Squadronleader Illife Cozens was in July 1938 the first to receive Spitfires. As war was declared in September 1939, nineteen and a half squadrons were equipped with Spitfires.
The first Spitfires had a fixed two-bladed propeller, the next had a three-bladed fixed propeller and from 1940 the following a variable pitch three- bladed propeller. This needed a special unit, that was bought from the US , as it by chance matched the Merlin perfectly.
Paul Day, who flies modern jetfighters, examines a Spitfire Mark 1,and immidiately points out the undesireable position of the throttle to the left and the flaps control to the right, which meant, that the pilot had to shift hand immidiately after take off.
Otherwise he was reasonably satisfied with the controls and instrumentation, while he was very unhappy with the pilots restricted vision from the cockpit compared to the vision from modern fighterplanes. He found the plane light and agile and compared to other WW2 fighters well up in its class with its clear benefit of the excellent variable pitch propeller. His overall verdict was, that Mitchell had done it absolutely right.
(It was easy to spot a novice taking off, as his plane was swaying and rocking, when he shifted hand.
In the first Spitfires the control grip for lowering the undercarriage had a tendency to get stuck, and often one could see a Spitfire coming in to land make an extra round while doing some courious maneouvres: Flying repetedly nose up and suddenly nose down or even flying buttom up.
The reason for this was, that the best way to solve the problen was to eliminate the weight of the undercarriage and at the same time give the control grip a hard knock with the fist!
The Spitfires characteristic wing was one of the absolutly best during WW2. It was good for a speed over Mach 0.9 and during the war Spitfires were sent into a dive at Mach 0.92 - much faster than any of the german jets.
The Spitfire came in numerous versions during all years of war - plus
subversions - plus special versions. Four diifferent wings were developed - each whith its weapons ranging from four Btowning 0.303 machinguns (Mark 1 & 2) to two Hispano 20 mm cannons and 2 - 4 Browning 0.50 machineguns (Mark 14).
All Spitfires until Mark 12 had a Merlin engine, and from Mark 12 (1700 HP Griffon IIB) all versions except Mark 9 (1710 HP Merlin 63 or 63a) had a larger, but not nessesarily more powerfull Griffon engine, because the development of the Merlin never stopped during the war-years. At the end of 1944 a Merlin 130 produced 2.640 HP at a 15 minutes test!
The pilot, who was the first to down a me262, sat in a Spitfire Mark 9 and not in a Mark 14, as it often is stated.
The last version which in greater numbers took part in WW2 was Mark 14 (2035 HP Griffon 65).
All Spitfires greatest virtues were their turning and climb capabilities. Only a Hawker Huricane could outturn a Spitfire.
Mark 14 could climb faster than any other propellerdriven fighter of WW2 (and possibly jets too).
For readers, who want much more information, I suggest: "Spitfire - the history" (650 pages in A4 format - two and a half inches thick!) and "Airplane in profile" (Thirteen volumes from 1966-71) - if you can get hold of the relevant volumes - or you can visit ny homesite www.actis.dk (danish language - I'm sorry).
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