Spitfire Turns 80

Yesterday marked the 80th anniversary of the first flight of RJ Mitchell’s classic, the Spitfire. The full story of the prototypes development can be read in this post I put together last year, along with a number of other instalments about Mitchell’s earlier design days.

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A replica of prototype K5054 on display at Goodwood last year.

This important anniversary saw a number of suitable celebratory events organised across the country, including a number of flypasts carried out at Southampton by the Boultbee Flight Academy and Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar. The former flights followed the original flight plan that Mutt Summers followed back in March 1936 and must have made for a moving sight over the Spitfire’s home. Aero Legends also carried out their own celebrations up at Sywell with their Mk. IX Spitfire TD314.

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TA805 leads MK912 in a formation pass at Biggin Hill last year.

I debated the various options for a long while, knowing that above all I wanted to see a Spitfire in the air on such a special occasion. In the end I went for the local option, which was an event organised down at Ramsgate by the Defence of the Nation museum. This event, suitably titled “Spitfire Day” saw 1940s music, stalls and displays on the seafront making for a great atmosphere. Sadly the weather didn’t look it was going to play ball. Low cloud and patchy rain were the order of the day and I wasn’t expecting the planned display from TA805 to go ahead.

The crowd were kept well informed in the time leading up to the display with updates from the Biggin Hill team letting us know that Clive Denney had managed to get airborne and was carrying out a flypast at the Battle of Britain Memorial near Folkestone before making his way over to us.

Typically, as the time drew near the weather took a further turn for the worse, with rain starting again over the beach. None of this mattered however when that familiar shape and sound appeared over the water and Clive entered a very graceful display for the large crowd that had gathered. Though no doubt more subdued that the original plan this was an excellent way to mark the anniversary and as you can see from the video below, Clive offered an enthusiastic Wing Wave on departure.

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It occurred to me not long after the Spitfire departed how busy the off season has been this year. Being able to go out and watch a Spitfire display in early March is a rare treat. This display was obviously in aid of a special occasion but with events coming up this month at Shuttleworth and Sywell it certainly makes a change to see things waking up early in the year.

Given the poor conditions yesterday at Ramsgate, I only have the Phone video included earlier, as I decided it wasn’t worth risking my camera, however I’ve included a few pictures from the Spitfire and Hurricane museum at Manston, which I also visited ahead of the display. Despite the weather it was a great day and a wonderful way to mark such an important date and remind ourselves how incredible a design the Spitfire is even at 80 years old.

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