From one 'Mut' to another.

A short tribute to the maiden flight of the Spitfire.
By Mutley

At 4.35pm on the 5th March 1936, Vickers Supermarine chief test pilot Capt. J. 'Mutt Summers' raised the specification F.37/34 prototype 300 Spitfire (Serial K5054) into the air at Eastleigh. (Now Southampton International Airport EGHI,) The first flight lasted just 8 minutes, it took off 35 degrees across wind, this was because experience with the racing seaplanes had revealed a strong tendency to swing to port due to the high torque.

At Southampton Aerodrome, the K5054 ready to go.
Summers found that although there was indeed a tendency to swing, it was easily checked by the application of the opposite rudder. The aircraft seemed to drift into the air and the maiden flight, which was made with the undercarriage locked down, was effortless. Upon landing 'Mutt' is famously quoted as saying "I don't want anything touched".

In fact the only thing that was touched was the propeller.  For the maiden flight K5054 had been fitted with a fine pitch propeller to give the pilot more rpm therefore more power on take off.  This prop was replaced by a normal-pitch one for the second and subsequent flights.

Over the next three days a further three flights took place, all piloted by "Mutt" lasting 23 minutes, 31 minutes and 50 minutes during which time he flight tested the aircraft with a variety of stalls and steep turns to fully explore the flight characteristics of this unique aircraft.

 The Spitfire 'drifts' into the air.               Taxiing from the strip.               'Mutt' Summers exiting aircraft

The next few months saw further trials carried out with no major problems and K5054 was delivered to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath for official trials on 26 May 1936.  The Air Ministry were so impressed with this new fighter aircraft that prior to the full test programme being completed they issued a contract for 310 Spitfires on 3 June 1936 to the value of £1.25million.

From Left: 'Mutt' Summers, H.R. 'Agony' Payn, RJ Mitchell, S.Scott Hall and Jeffery Quill

The prototype Spitfire achieved a maximum speed of 349mph (increased to 364mph in the first production Mk I's), had excellent maneuverability, rate of climb and turning circle.  Pilots were to describe the ease of its control in the air as almost flying itself.

On 15th May 1938 Jeffrey Quill, the then chief test pilot, flew the first production Spitfire, K9787, from Eastleigh and then, on 4th August 1938, he delivered the first RAF Spitfire, K9789, to No.19 Fighter Squadron at Duxford.

By 1945 the aircraft had significantly increased its fire power, nearly doubled its rate of climb and achieved a speed of 450mph, almost exactly 100mph faster than the K5054 prototype. These achievements are testament to RJ Mitchell, and his team's, brilliant original design.

Obituary from the Southern Daily Echo

From 1938 until manufacture ceased in 1947, over 22000 Spitfires were built. Unfortunately, due to his untimely death on 11th June 1937, R. J. Mitchell never saw his greatest design legacy into production.

The Spitfire was developed into 24 different marks and, in addition to being an RAF fighter, fulfilled roles as a folding-wing aircraft carrier plane and photographic reconnaissance aircraft.

As a footnote, on 4th September 1939, the day after war broke out, the original prototype crash landed due to a misjudgment on the part of the pilot, Flt Lt 'Spinner' White. Sadly he was killed and K5054 never flew again.

This sculpture designed by Alan Manning stands proudly at the entrance to Southampton Airport, unveiled by Mitchell's son on 5th March 2004, 68 years later.
Southampton Airport proudly celebrated the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the Spitfire.  A re-enactment of the Spitfire’s very first flight took place at the airport at 16:30 on Sunday 5 March, exactly 70 years after the original flight took place.

In the co-pilot's seat was Alex Henshaw, 93, one of the original test pilots. Once the Spitfire re-enacted the test flight around the airfield at Southampton, it was be joined by  four other Spitfires in formation and performed a fly-past over the city

The formation of five spitfires performing the fly-past was best viewed from Mayflower Park in Southampton and  the Itchen Valley Country Park, Eastleigh.

Below, are shots taken from Just Flight's excellent Spitfire flight sim addon.  Included in the package is the prototype along with many other variants from the early Mk1's to the Mk22 with period scenery of RAF Duxford.

Click on screenshots to see larger image

               K5054 drifting into the air          Mutt.. I don't want anything 
        touched!          Down wind leg

               Undercarriage locked down for entire flight          Classic Mk1A           In enemy blind spot, diving!

               Excellent maneuverability...           ..With fire power to match any foe          Classic Spitfire, The victor!

Thanks to the Spitfire Society, Southern Life, Wikipedia and Spitfireonline for invaluable information.


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