Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spitfire & Norton : 2 British legends

By Come Chantrel

Copyright by : clavework graphycs

My father went through flight training in the RAF during the late 1940s and ended up in the cockpit of the Spitfire MK XIV. Back in those days, fighter aircrafts really meant something. A few years before the same airplane had defeated Hitler in the skies of England. The Spit was a legend and the MK XIV was its sharpest version.

Meanwhile all my dad kept talking about was not the fun he had flying the Spitfire but the fun he had riding his Triumph and Norton motorcycles on the British Roads. As an aviation buff who’s never owned a bike, that makes little sense to me although I understand the comparison.

By the time I was born, the only thing that was left from his time in the RAF, was one of his log book. The picture is not him but it could have been as he flew the same airplane and wore the same outfit. I dreamed of wearing his long lost Irving jacket and his flight boots when I was a kid. I remember that he used to call his flight uniform, a "battle dress" in typical British pilot form and that his description of flying the "Spit" included variable pitch propeller, stick and rudder synchronization and trimming the controls, all concepts that I had a lot of troubles both to understand and to include when I played with my model airplanes...

The Rolls Royce Merlin engine of the previous version was replaced by a Griffon engine. Although the Griffon engined Spitfires were never produced in the large numbers of the Merlin engined variants they were an important part of the Spitfire family and, in their later versions, kept the Spifire at the forefront of piston-engined fighter development.

The first one of these was flown by Jeffrey Quill on 20 January 1943: Changes to the aircraft were restricted to those essential to enable it to accept the new engine...I found that it had a spectacular performance doing 445 mph at 25,000 ft, with a sea-level rate of climb of over 5,000 ft per minute. I remember being greatly delighted with it; it seemed to me that from this relatively simple conversion, carried out with a minimum of fuss and bother, had come up with something quite outstanding...
It was truly an impressive machine, being able to climb almost vertically - it gave many Luftwaffe pilots the shock of their lives when, having thought they had bounced you from a superior height, they were astonished to find the Mk XIV climbing up to tackle them head-on, throttle wide open!

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