Exceptionally Plane People
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Exceptionally Plane People. Noel Pemberton Billing. Hubert Scott-Paine. Commander James Bird. Supermarine Woolston. Satellite airfield at Eastleigh. Main Supermarine factories at Woolston and Itchen. The Early Days. 1928 Vickers -Supermarine formed.

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Exceptionally Plane People

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Exceptionally Plane People


Pemberton Billing

Hubert Scott-Paine


James Bird

Supermarine Woolston

Satellite airfield at Eastleigh

Main Supermarine factories at Woolston and Itchen

The Early Days

1928 Vickers -Supermarine formed

USA wins 1923 & 1925 Schneider Trophy races

R.J. Mitchell joins company

AM spec F.7/30 released







Scott-Paine takes over

Supermarine wins its first Schneider Trophy race

Britain wins Schneider Trophy outright

Supermarine formed

Napier Lion Engine – RAF Museum Hendon

Baby N.1B - 1918

Southampton - 1925

Walrus - 1933

Stranraer - 1937

Henri Biard – 1922 Schneider Trophy winner

Curtiss CR-3 Lt. Rittenhouse USN

Schneider Trophy winner 1923

Supermarine S.4 – Napier Lion engine rated at 450HP

Unbraced cantilevered wing – 1924 Scheider Trophy race

Biard crashed before the race (Biard survived – airplane didn’t!)

1925 Schneider Trophy winner Lt Jimmy Doolittle

Supermarine S.5 1927 Schneider Trophy

Napier Lion engine – wire braced wing

Rolls-Royce “R” engine

2350 hp in 1931 versus 875 hp for Lion engine in 1927





Air Ministry Specification F.7/30

“A fighter capable of at least 250 mph and armed with four machine guns”

Supermarine Type 224

The winning

“Gloster Gladiator”

R.J. Mitchell’s original conception and introduction of the Spitfire

First production order 310

“Killer” fighter decision

RJ dead at 42

Design refined






Spitfire first flight

August 1938 first delivery 19 Sqn

AM Spec F.37/34 released

S224 first flight

AM Spec 10/35 eight guns

“ ….. The (Vickers-Supermarine) design team would do better by devoting their time not to the official experimental fighter (i.e.F.7/30) but to a real killer fighter……my opposite number in Rolls-Royce…A.F Sidgreaves and I decided that our two companies should … finance … such an aircraft ……

…. that in no circumstances would any technical member of the Air Ministry be consulted or allowed to interfere with the designer”

Sir Robert McLean – Chairman Vickers Aviation Ltd.


Sir Robert McLean

Ernest Hives

R.J. Mitchell

Supermarine Type 300

F7/30 refined – Supermarine Drawing 30000 sheet 11

Dated September 1934 from Smith

Beverley Shenstone

Canadian aerodynamicist

Joined Vickers-Supermarine in 1932

Used Ludwig Prandtl’s theories of elliptic wing planforms in the Spitfire design

Spitfire wings (NACA 2200 series) were VERY thin by comparison with conventional wisdom - 13% root T/C tapering to 6% T/C at tip

Alexander Lippisch

Ludwig Prandtl

Alan Clifton


Joseph Smith

(1897- 1956)

Succeeded RJ as Chief Designer

Maintained the same basic shape to the Spitfire while doubling the weight and power output from the engine.

Took Supermarine technical community right through to the jet age

Joseph Smith’s Spitfire main spar construction

First Flight Day March 5, 1936

L-R “Mutt” Summers, “Agony” Payn, RJM, S. Scott-hall, Jeffrey Quill

Rolls-Royce Derby

Supermarine Woolston

The Shadow Factory idea

Sir Kingsley Wood -1938

Philip Cunliffe-Lister


Castle Bromwich factory

Hillington shadow factory, Merlins

Crewe shadow factory, Merlins

Rolls-Royce Derby

Castle Bromwich shadow factory, Spitfires

Supermarine Woolston

Manchester, shadow factory, (Ford), Merlins

South Marston shadow factory, Spitfires

Shadow Factories – what were they?

