06 July 2011
Richard Ayling reflects on the development of the Supermarine Spitfire, following its first flight in 1936, and some of the recent diecast model replicas. ...
Taking to the sky
In 2011 the Spitfire celebrates 75 years since its first flight. The world of diecast has been a strong supporter of the Spitfire since our hobby began to produce models in 1/72 scale in 2000.
Just as the Spitfire could (rightly) be described as the most famous fighter aircraft of all time, the Corgi Spitfire has, without doubt, been the most popular diecast aviation model ever produced. In numerous marks of Spitfire design, the Corgi Spitfire can be found in almost every diecast aviation collection and its popularity seems set to continue.
With new models due to be released from both Corgi and Hobbymaster, in 1/72 and 1/48 scales respectively, the legend of the Spitfire will live on in diecast for many years to come.
Origins of the Spitfire
Reginald Mitchell had designed many aircraft before designing the Spitfire, an aircraft that was to make him a household name. Working for Supermarine, based at Southampton, his work had mainly involved military flying boats used during WWI and afterwards.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Britain was involved in the famous Schneider Trophy race for seaplanes. Aircraft designed by Mitchell, produced to win the 1925, 1927 and 1931 races in partnership with engine builder Rolls-Royce, culminated in the famous type S6B.
In this aircraft, the basis of the Spitfire design was founded. Sadly, although Mitchell saw the first flight and early production models, he was to die before his aircraft, flown by young RAF pilots alongside the Hawker Hurricane, famously won the Battle of Britain in 1940.
Spitfire Type 300 Prototype – first flight 1936
The Spitfire was designed by Mitchell to meet British Air Ministry specification. On 5th March 1936, the prototype Spitfire (K5054) took off on its first flight from Eastleigh Aerodrome (later Southampton Airport). It was flown by Vickers senior test pilot Captain Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers. This eight-minute flight came four months after the maiden flight of the contemporary Hawker Hurricane, but the difference was that the Spitfire was a futuristic all-metal design whereas the Hurricane bore more a resemblance in construction to its biplane forebears, the Hart and Kestrel.
The British public first saw the Spitfire at the RAF Hendon air display on 27th June 1936. The RAF, impressed with this exciting aircraft, had placed an initial order for 310 airframes. Due to some initial problems, production did not begin immediately and it was mid 1938 that the first production aircraft rolled off the assembly line – by that time orders for a further 200 had been confirmed as Britain began to re-arm.
The Corgi model was released in November 2006 and sold out extremely quickly. It was made in the larger 1/32 scale in a worldwide limited edition of 2,370 pieces...
PICTURED ABOVE The Spitfire prototype takes off from Eastleigh on 5th March 1936.
PICTURED BELOW One of Corgi’s 1/72 scale Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary Mk IA releases: the Archive model of Eric Lock’s No 41 Sqn machine