When the wing root starts to stall, the aircraft’s control column shakes. This warns the pilot that he is about to reach the limit of its performance. To prevent the stall the pilot can either increase power, push down the nose of the aircraft to increase speed, and/or decrease the severity of the turn. This feature allowed even average pilots to hold the aircraft in a steep turn. It also gave the aircraft more stability at slower landing speeds.
Supermarine Spitfires excelled in the Battle of Britain when taking on German fighter aircraft, enabling Hurricane aircraft to engage bombers. Although fewer in number than the Hurricanes, Spitfires had a higher victory ratio and lower loss rate.
Supermarine Spitfire pilot highest scoring aces over England included “Johnnie” Johnson with 34 victories, “Paddy” Finucane with 28 victories, “Sailor” Milan with 27 victories, Bob Tuck and Douglas Bader with 20 victories each. “Buzz” Beurling had some 31 victories, primarily over Malta.
In addition to defending England, Supermarine Spitfire aircraft saw action in the Mediterranean Theatre and North Africa.
The Soviet Union acquired about 1,000 Supermarine Spitfire aircraft, used primarily as interceptors.
Supermarine Spitfire aircraft saw action in the Pacific Theatre, Southeast Asia, and in the defense of Australia.
The U.S. Army Air Corps flew Supermarine Spitfire aircraft with the 4th Fighter Group based In Great Britain. There they saw limited action as bomber escorts due to their lack of range and were replaced by greater range escort fighters by early 1943.
Production of Supermarine Spitfire aircraft continued until 1948 during which some 20,350 aircraft of all types were built.
RC Supermarine Spitfire
The RC Supermarine Spitfire from Hangar 9 is an ARF with all wood construction. It has a wingspan of 81 in. and is 64 1/2 in. long. Power can come from a 160 – 245 kV motor, 30 – 40 cc two cycle gas or 1.80 – 2.10 four cycle glow engines. Weight is around 17 1/2 lbs.
Top Flite has a RC Supermarine Spitfire kit that builds to a 63 in. wingspan and 53 in. length. Construction is all wood. Engines are .61 – .75 two cycle or .70 – .91 four cycle. Weight is about 8 lbs.
The RC Supermarine Spitfire from E-flite is BNF. Wingspan is 48 in. and length is 42 in. Included is a 15-850 kV size motor turning a 10 x 8 five blade propeller. Ready to fly weight is around 54 oz.