Howard Hughes

On July 10, 1938 American business magnate, investor, aviator, aerospace engineer, film maker and philanthropist Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. Set a world record by completing a flight around the world in just 91 hours (3 days, 19 hours), beating the previous record by more than four hours. Born December 24, 1905 his many ventures helped him become one of the wealthiest people in the world. As a maverick film producer, Hughes gained prominence in Hollywood from the late 1920s, making big-budget and often controversial films like The Racket (1928), Hell’s Angels (1930), Scarface (1932) and The Outlaw (1943). Hughes was also one of the most influential aviators in history: he set multiple world air speed records, built the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 “Hercules” (better known to history as the “Spruce Goose” aircraft), and acquired and expanded Trans World Airlines, which later merged with American Airlines.

Taking off from New York City, Hughes set his round the world record via Paris, Moscow, Omsk, Yakutsk, Fairbanks, Minneapolis, and continued to New York City. For this flight he flew aLockheed Super Electra (a twin-engine transport with a four-man crew) fitted with the latest radio and navigational equipment. Hughes wanted the flight to be a triumph of American aviation technology, illustrating that safe, long-distance air travel was possible.

The Hughes H-1 was built by Hughes Aircraft in 1935. It set a world airspeed record and a transcontinental speed record across the United States. The H-1 Racer was the last aircraft built by a private individual to set the world speed record; most aircraft to hold the honor since have been military designs. Streamlining was a paramount design criterion resulting in “one of the cleanest and most elegant aircraft designs ever built.” Many groundbreaking technologies were developed during the construction process, including individually machined flush rivets that left the aluminium skin of the aircraft completely smooth. The H-1 also had retractable landing gear to further increase the speed of the aircraft, including a fully retractable hydraulically actuated tail skid. It was fitted with a Pratt & Whitney R-1535 twin-row 14-cylinder radial engine of 1,535 cubic inches (25.15 l), which although originally rated at 700 horsepower (522 kW), was tuned to put out over 1,000 horsepower (750 kw) Due to two different roles being envisioned for the racing aircraft, a set of short-span wings for air racing and speed records and a set of “long” wings for cross-country racing were prepared.

The H-1 first flew in 1935 and promptly broke the world airspeed record with Hughes at the controls, clocking 352.39 mph (567.12 km/h) averaged over four timed passes. Hughes apparently ran the aircraft out of fuel and managed to crash-land without serious damage to either himself or the H-1. As soon as Hughes exited the H-1 when he crashed it in a beet field south of Santa Ana, California, his only comment was: “We can fix her; she’ll go faster.” At the time, the world seaplane speed record was 440.7 mph (709.2 km/h), set by a Macchi M.C.72 in October 1934.

Hughes later implemented minor changes to the H-1 Racer to make it more suitable for a transcontinental speed record attempt. The most significant change was the fitting of a new, longer set of wings that gave the aircraft a lower wing loading. On January 19, 1937, a year and a half after his previous landplane speed record in the H-1, Hughes set a new transcontinental speed record by flying non-stop from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds. He smashed his own previous record of 9 hours, 27 minutes by two hours. His average speed over the flight was 322 miles per hour (518 km/h).

Considering the contemporary service aircraft were biplanes, Hughes fully expected the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) to embrace his aircraft’s new design and make the H-1 the basis for a new generation of U.S. fighter aircraft. However his efforts to “sell” the design were unsuccessful. In postwar testimony before the Senate, Hughes indicated that resistance to the innovative design was the basis for the USAAC rejection of the H-1: “I tried to sell that airplane to the Army but they turned it down because at that time the Army did not think a cantilever monoplane was proper for a pursuit ship. Aviation historians have posited that the H-1 Racer may have inspired later radial engine fighters such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 After the war, Hughes further claimed that the Japanese Zero fighter had been copied from the Hughes H-1 Racer.” He noted both the wing shape, the tail design and the general similarity of the Zero and his racer. Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi Zero strongly denied the allegation of the Hughes H-1 influencing the design of the Japanese fighter aircraft. The Hughes H-1 Racer is featured in the 1940 RKO Radio Pictures movie Men Against the Sky.

Hughes also dated Katharine Hepburn and following his World Record New York City gave Hughes a ticker-tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes. In 1938, the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, known at the time as Houston Municipal Airport, was renamed Howard Hughes Airport, but the name was changed back after people objected to naming the airport after a living person.

