Tag Archives: Supermarine Spitfire

Heroic Spitfire Legend Dead at 96: Geoffrey Wellum Has Passed Away.

Geoffrey Wellum: Author, Pilot, Example of Gallantry and Courage in The Battle of Britain.

WWII Royal Air Force Squadron Leader, Spitfire pilot and noted author Geoffrey Harris Augustus Wellum, has died. He was 96 years and 11 months old.

Geoffrey Wellum was a revered treasure of British history and a living example of the heroic ideal of the nation. He flew the Supermarine Spitfire during the pivotal Battle of Britain in 1940, when England was at risk of invasion by Germany across the English Channel and under a brutal succession of air attacks from the Luftwaffe.

Wellum’s illustrious career was one of many such stories of remarkable heroism and courage among young British men and women, many well under 20, who were charged with the aerial defense of England in the early years of WWII. As one of few recent remaining survivors of that illustrious era, Wellum has risen to considerable and well deserved adoration, epitomizing the remarkable patriotism and gallantry of all of WWII Great Britain. His flying career during the Battle of Britain received new found notoriety as the RAF recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

=”https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Vellum_20.jpg”> Geoffrey Wellum, DFC, enjoys a joke with Prince Charles. (Photo: via Facebook)[/capti

Wellum joined the Royal Air Force in 1939 at the age of barely 18. He quickly progressed through flight training, beginning with the rudimentary WWI vintage Tiger Moth biplane basic trainer, to the mono-wing Harvard and then to the state-of-the-art air superiority combat fighter of the era, the iconic Supermarine Spitfire.

Geoffrey Wellum was one of the illustrious pilots of 92 Squadron flying from RAF Croydon and later, during the Battle of Britain, RAF Biggin Hill. Number 92 Squadron was the first British air combat squadron to see action in the Battle of Britain beginning on September 15, 1940. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on August 5, 1941, for gallantry flying against the enemy in combat.

Wellum’s experience in combat over England was horrific and harrowing. In the deadly, ambush style of aerial combat that the RAF employed against the Luftwaffe, Geoffrey Wellum was a deadly adversary for the marauding Germans. He scored one German He-111 bomber shot down and one Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter. He damaged and shared kills or damage on at least three other enemy aircraft.

In 1942, following his harrowing baptism of fire in the Battle of Britain, Geoffrey Wellum went on to become Flight Commander of No. 65 Squadron at RAF Debden in North Essex. In late summer, 1942, Wellum led a contingent of Spitfires launched from the aircraft carrier HMS Furious to serve as reinforcements for an aerial contingent on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean. He went on to become a member of the No. 145 Squadron, charged with aerial defense of the island nation.

As a result of his terrifying experiences flying combat at a very young age and in the earliest stages of the war, Geoffrey Wellum contracted post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD while still serving in the RAF. The affliction was referred to as “battle fatigue” in WWII. Wellum remained steadfast in his commitment to King and country despite his wounds. He went on to become a test pilot on the highly successful Hawker Typhoon ground attack aircraft, analogous to the U.S. P-47 Thunderbolt strike aircraft of the same era.

In his later life, Geoffrey Wellum was reflective about his role in the war and his accomplishments over the arc of his lifetime. As an introspective examination and accounting of his life he privately wrote a journal that chronicled his role in WWII, the Battle of Britain and his life. Author James Holland read Wellum’s private diary of his experiences and urged him to publish the lyrical recollections as a book. In 2002, his diary was adapted as a book published as, “First Light: The Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies Above Britain”. Three publishers, Viking Books, Willey & Sons and Penguin Books have published the popular accounting of his flying career and uniquely human experiences. “First Light” is a critically acclaimed success, widely revered by modern combat pilots serving today and aviation enthusiasts. It currently has a solid five-star rating on Amazon.com with 140 verified customer reviews.

Geoffrey Wellum is also featured in a new 2018 documentary “Spitfire” about the Supermarine Spitfire from Altitude Film that was directed by David Fairhead and produced by Ant Palmer. The documentary features the lilting recollections of Wellum as he recounts the grandeur of flying the Supermarine Spitfire.

Top image: RAF Spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum, DFC, during WWII, and later in life. (Photo: BBC)

Video Shows Spitfire Crashing While Taking Off During Airshow In Northeastern France

Spitfire Ground Rolls on Takeoff.

Spitfire XIX PS890 was involved in a serious accident at the L’aérodrome de Longuyon – Villette in northeastern France on Sunday, June 11. According to reports from witnesses on the scene, pilot Cédric Ruet escaped the frightening accident without serious injuries. Additional reports suggest flying debris from the accident may have injured one member of the crowd.

