On this day is commemorated the 80 anniversary of the first flight by Spitfire prototype (K5054) which had been designed by R. J. Mitchell. K5054 was the Air Ministry registration given to the (Vickers) Supermarine Type 300 prototype. This happened on 5 March 1936 when took off on its first flight at 16.30 from Eastleigh Aerodrome in Hampshire, later Southampton Airport. At the controls was Captain Joseph "Mutt" Summers, chief test pilot for Vickers, who is quoted as saying "Don't touch anything" on landing. This fact came four months after the maiden flight of the contemporary Hurricane. This first flight lasted eight-minute. Flight testing revealed a number of problems with the control surfaces and with wing flutter at high speed.
The unpainted Spitfire prototype K5054 at Eastleigh airfield, just before the first flight. The angled rudder mass balance and unfaired main undercarriage and tailskid can be seen. This aircraft was written off after a landing accident at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (R.A.E.) at Farnborough on 4 September 1939. [Via]
In its first few flights, K5054 was unarmed. Minor modifications and refinements were made to the Type 300 as suggested by flight trials over the following months, and K5054 emerged as the pattern for the production version of the now legendary Supermarine Mk.I Spitfire. Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death in 1937. Mitchell has become recognized as one of the all time greats in cutting edge aviation design. The official cost of K5054 from design board to first flight was officially put at £14,637.
The Spitfire was a British single-seat fighter aircraft, designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft. It was also the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. The Spitfire was the timeless classic that other aircraft are compared too.
Spitfire prototype K5054 in 1936. [Vic Flintham]
K5054 became the mould for the Spitfires that fought in the Battle of Britain. During the Battle of Britain, from July to October 1940, the Spitfire was perceived by the public to be the RAF fighter. Spitfires in general were tasked with engaging the Luftwaffe fighters (mainly Messerschmitt BF109E Series aircraft which were a close match for the Spitfire) during the Battle.
After the Battle of Britain the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres.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, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s.
The First Spitfire Flight - K5054 over Southampton
Original footage and interviews with veteran Spitfire pilot Jimmy Corbin from Maidstone, Kent who logged 2000 hours in the cockpit during WWII, apprentice during the war Barry Dynes; a former welder's mate, and aviation author, Robin Brooks.