In 1953, Hughes launched the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Miami, Florida, and currently located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, formed with the expressed goal of basic biomedical research, including trying to understand, genesis of life itself,” due to his lifelong interest in science and technology. Hughes’ first will, which he signed in 1925 at the age of 19, stipulated that a portion of his estate should be used to create a medical institute bearing his name. Hughes gave all his stock in the Hughes Aircraft Company to the institute, thereby turning the aerospace and defense contractor into a for-profit entity of a fully tax-exempt charity. Verne Mason, who treated Hughes after his 1946 aircraft crash, was chairman of the institute’s medical advisory committee.The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s new board of trustees sold Hughes Aircraft in 1985 to General Motors for $5.2 billion, allowing the institute to grow dramatically and resulting in a protracted legal battle between Hughes and the Internal Revenue Service. After his death in 1976, many thought that the balance of Hughes’ estate would go to the institute, although it was ultimately divided among his cousins and other heirs, given the lack of a will to the contrary. The HHMI was the fourth largest private organization as of 2007 and the largest devoted to biological and medical research.

Hughes is also remembered for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle in later life, caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder and chronic pain. He sadly passed away April 5, 1976 on board an aircraft en route from his penthouse at the Acapulco Fairmont Princess Hotel in Mexico to the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. His reclusiveness and possible drug use made him practically unrecognizable. His hair, beard, fingernails, and toenails were long—his tall 6 ft 4 in (193 cm) frame now weighed barely 90 pounds (41 kg), and the FBI had to use fingerprints to conclusively identify the body.A subsequent autopsy recorded kidney failure as the cause of death Hughes was in extremely poor physical condition at the time of his death. He suffered from malnutrition. While his kidneys were damaged, his other internal organs, including his brain, were deemed perfectly healthy. Hughes is buried next to his parents at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, Texas. However his legacy is maintained through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and many of his aircraft including the Spruce Goose and H-1 Racer are also on display.

World UFO Day

World UFO Day is celebrated annually on 2 July to commemorate the 1947 Roswell UFO Incident and to raise awareness of “the undoubted existence of UFOs” and to encourage governments to declassify their files on UFO sightings. It is also an opportunity for people to gather together and watch the skies for unidentified flying objects. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a UFO as “An unidentified flying object; a ‘flying saucer’.” The first published book to use the word was authored by Donald E. Keyhoe. The term “UFO” (or “UFOB”) was officially created in 1953 by the United States Air Force (USAF) to serve as a catch-all for all such reports. In its initial definition, the USAF stated that a “UFOB” was “any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object.” Accordingly, the term was initially restricted to that fraction of cases which remained unidentified after investigation, as the USAF was interested in potential national security reasons and/or “technical aspects”.

During the late 1940s and through the 1950s, UFOs were often referred to popularly as “flying saucers” or “flying discs”. The term UFO became more widespread during the 1950s, at first in technical literature, but later in popular use. UFOs garnered considerable interest during the Cold War, an era associated with a heightened concern for national security, and, more recently, in the 2010s, for unexplained reasons. Nevertheless, various studies have concluded that the phenomenon does not represent a threat to national security, nor does it contain anything worthy of scientific pursuit (e.g., 1951 Flying Saucer Working Party, 1953 CIA Robertson Panel, USAF Project Blue Book, Condon Committee).

The acronym “UFO” was coined by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, who headed Project Blue Book, then the USAF’s official investigation of UFOs. He wrote, “Obviously the term ‘flying saucer’ is misleading when applied to objects of every conceivable shape and performance. For this reason the military prefers the more general, if less colorful, name: unidentified flying objects. UFO (pronounced Yoo-foe) for short.” Other phrases that were used officially and that predate the UFO acronym include “flying flapjack”, “flying disc”, “unexplained flying discs”, “unidentifiable object”, and “flying saucer”

The phrase “flying saucer” also gained widespread attention after the summer of 1947. When On June 24, a civilian pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine objects flying in formation near Mount Rainier. Arnold timed the sighting and estimated the speed of discs to be over 1,200 mph (1,931 km/h). At the time, he claimed he described the objects flying in a saucer-like fashion, leading to newspaper accounts of “flying saucers” and “flying discs”. Consequently many people celebrate World UFO Day on 24 June, the anniversary of the sighting.

The term UFO came to be used to refer to claims of alien spacecraft but because of the public and media ridicule associated with the topic, some investigators prefer to use such terms as unidentified aerial phenomenon (or UAP) or anomalous phenomena, as in the title of the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP).

