Supermarine Spitfire Mk I

Back to the truly iconic types of World War II.

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Let’s see what can be said about an early war Spitfire…

The Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane were contemporaries.  They both first flew in the mid-1930s and were among that first generation of enclosed cockpit, retractable landing gear, monoplane designs.  But in significant ways the Hurricane was a more traditional design with fabric and aluminum skin over a steel tube and wood frame structure (see comment below by shortfinals for a more detailed description).  By comparison the Spitfire was a true revolutionary.  It used more modern construction and had more advanced aerodynamics.  In fact, the Mk I Spitfire, with the same engine as the Mk I Hurricane was 30 miles per hour faster.

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Early in World War Two, British fighters wore a bold Black/White color scheme on their bottom surfaces. This was purely to aid aircraft identification.

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But there’s a price to pay for being revolutionary.  The structure and controls needed to be fine tuned to handle that extra performance.  Even more, it took time to get a factory up and running that could produce those new structures rapidly. Even field maintenance and repairs required new training and techniques.  So when war broke out in September of 1939 the RAF had far more Hurricanes on hand than the new Spitfire. And up through the Battle of France the RAF was hesitant to send Spitfire squadrons off to serve away from home.  This meant Hurricane and even Gladiator squadrons gained combat experience while Spitfire squadrons trained and built strength.

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After the fall of France the Germans began attacking Britain in greater force.  Hurricane squadrons still outnumbered Spitfires by over 2 to 1, but Spitfires quickly proved their worth.  When the Battle of Britain picked up speed in August of 1940 it was determined that Spitfires should go after German fighters while the Hurricanes went after bombers, whenever possible.  This proved an effective division of labor.  Not surprisingly Hurricanes would score more total kills, while Spitfires had a better kill ratio.

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Squadron Leader Sailor Malan in the cockpit of his Spitfire.

This particular subject is from the Tamiya kit with Superscale decals.  It is in the markings of a plane flown by Squadron Leader Adolph “Sailor” Malan of Number 74 Squadron.  Sailor Malan was one of the best known and most successful pilots of the Battle of Britain with 27 kills.  Sailor Malan was a South African who joined the RAF after previously working as a sailor.  With a given name of “Adolph” it is perhaps not surprising he preferred to go by his nick name.  Under his leadership No. 74 Squadron was one of Britain’s best during the Battle of Britain.  Malan stressed tactics and teamwork and was known for his “10 rules of air fighting”; he was also known to prefer damaging German aircraft to destroying them because he wanted the German home front to have to deal with injured and maimed servicemen, an attitude that came from living in a Britain that was under constant air attack.

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Spitfire and Hurricane.

Post War he returned to South Africa and was heavily involved with something known as the “Springbok Legion” which was formed to oppose South Africa’s new fascist government and Apartheid.  Sailor Malan died of Parkinson’s Disease in 1963.

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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12 Responses to Supermarine Spitfire Mk I

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Reblogged this on My Forgotten Hobby and commented:
    My kind of plane…

  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Nice build Dave.

  3. Pierre Lagacé says:

    I love to zoom in on your images.

  4. jfwknifton says:

    A beautiful model of a beautiful plane. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. shortfinals says:

    Err, I hate (I truly do) to correct someone, but………….

    The Hurricane did NOT use aluminium tubing in the fuselage; the round tubes were made from alloy steel, which was specially swaged into square sections at the end, then secured with shaped steel pins (not welded). This ‘foundation’ was then made into an aerodynamic shape by the use of wooden formers, which were, from the cockpit back, covered by fabric. Indeed, in this respect, the Hurricane was a 1/2 generation older than the Spitfire, being directly evolved from the earlier Fury biplane (the earliest name for the Hurricane being the ‘Fury Monoplane’). If you look at the Hillson FH40 Bi-mono Hurricane, you’ll see what I mean.

    Even the Hurricane wings were initially fabric covered, with metal covered wings coming into production, later.

    Anyway, I hope this helps

    Ross Sharp
    Director, Engineering & Airframe Compliance
    The People’s Mosquito Ltd

    • atcDave says:

      That’s all great stuff! I guess I knew most of that, but obviously not exactly what was under the skin. I’ll make the change up above.
      A fabric winged Hurricane is something still missing from my collection, I’m hoping Airfix does one with their new Hurricane mold.

  6. It’s not easy to do a good and accurate reproduction of an early Spitfire. You’ve done it Dave. Top Job, keep up the outstanding work, Rich

  7. Ernie Davis says:

    Excellent build of one of the truly great planes of the war. The early models suffered from the use of a carburetor as opposed to fuel injection, but pilots learned to compensate until changes were quickly made to prevent the negative G stall.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I guess the development of the Merlin’s carburetor is sort of an epic in its own right. It was initially chosen over injection because of something to do with temperature and pressure (I’m not an engineer or mechanic, my understanding of such things is rudimentary!)
      But tweeks were made to control fuel flow to tame the negative-g issues. Ultimately they came up with an injection carburetor (!) that apparently gave the best of both worlds.

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