Posts Tagged ‘Schneider Trophy’

I was poking around the Internet today and came upon another “today-in-history” event that I had totally missed.  It involved aircraft, and I LOVE aircraft.  More than that, it concerned military aircraft, and I REALLY LOVE military aircraft.  Even more than that, it was about WWII military aircraft and, well, you get the picture…

The Supermarine Spitfire was born in the mid-1920’s in the era of seaplane racing.  In fact, as the name implies, Supermarine was best known as a seaplane company, and was attracted to the Schneider Trophy, which was essentially a drag-race for seaplanes.  Supermarine won the Trophy in 1927 with the famous S.5 (the first real ancestor of the Spitfire), and again in 1929 and 1931 with the S.6 and S.6b, respectively.

The British Air Ministry recognized the need for an upgrade from the bi-planes it was using and on March 5, 1936, a Spitfire prototype made its first flight (lasting about eight minutes) through the air over Southampton, England.  Subsequent flights so impressed the Air Ministry that, within months, the first orders were placed.

And the orders kept coming…and coming.  And war threatened and the orders came.  And war broke and the orders continued.  And the war expanded, and still more were produced.  More than 20,000 Spitfires rolled off assembly lines in variants too numerous to mention. They flew in Africa. They flew in Europe.  The flew in the Mediterranean.  They flew in Scandanavia.  They flew in Australia.  They flew off aircraft carriers as Supermarine Seafires.  But they gained their legendary fame right at home, fighting (and winning) the Battle of Britain (Spring-Autumn 1940).

The Spitfire was quick, powerful, maneuverable, easy-to-handle, and very forgiving.  It’s only real knock was its lack of range (particularly in the early models), but when the plane was most needed (in the skies over England and the English Channel), it fought at home, so range wasn’t an issue.

Spitfires were flown in RAF service into the 1950’s, and in numerous countries longer than that.  And it all began with just eight minutes on this day in March…

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