The Roswell UFO incident happened 2.July 1947, after a United States Air Force surveillance balloon crashed at a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico, prompting claims alleging the crash was of an extraterrestrial spaceship. After an initial spike of interest, the military reported that the crash was merely of a conventional weather balloon. Interest subsequently waned until the late 1970s when ufologists began promulgating a variety of increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories, claiming that one or more alien spacecraft had crash-landed, and that the extraterrestrial occupants had been recovered by the military who then engaged in a cover-up. In the 1990s, the US military published reports disclosing the true nature of the crashed Project Mogul balloon (that’s what the US military want you to believe). Nevertheless, the Roswell incident continues to be of interest in popular media, and conspiracy theories surrounding the event persist.

Louis Blériot

French pilot, inventor and engineer Louis Charles Joseph Blériot was born 1 July 1872 Born at No.17h rue de l’Arbre à Poires (now rue Sadi-Carnot) in Cambrai. In 1882, aged 10, Blériot was sent as a boarder to the Institut Notre Dame in Cambrai, where he frequently won class prizes, including one for engineering drawing. When he was 15, he moved on to the Lycée at Amiens, where he lived with an aunt. After passing the exams for his baccalaureate in science and German, he determined to try to enter the prestigious École Centrale and Blériot spent a year at the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris. He passed the exam, placing 74th among the 243 successful candidates, and doing especially well in the tests of engineering drawing ability. After three years of demanding study at the École Centrale, Blériot graduated 113th of 203 in his graduating class. He then embarked on a term of compulsory military service, and spent a year as a sub-lieutenant in the 24th Artillery Regiment, stationed in Tarbes in the Pyrenees.

He got a job with Baguès, an electrical engineering company in Paris where he developed the world’s first practical headlamp for automobiles, using a compact integral acetylene generator. In 1897, Blériot opened a showroom for headlamps at 41 rue de Richlieu in Paris and soon began supplying his lamps to both Renault and Panhard-Levassor. In 1901 Bleriot married Alice Védères,

Blériot became interested in aviation while at the Ecole Centrale, inspired by seeing Clément Ader’s Avion III at the 1900 Exposition Universelle. In 1905, Blériot met Gabriel Voisin, then employed by Ernest Archdeacon to assist with his experimental gliders. Blériot was a spectator at Voisin’s first trials of the floatplane glider he had built on 8 June 1905. Cine photography was among Blériot’s hobbies, and he filmed the flight. Bleriot asked Voisin to build a simillar machine the Blériot II glider. However attempts to fly the aircraft ended in a crash in which Voisin nearly drowned, but this did not deter Blériot and he entered into partnership with Voisin and the two men established the Ateliers d’ Aviation Edouard Surcouf, Blériot et Voisin. Active between 1905 and 1906, the company built two unsuccessful powered aircraft, the Blériot III and the Blériot IV, powered with the lightweight Antoinette engines being developed by Léon Levavasseur. The Blériot IV was damaged in a taxiing accident at Bagatelle on 12 November 1906. This was made worse by the success of Alberto Santos Dumont later that day, when he managed to fly his 14-bis a distance of 220 metres (720 ft), at Bagatelle, winning the Aéro Club de France prize for the first flight of over 100 metres.

Blériot then established his own business, Recherches Aéronautiques Louis Blériot, where he started creating his own aircraft, experimenting with various configuration and creating the world’s first successful powered monoplane the Blériot V, in 1907. At first Blériot limited his experiments to ground runs, which resulted in damage to the undercarriage. Two further ground trials, also damaged the aircraft. The first successful flight was only of around 6 m (20 ft), after which he cut his engine and landed, slightly damaging the undercarriage. Then while travelling at a speed of around 50 kph (30 mph), the aircraft left the ground, Blériot over-responded when the nose began to rise, and the machine hit the ground nose–first, and somersaulted. The aircraft was largely destroyed, luckily Blériot was, unhurt. This was followed by the tandem wing Blériot VI, Which successfully flew a distance of 25–30 metres (84–100 ft), reaching an altitude of around 2 m (7 ft). Further successful flights took place, and he subsequently flew 150 m (490 ft). However the aircraft was damaged by a heavy landing having reached an altitude of 12 m (39 ft). He then fitted a 50 hp (37 kW) V-16 Antoinette engine which resulted in improved performance with the aircraft reaching an altitude of 25 m (82 ft), unfortunately the engine suddenly cut out and the aircraft went into a spiralling nosedive. Thanks to some quick thinking His only injuries were some minor cuts on the face, caused by fragments of glass from his broken goggles. After this crash Blériot abandoned the aircraft.

