75 years ago, Britain was in great peril after being peppered by German bombs. It was only a matter of time, however, before the Crown decided the country had enough. In one valiant stand against the Luftwaffe, the Royal Air Force exacted air superiority over the Nazis in what is now known as the Battle of Britain, proving that air power alone can indeed win a major battle. The soldiers that won the fight? A collection of young-but-raring pilots in the cockpits of their trusted “warbirds,” the Spitfires.
The Spitfire was considered a matchup nightmare for Hitler’s Junkers, Messerschmitt, and Dorniers. It was a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft capable of reaching top speeds no other plane in its era could achieve. Flying alongside the trusty Hawker Hurricane, the Spitfire proved to be a menacing foe for the Luftwaffe, which were once thought capable of decimating the RAF in days.
Nowadays, the same planes that quite literally helped “save” Britain from a WW2 German occupation can now be experienced in all their glory via specialised Spitfire flights, offered by firms like Boultbee Flight Academy. Express contributor John Ingham tried flying one himself, and the experience, he says, was one “for a lifetime.”
Half an hour in the skies was all Ingham needed to understand why the Spitfire was such a key factor in Britain’s decisive victory in 1940. The plane was able to almost completely outmanoeuvre enemy warplanes because of its soft-touch controls, which Ingham claimed were “hair-trigger”—the slightest touch of the joystick could send the plane one way.
Such controls were the ones that apparently saved the life of Battle of Britain veteran Michael Wainwright, now 91, while he was up in the skies fighting Nazi Messerschmitt Me109s. On occasions when he found himself pursued by an enemy plane, he only had two courses of action: slow down or speed up, the latter being the most expected by enemy pilots. To evade his foe, he always pulled into a tight turn away from his pursuer; a feat which the enemy plane could never match.
Aside from the controls, the Spitfire’s trusty engine also made a difference. Initially powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin capable of producing 1030 horsepower, the Spitfire was subsequently upgraded with the more powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon, which more than doubled the Merlin’s output (2340 horsepower)–a marvel of aviation technology back in the day.
Now, you can experience the same adrenaline rush the olden WW2 pilots had via an exhilarating flight in a Spitfire, the plane which has aptly etched its name in history.
(Source: My Spitfire Heaven: Fly The Iconic Fighter Plane In The Experience Of A Lifetime, Express, February 28, 2015)