In videos taken at the crash scene the pilot, Ruet, appears to be approaching V2 take-off velocity when the Spitfire pitches into a nose-down attitude, its propeller impacted the ground the aircraft performing an end-over. While no official news has been released about the factors contributing to the accident the grass field surface and potentially an irregularity in the field may have contributed to accident.

According to Touchdown Aviation, Spitfire XIX PS890 was delivered to RAF Benson in 1945. The aircraft then went to the Royal Thai Air Force as aircraft number U14-26/97 and flew there until 1952 for Thailand. In 1962 the aircraft was donated to Ed Maloney by the King of Siam (Thailand) and transported to Claremont, California in the U.S. Private owner Steve Hilton acquired PS890 and restored her to flying condition then.

Remarkably, the aircraft was retrofitted with an Avro Shackleton engine including its contra-rotating propellers in an attempt to beat the piston engine time-to-climb record. The aircraft flew again in 2002 as part of the California-based Planes of Fame collection.

Christophe Jacquard of France purchased the aircraft in 2005 and restored its engine and propeller to the original configuration. She was most recently painted in the RAF 152 Squadron livery as flown in Thailand prior to yesteday’s accident.



This epic video shows a WWII Spitfire helping out a Cold War Vulcan bomber during nose wheel emergency

One British classic aircraft from WW2 helping out its Cold War compatriot at Scottish airshow.

This video was filmed on Sept. 5, at Prestwick airport, during the Scottish Airshow 2015 and it shows the last flying Vulcan bomber experiencing a nose wheel failure before landing.

As you can see in the interesting footage (that includes also radio comms on the Tower frequency) the Vulcan performed a flyover then initiated a right hand turn to land on runway 30. However, the nose gear did not extend fully and the V-bomber performed a second flyover before starting orbiting to the north of the airfield.

That’s when a Spitfire of the BBMF (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight) came to help: the WWII plane called up on the radio and asked if there was anyway he could help by giving the Vulcan a closer look from underneath the aircraft.

As the bomber slowed down to below 170 knots, the Spitfire formed up on its right wing and confirmed that the nose wheel was not properly extended.

In an attempt to unblock the gear the Vulcan performed some aggressive turns that eventually freed whatever was holding the nose wheel from extending allowing the Vulcan (preceded by the Spitfire) to perform a safe landing.

Well done to everyone involved in the emergency!

H/T to Alistair Moir for the heads-up!


Incredible video shows a replica Spitfire perform a perfect gear-up landing

A pilot landed his 80% replica Spitfire without landing gear.

On Jul. 19, a pilot carried out a perfect emergency landing of his replica Spitfire without landing gear.

The aircraft was flying at Sibson airfield, UK, when the pilot radioed that he could not extend the aircraft’s landing gear.

While emergency services arrived at the scene, the pilot circled nearby for about 20 minutes to burn fuel before attempting a belly landing.

The pilot managed to land the Spitfire on the grass runway and walked away unharmed. The replica plane appears to be little damaged.


Spitfire vs Bf 109 and F-14 vs Su-27: the difference is always the pilot

It’s not always the best aircraft that wins in an air-to-air engagement.

Most of the times it is the training the pilot has received and his/her skills, experience to make the difference: that’s why a well trained pilot with a less capable aircraft can defeat a more powerful plane piloted by a scarcely trained airman.

During World War II two of the most successful fighters of aviation history faced one against the other, in a duel that began over the coasts of Dunkirk and ended on the last days of the war: this two aircraft were the legendary Supermarine Spitfire and its German counterpart, the formidable Messerschmitt Bf 109.

SPit pr xix

Image credit: RAF BBMF

During the dogfights that raged in the skies several examples of both planes fell into the hands of the opponents giving both the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe, the opportunity to test the enemy plane.

The first intact Spitfire Mk I was captured by the Germans during the Dunkirk evacuation and immediately used by the Germans against Bf 109E in mock aerial combat.

Spit landing

The Spitfire, that was test flown by Maj Werner Mölders in persons, which was at the time the leading ace of the Luftwaffe with 25 aerial victories, was fitted with the old two-speed propeller and had a rate of climb inferior to that of the Spitfire Mk I fitted with the constant-speed propeller.

However German pilots discovered that if the pilot pushed down the nose of the Spitfire and applied negative “G”, the carburetor float of the Merlin engine stopped to deliver fuel with the result that the engine cut out.

On the contrary, the Bf 109E did not suffer from the same problem since his Daimler Benz DB 601 was fitted with the fuel injection system. Due to this defect, Mölders thought that, even if the Spitfire had general performance approaching that of the Bf 109, it was not that good as a fighter.

A Messerschmitt was captured intact by the RAF in November 1939, when a Bf 109E was forced down in France and taken to Farnborough for test flights against the Spitfire Mk I.

