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By: Alfred Price, Paul Blackah .
The Spitfire is more than just an aeroplane. It is an icon. It is, moreover, an icon that is quintessentially, indubitably and self-confidently British. Few British people will dispute the assertion that the Supermarine Spitfire was the most famous aircraft ever to serve with the Royal Air Force. Yet it is pertinent to ask why the Spitfire should have attained its iconic status, to the point where it overshadowed other aircraft types whose achievements were scarcely less significant.
Today the sight and sound of a Spitfire strutting its stuff is the high point of any air show. More than 22,000 of these aircraft were built, and the youngest survivor — a Seafire variant — first flew in 1947, making it 60 years old.
However, preparing for such longevity was not a consideration for those who designed and built these aircraft. During hard-fought periods of the war, a Spitfire had an average life of just a few weeks.
In the years following the war the number of airworthy Spitfires plummeted, and by the mid-1960s only eight remained in Great Britain. Then came the epic film The Battle of Britain, which needed all the operational Spitfires it could get to perform the aerial battle scenes. The film, released in 1969, proved a huge box office success. It also led to an explosion of interest in surviving airworthy Spitfires, and showed that almost anyone, provided he or she was wealthy enough, could own and perhaps fly a Spitfire.
This book provides a brief history df this iconic aeroplane and a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into what is involved in restoring, flying and maintaining a Spitfire today, nearly 70 years after the first prototype flew.
Dr Alfred Price served for 15 years as an aircrew officer in the Royal Air Force, where he was a crewman on Vulcan bombers, specialising in electronic warfare and air-fighting tactics. Since leaving the service, he has been a full-time writer on aviation subjects, and is a well-respected aviation historian and an acknowledged authority on the Spitfire. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
Paul Blackah joined the RAF in 1976 and trained as an airframe fitter. In 1993 he was posted to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) and remained with that unit until he retired from full-time service in 2002. His specialised knowledge of vintage aircraft, and in particular the Spitfire, was considered so valuable to the Flight that he was taken into the RAF as a reservist, working as Airframe Specialist in the BBMF.