Shadow factory at Castle Bromwich

Hursley Park

250 sub contractors were involved in the Spitfire by 1942. By end of 1944, Supermarine had 63 units, staffed by almost 10,000, half of them women, compared to 2500 at the beginning of the war.

Propeller - DeHavilland, Jabro, Rotol

Browning M/Gs

Malcolm Hood

Rolls-Royce engine

Hispano cannon

Dunlop tires


Formed 1937 by Rolls-Royce and Bristol Aeroplane Co.

Produced over 100,000 three, four and five bladed props

Became Dowty-Rotol in 1959


Sewards Garage (Fuselage & Jig production),

Polygon Hotel (Design office),

Hants & Dorset Bus Station (assembly),

Henlys Garage (Fuselage assembly),

Sunlight Laundry (Detail fitting etc),

Lothers Garage (Toolroom),

Shorts Garage (Machine Shop),

Weston Rolling Mills (Coppersmiths),

Chisnells Garage (Press Shop/Sheet metal), Lingwood Precision- (Landing gear)

Spitfire Test Pilots

George Pickering

“Mutt” Summers

Jeffrey Quill

Alex Henshaw

Frank Furlong

Vickers-Supermarine – the war years

Mk.1 Spitfire

Mk. V Spitfire

Mk. IX Spitfire

Supermarine Spitfire Production

Mk.1 – 1550 – Merlin III rated at 1030 HP

Mk.II – 921 - Merlin III rated at 1030 HP

Mk.V – 6476 – Merlin 45 rated at 1470 HP

Mk. IX – 5653 – Merlin 66 rated at 1575 HP

Mk. XIV/Mk. XVI – 2010 – Griffon 65 rated at 2050 HP

Total production 22,799

(includes derivative models up to Spiteful)

  • What made the Spitfire design so good?

  • Basic semi-elliptic wing planform

  • Low wing loading - 21-25 lb/sq. in.

  • Knife edge elliptic wing tips

  • Wing twist +2 deg to – 0.5 deg

  • Thin wing

  • Gentle pressure gradients – more stable boundary layer

  • Wing/body fairing

  • Small tail unit

  • “Meredith” effect on lower wing surface components

  • Minimal frontal area cowling

  • Ultra slim fuselage

Charles Davis – shop foreman Spitfire fuselage manufacture Castle Bromwich

Castle Bromwich, workforce numbered 15,854 by 1943 – produced almost half total production of Spitfires

Janet May

Edna Pugh

Lily Holden

Spitfire maintenance in Malta

Walrus Air-Sea Rescue

746 built

Production shared with Saunders-Roe


April 1945

Seafang F.32 with contra-rotating prop

“Attacker” – FF July 1946

“Swift”- FF December 1948


FF – January 1956

Supermarine’s demise

Hursley Park taken over in 1958 by IBM

Supermarine aircraft design staff moved to Vickers at Weybridge for work on supersonic projects (including TSR.2)

Became part of British Aircraft Corporation 1960

Bibliography for Exceptional Plane people – Supermarine

“Supermarine Aircraft since 1914” by C.F. Andrews & E.B. Morgan.1981 Naval Institute Press

“Spitfire” by Jeffrey Quill. 1985 Arrow Books

“R.J. Mitchell. Schooldays to Spitfire” by Gordon Mitchell (RJ’s son). 1986 Tempus Publishing. Charleston SC.

“Sigh for a Merlin” by Alex Henshaw 1979 Crecy Publishing Ltd UK.

“The Spitfire – 50 years on” by Michael J.F. Bowyer.1986 Patrick Stephens, Wellingborough

“The Schneider Trophy Story” by Edward Eves 2001 MBI Publishing st. Paul MN

“Spitfire – Story of a famous fighter” by Bruce Robertson. 1661 Garden Press Ltd. Letchworth UK.

“The Magic of a Name – the Rolls-Royce Story” Vol. One by Peter Pugh.2000 Icon Booksltd. Duxford UK

“Supermarine Spitfire – Owners’ Workshop Manual”2007 Haynes Publishing (Haynes North America)

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