The results of the test showed that Reginald Mitchell’s fighter at altitudes around 4,000 feet was far superior to the Messerschmitt Me 109E: but the captured Messerschmitt had problems with the engine cooling system and it could not prove its ability to out-climb the Spitfire at most altitudes.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10

Image credit: USAF

So the British discovered that the Spitfire was better at medium altitude in a turning fight, while the Germans that the Bf 109E was better at high altitude in a high speed combat.

But those trials were valid only up to a point because when these two variants of the fighters faced one against the other was during the air battle over Britain, where the dogfights took place at altitudes between 13,000 and 20,000 feet, the altitude where the escorts for the German bombers were flown: at that height the performance of the two fighters were much closer.

However during the Battle of Britain the German fighters had a slightly advantage due to the high level of training of Luftwaffe pilots: in fact most of them, along with Mölders or Adolf Galland, were extraordinaire pilots who had gained significant experience flying with the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. On the contrary the British pilots were less experienced but they flew in the skies above of their country and they fought to defend it: these two reasons, along with some strategic German mistakes, gave them a lot of motivations and brought the air duels on the same level.

During the war many other variants of these two fighters fell in the hands of each opponents, but another test was conducted early in 1944 by the RAF at Duxford. In 1944 the latest subtype of the Messerschmitt was the Bf 109G (the latest variant of the Bf 109 was the K, but it was built in small numbers and developed too late to play an important role during the war) and one of this kind of Bf 109 was tried against the new and more potent Spitfire Mk XIV powered with the Griffon 61 engine.

The result was that the Spitfire was faster than the Bf 109G at all heights, the rate of climb was the same for the two aircraft around 16,000 feet, while at the other altitudes the Spitfire Mk XIV exceeded the Bf 109G.

50 years later, in the midst of the 1990s, the technology changed the way in which the fighters fought, Air to air combat was still an important part of the training for every pilot of any air force and it is still the better way to understand how an aircraft can perform against those of their counterparts.


Image credit: Sukhoi

During the last decade of the twentieth century one of the deadliest adversary for the western air forces was the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker.

The Su-27 belongs to the same class of the US F-14 and F-15, but unlike the American fighters it can fly at an angle of attack of 30 degrees and can also perform the “Pugachev Cobra”, an aerobatic maneuver in which the aircraft pitches the nose beyond the vertical at a rate of 70 degrees per second and after that recovers to level flight. Thanks to this maneuver, the Flanker has been the highlight of every air shows from the end of the 80s to the middle of the 90s.

On 20 April this year an article written by Dave Majumdar for Flightglobal DEW Line, talk about Gerry Gallop, a former TOP GUN instructor and an experienced US Navy pilot who flown F-4, F-14A and B, F-15, F-16, F-18 (both Legacy and Super Hornet) and also A-4.

Once Gallop ended its career he became senior vice president and chief operating of Tactical Air Support, a private operator which operated the Su-27 for short time and during this period he had the chance to fly the Flanker.

During one of his sorties over the Ukraine, Gallop was very impressed by the acceleration and by how fast was the Russian fighter at high altitude. The power of its engines, along with its superb aerodynamics and with short range IR missile AA-11 Archer (which in the ‘90s was the best short-range AAM in the world that can be linked to the pilot’s helmet fire control system and is capable to be fired at targets until 45 degrees off the axis of the aircraft: both these capabilities were not possessed by the AIM-9M Sidewinder, the main western short range missile at the time) made of the Su-27 probably the best dogfighter of the 90s, a very tough adversary for every western jet.

When strictly compared to the F-14, the Tomcat is not less fast than the Su -27, but for the American fighter the Flanker is more than a match in a close combat. In fact, against a more maneuverable fighter like the Su-27, the Tomcat is disadvantaged even if the F-14 is a B or a D model powered with the extremely potent General Electric F110-GE-400 engines.


Image credit: U.S. Navy

Sometimes the advantage of an agile adversary can be reduced thanks to the presence of a well trained backseater, but the Tomcat gives the best of itself on long distances where the AIM-54C Phoenix can be used. As explained by some Tomcat drivers, it doesn’t matter how a more agile fighter can get a F-14 in a dogfight, because thanks to Tomcat’s combination of tactics, sensors (such as the F-14D’s AAS-42 which it has a greater range and resolution than the IRST seeker mounted by the Su-27) and weapons every enemy fighter is going to be destroyed at an unparalleled distance.

So, which was the best among these two fighters?

It is very hard to answer to this question, but as explained by the most experienced F-14 pilot, Dale “Snort” Snodgrass, in some ways the Su-27 is superior to the F-14 and to the F-15 while in some others, American fighters are better than the Flanker: but what really makes the difference is how well a pilot is trained.

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