His next plane Blériot VII, was a monoplane with tail surfaces and differential elevators for lateral control which became the modern conventional layout. It first flew on 16 November 1907, and is recognised as the first successful monoplane. Blériot managed two flights of over 500 metres, including a successful U-turn. This was the most impressive achievement to date of any of the French pioneer aviators. Major Baden Baden-Powell, president of the Royal Aeronautical Society, was also interested. more successful flights were made , but the undercarriage collapsed and the aircraft overturned and was wrecked. Blériot’s next aircraft, the Blériot VIII was demonstrated in 1908. It was modified After a few teething trouble and made a cross-country flight, from Toury to Arteny and back, a total distance of 28 km (17 mi). Sadly Four days later, the aircraft was destroyed in a taxiing accident. Three different aircraft were displayed at the first Paris Aero Salon, held at the end of December: the Blériot IX monoplane, the Blériot X, a three-seat pusher biplane and the Blériot XI which used Antoinette engines, but never flew. The powerplant for Type XI was replaced by a REP engine and first flew in 1909 although the aircraft flew well, the engine overheated, so Blériot got in contact with engineer Alessandro Anzani, who had developed a successful motorcycle engines and aero-engines and also met Lucien Chauviere, who had designed a sophisticated laminated walnut propeller. The combination of a reliable engine and an efficient propeller would contribute greatly to the success of the Type XI. This was shortly followed by the Blériot XII, a high-wing two-seater monoplane which became the first plane to fly with two passenger. he made a flight lasting 15 minutes and 30 seconds, increasing it to over 36 minute. He then took part in an aviation meet at Douai, where he made a flight lasting over 47 minutes in the Type XII and also flew the Type XI for 50 minutes at another meet at Juvisy. he made a cross-country flight of 41 km (25 mi) from Etampes to Orléans but was slightly injureIn1909, Blériot and Voisin were jointly awarded the Prix Osiris, by the Institut de France for making the greatest contribution to science.

In 1909 Bleriot stated his intention to cross the English Channel in an aeroplane, after The Daily Mail offered a prize of £1000 to the first person who flew across the English Channel. Blériot had three rivals for the prize, Charles de Lambert, a Russian aristocrat with French ancestry, and one of Wilbur Wright’s pupils, Arthur Seymour, an Englishman who reputedly owned a Voisin biplane and Hubert Latham. The event created great public interest: it was reported that there were 10,000 visitors at Calais, and a similar crowd gathered at Dover, and the Marconi Company set up a special radio link for the occasion, with one station on Cap Blanc Nez at Sangatte and the other on the roof of the Lord Warden Hotel in Dover. The crowds were in for a wait: the weather was windy, and Latham did not make an attempt until 19 July, but 6 miles (9.7 km) from his destination his aircraft developed engine trouble and was forced to make the world’s first landing of an aircraft on the sea. Latham was rescued by the French destroyer harpon. and taken back to France, where he was met by the news that Blériot had entered the competition. Blériot, accompanied by two mechanics and his friend Alfred Leblanc, arrived in Calais on Wednesday 21 July and set up their base at a farm near the beach at Les Baraques, between Calais and Sangatte. The following day a replacement aircraft for Latham was delivered from the Antoinette factory. The wind was too strong for an attempted crossing on Friday and Saturday, but on Saturday evening it began to drop, raising hopes in both camps.Leblanc went to bed at around midnight but was too keyed up to sleep well; at two o’clock, he was up, and judging that the weather was ideal woke Blériot who, unusually, was pessimistic and had to be persuaded to eat breakfast. His spirits revived, however, and by half past three, his wife Alice had been put on board the destroyer Escopette, which was to escort the flight.

Blériot first made a short trial flight and then, on a signal that the sun had risen (the competition rules required a flight between sunrise and sunset), he took off at 4.41 for the attempted crossing. Flying at approximately 45 mph (72 km/h) and an altitude of about 250 ft (76 m), he set off across the Channel. Not having a compass, Blériot took his course from the Escopette, which was heading for Dover, but he soon overtook the ship. Sadly The visibility deteriorted The grey line of the English coast, however, came into sight in his left; the wind had increased, and had blown him to the east of his intended course. Altering course, he followed the line of the coast about a mile offshore until he spotted Charles Fontaine, the correspondent from Le Matin waving a large Tricolour as a signal. He Landed on a patch of gently sloping land called Northfall Meadow, close to Dover Castle, where there was a low point in the cliffs. Once over land, he circled twice to lose height, and cut his engine at an altitude of about 20 m (66 ft), making a heavy landing due to the gusty wind conditions; the undercarriage was damaged and one blade of the propeller was shattered, but Blériot was unhurt. The flight had taken 36 minutes and 30 seconds.

