80 years ago, in March 1936, a brand new prototype British fighter took to the skies on its maiden flight. At the time those involved could not possibly have realised the significance of the event or that thousands of the mass produced versions of the aircraft would play a vitally important part in world history in the next decade. The aircraft was the prototype Spitfire K5054.
The exact date of that all-important first flight of the Spitfire is open to question. The generally accepted date is 5th March 1936. However, Jeffrey Quill – the famous Spitfire test pilot who was there on the day and remembered it with clarity – stated categorically in his autobiography (‘Spitfire – A Test Pilot’s Story’) that the first flight took place on 6th March 1936. Not that the exact date really matters, but 6th March may have the edge.
Falling as it does early in the year and before the BBMF display season commences, the 80th anniversary of the Spitfires maiden flight will not be graced by the airborne presence of any of the Flight’s Spitfires. However, the forthcoming RAF Memorial Flight Official Club Yearbook for 2016 (due to be sent out to Club members in mid-April) will carry a feature to commemorate the Spitfire as ‘80 years a legend’ and some air shows this year will surely share this theme.