Spitfire celebrates 75th anniversary
Today marks a special date in the history of aviation and, ultimately, the history of this country. On the 5th of March 1936 at Eastleigh Aerodrome, Hampshire (now Southampton Airport) a single-engined, low-wing monoplane fighter prototype flew for the first time. That aeroplane, designated Type 300, became the Supermarine Spitfire - designer R. J. Mitchell's magnum opus and the aircraft that went on to define and ultimately help win the Second World War in the air.
The Spitfire can trace its roots back to the successful Supermarine S.5 and S.6/S.6B seaplanes that won the Schneider Trophy in 1927, 1929 and 1931. Here were the first examples of Mitchell's streamlined, one-piece designs complete with (from the S.6 onwards) Rolls-Royce engines, which would eventually lead to the Spitfire. Together with the RAF's first low-wing monoplane fighter the Hawker Hurricane, which pre-dated it by a matter of 5 months, the Spitfire became the backbone of Fighter Command in World War Two and has forever cemented itself in our nation's consciousness.
|Spitfire prototype K5054, prior to its first flight, 5th March 1936.|
Spitfire flight marks 75th anniversary in Southampton
As part of the celebrations the "Grace" Spitfire performed a flypast over Southampton, where Supermarine was based, and a statue has been commissioned as a permanent memorial.
But the most fitting tribute to this enduring aircraft are the 44 or so (out of total 22,500 manufactured) that still fly and perform at airshows around the world. Perhaps more than any other aeroplane it has earned an abiding glamour that will, with luck, ensure it remains at the forefront of our cultural heritage for another 75 years. In the meantime, Happy Birthday Spitfire!