Blériot’s success brought about an immediate transformation of the status of Recherches Aéronautiques Louis Blériot. By the time of the Channel flight, he had spent at least 780,000 francs on his aviation experiments. (To put this figure into context, one of Blériot’s skilled mechanics was paid 250 francs a month.) Now this investment began to pay off: orders for copies of the Type XI quickly came, and by the end of the year, orders for over 100 aircraft had been received, each selling for 10,000 francs.At the end of August, Blériot was one of the flyers at the Grande Semaine d’Aviation held at Reims, where he was narrowly beaten byGlenn Curtiss in the first Gordon Bennett Trophy. Blériot did, however, succeed in winning the prize for the fastest lap of the circuit, establishing a new world speed record for aircraft.Blériot followed his flights at Reims with appearances at other aviation meetings in Brescia, Budapest, Bucharest (making the first airplane flight in both Hungary and Romania. Up to this time he had had great good luck in walking away from accidents that had destroyed the aircraft, but his luck deserted him in December 1910 at an aviation meeting in Istanbul. Flying in gusty conditions to placate an impatient and restive crowd, he crashed on top of a house, breaking several ribs and suffering internal injuries: he was hospitalized for three weeks.

Between 1909 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Blériot produced about 900 aircraft, most of them variations of the Type XI model. Blériot monoplanes and Voisin-type biplanes, with the latter’s Farman derivatives dominated the pre-war aviation market.There were concerns about the safety of monoplanes in general, both in France and the UK. However trials supported Blériot’s analysis of the problem and led to a strengthening of the landing wiresAlong with five other European aircraft builders, from 1910, Blériot was involved in a five-year legal struggle with the Wright Brothers . From 1913 or earlier,Blériot’s aviation activities were handled by Blériot Aéronautique, based at Suresnes, which continued to design and produce aircraft up to the nationalisation of most of the French aircraft industry in 1937, when it was absorbed intoSNCASO. In 1913, a consortium led by Blériot bought the Société pour les Appareils Deperdussin aircraft manufacturer and he became the president of the company in 1914. He renamed it the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD); this company produced World War Ifighter aircraft such as the SPAD S.XIII.Before World War I, Blériot had opened British flying schools at Brooklands, in Surrey and at Hendon Aerodrome.[34] Realising that a British company would have more chance to sell his models to the British government, in 1915, he set up the Blériot Manufacturing Aircraft Company Ltd. The hoped for orders did not follow, as the Blériot design was seen as outdated. Following an unresolved conflict over control of the company, it was wound up on 24 July 1916. Even before the closure of this company Blériot was planning a new venture in the UK. Initially named Blériot and SPAD Ltd and based in Addlestone, it became the Air Navigation and Engineering Company (ANEC) in May 1918. ANEC survived in a difficult aviation climate until late 1926, producing Blériot Whippet cars as well as several light aircraft.

In 1927, Blériot, long retired from flying, was present to welcome Charles Lindbergh when he landed at Le Bourget field completing his transatlantic flight. The two men, separated in age by 30 years, had each made history by crossing famous bodies of water. Together, they participated in a famous photo opportunity in Paris.In 1934, Blériot visited Newark Airport in New Jersey and predicted commercial overseas flights by 1938.Blériot remained active in the aviation business until his death on 1 August 1936 in Paris of a heart attack. After a funeral with full military honours at Les Invalides he was buried in the Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles. t3to honour his legacy the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale established the “Louis Blériot medal” in 1936. The medal may be awarded up to three times a year to record setters in speed, altitude and distance categories in light aircraft, and is still being awarde. On 25 July 2009, the centenary of the original Channel crossing, Frenchman Edmond Salis took off from Blériot Beach in an exact replica of Blériot’s monoplane. He landed successfully in Kent at the Duke of York’s Royal Military School.

Weston Park International Model Airshow

The Weston Park International Model Air show takes place On the Saturday 17- Sunday 18 June at Weston Park. Featurnig model aircraft enthusiasts from all the over the UK and Europe who took to the skies to demonstrate their awesome flying skills. There was also the Battle of Britain pyrotechnic display and the Swift Glider display team performed their amazing mid-air acrobatics. In addition there was a model boat regatta, slot car racing and a fun fair for children who can also attend free model building workshops. There was also a mega swap meet and trade stand selling everything you need to create your own model aircraft.

R.J. Mitchell

Supermarine Spitfire

As it is the RAF Cosford Airshow today I thought this was appropriate: British Aeronautical Engineer and designer of the Supermarine Spitfire Reginald Joseph Mitchell CBE, FRAeS, sadly died 11 June 1937. He was born 20 May 1895. In 1917 he joined the Supermarine Aviation Works at Southampton. Advancing quickly within the company, Mitchell was appointed Chief Designer in 1919. He was made Chief Engineer in 1920 and Technical Director in 1927. He was so highly regarded that, when Vickers took over Supermarine in 1928, one of the conditions was that Mitchell stay as a designer for the next five years. Between 1920 and 1936, Mitchell designed 24 aircraft including light aircraft, fighters and bombers. As Supermarine was primarily a seaplane manufacturer, this included a number of flying boats such as the Supermarine Sea Eagle, the Supermarine Sea King, the Supermarine Walrus and Supermarine Stranraer. However, he is best remembered for his work on a series of racing aircraft, which culminated in the Supermarine S.6B, and the famous Supermarine Spitfire short range Interceptor/fighter.

The S.6B was a British racing seaplane developed by Mitchell for the Supermarine company to take part in the Schneider Trophy competition of 1931. The S.6B marked the culmination of Mitchell’s quest to “perfect the design of the racing seaplane” and was the last in the line of racing seaplanes developed by Supermarine that followed the S.4, S.5 and the Supermarine S.6.The S.6B won the Trophy in 1931 and later broke the world air speed record. Mitchell was awarded the CBE in 1932 for his contribution to high-speed flight.

In 1931 the Air Ministry issued specification F7/30 for a fighter aircraft to replace the Gloster Gauntlet. Mitchell’s proposed design, the Type 224 was one of three designs for which the Air Ministry ordered prototypes. The Supermarine Spitfire prototype, K5054, first flew on 19 February 1934, but was eventually rejected by the RAF because of its unsatisfactory performance. While the 224 was being built, Mitchell was authorised by Supermarine in 1933 to proceed with a new design, the Type 300, an all-metal monoplane that would become the Supermarine Spitfire. This was originally a private venture by Supermarine, but the RAF quickly became interested and the Air Ministry financed a prototype. The first prototype Spitfire, serial K5054, flew for the first time on 5 March 1936 at Eastleigh, Hampshire. In later tests, it reached 349 mph, consequently, before the prototype had completed its official trials, the RAF ordered 310 production Spitfires.

The Spitfire was built in many variants, using several wing configurations, and was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft. It was also the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. During the Battle of Britain (July–October 1940), the Spitfire was perceived by the public to be the RAF fighter, though the more numerous Hawker Hurricane shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Luftwaffe. However, because of its higher performance, Spitfire units had a lower attrition rate and a higher victory-to-loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes.

After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s. The Seafire was a carrier-based adaptation of the Spitfire which served in the Fleet Air Arm from 1942 through to the mid-1950s. Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp (768 kW), it was strong enough and adaptable enough to use increasingly powerful Merlin and, in later marks, Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,340 hp (1,745 kW); as a consequence of this the Spitfire’s performance and capabilities improved, sometimes dramatically, over the course of its life.

In August 1933, Mitchell underwent a colostomy to treat rectal cancer. Despite this, he continued to work, not only on the Spitfire, but also on a four-engined bomber, the Type 317. Unusually for an aircraft designer in those days, he took flying lessons and got his pilot’s licence in July 1934. In 1936 cancer was diagnosed again, and subsequently, in early 1937, Mitchell gave up work, although he was often seen watching the Spitfire being tested. Mitchell went to the American Foundation in Vienna for a month but sadly died and His ashes were interred at South Stoneham Cemetery, Hampshire four days later. He was succeeded as Chief Designer at Supermarine by Joseph Smith, who took over as chief designer and was responsible for the further development of the Spitfire. Nevertheless, Mitchell’s design was so sound that the Spitfire was continually improved throughout the Second World War. Over 22,000 Spitfires and derivatives were built. Mitchell’s career was depicted in the film The First of the Few and The Spitfire continues to be popular with approximately 53 Spitfires being airworthy, while many more are static exhibits in aviation museums all over the world.