back to article Storied veteran Spitfire slapped with chrome paint job takes off on round-the-world jaunt

A restored and defanged Supermarine Spitfire has just taken off from Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex, England, on a round-the-world trip. The plane, finished in polished aluminium rather than camo colours, has had her guns removed and extra fuel tanks built into the wings. The memorial flight is part of Royal Air Force's …

  1. steelpillow Silver badge

    People who think that polished aluminium is a "chrome paint job" should not write El Reg headlines.

    Mind you, until it was polished clean it was surely the dirty one from No.30. (If you need to ask, you were no fan of the late Les Dawson)

    Factiod: It actually has a Merlin engine in, a nice bonus. Most surviving Spits from the early years have had them replaced by the later Griffons, which changes the nose profile.

    My favourite Spit is the sky-blue prototype, K5054, which also had no guns during its sky-blue years. There is a flying replica in Australia (to 3/4 scale). Magic! Still, I wish the silver Spit all the very best.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Mike O Sullivan started Supermarine Aircraft in Australia to supply kits to build 3/4 and bigger scale replica Mk5 spitfires using Isuzu V6 engines. The company has since moved to Clyde, Texas USA.

      For $200,000 you can build your own.

      They do look a bit weird though.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Probably sound a bit weird too with a V6.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Isuzu v6?

        The scale replica I have seen had a Jaguar V12

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'Most surviving Spits from the early years have had them replaced by the later Griffons' have you got a reference for that because I can't think of a single example where that's happened. It's certainly not a straight change of nose as you'd also need bigger underwing radiators, thicker wing skins, etc etc. The closest is where Griffon engined examples have had a Griffon from a Shackleton replace the original unit.

    3. nematoad Silver badge
      FAIL

      NO!

      "Most surviving Spits from the early years have had them replaced by the later Griffons..."

      Bollocks.

      Extant early Spitfire marks still have their original Merlin engines, that''s why they are classed as being Mk, I, II, V, IX and so on. Some of the later marks were engined with Griffons but that involved a lot of changes. For full details see Morgan and Shacklady "Spitfire the History"

      For example the rotation of the engine is reversed, the engine mountings are tubular in Merlin engine marks but have a beam type in the Griffon ones. To just change the engine type is a tremendously involved process and apart from some Mk. VIII experimental examples this has not been done. Why would it? Messing about like that would destroy the history of the aircraft and would be pointless.

      So no, what the aircraft had originally is still there. you don't monkey around with something worth in excess of £2 million pounds and any way Merlins are a lot easier to get hold of than Griffons.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: NO!

        "Merlins are a lot easier to get hold of than Griffons"

        True enough. I know somebody who has many dozens of them for sale ... The only real issue involved in owning your very own, fully functional Merlin (or four ... why not buy a matching set?) would be cash flow. They ship anywhere in the world, assuming the .gov at the destination allows this kind of thing. Having a garage far enough away from the neighbors to power it up occasionally without getting all kinds of noise complaints is strongly advised.

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Re: NO!

          Geekporn at its finest1

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: NO!

          Just invite them round, most people would love to get that close to a true original.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: NO!

        Messing about like that would destroy the history of the aircraft

        The RAF would have a few Spits over at the end of WW2, would see them as a becoming obsolete utility aircraft to do a job and not in the same historical way we see them now. Some were reconditioned and sold to other nations with whatever modifications to bring them up to date at the dawn of the jet age. Destroying the history would not have been something anyone considered, having witnessed the aircraft themselves being destroyed in their hundreds. Spits were produced until 1948.

        I'm not saying that Spits were reworked with Griffon power, but it's not because of sentiment.

    4. MJI Silver badge

      Later built with Griffon not converted

      See above

    5. phuzz Silver badge

      I seem to remember that some Spits were converted to use Griffons for air-racing in the US after the war, which is perhaps what steelpillow is referring to.

      1. JimC Silver badge

        Not even sure about that. although there are several Centaurus -> Pratt and Whitney Sea Furies.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Also a lot of P-51s that got a Griffon in place of the Merlin.

  2. Rich 11 Silver badge

    harmonising the guns

    Harmonising the guns involved the armourers lining up the cannon (one or two in each wing, if any) and the machine guns (up to four in each wing) so that each battery (of cannon or guns) had a focal point at a given distance, which was then reflected in the setting of the gunsight so that the fighter pilot could readily work out what weapons to use and at what distances (the combinations could even be customised to the way that pilot preferred to fight). The armourers would do this on the ground, testing the spread against targets on a range.

    I'd have fucking loved that job. Analytical and casually destructive!

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: harmonising the guns

      Some Hurricanes had 6 machine guns in each wing. Which sounds impressive but was less destructive than a couple of 20mm cannons (cannon rounds are explosive).

      I think the standard for the RAF was to harmonise at 400 yards, although oddly I have it on reasonable authority the RN had a policy of harmonising at infinity.

      1. Cederic Bronze badge

        Re: harmonising the guns

        If you read Reach for the Sky, Bader expressed a strong preference for a far closer point of aim - he and other top pilots liked to get close to be certain of the kill before opening fire.

        Mk1 Hurricanes and Spitfires each had 8 machine guns, and although those were rapidly supplemented with cannon they were highly effective.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: harmonising the guns

          Yes you have to be a very good shot to get hits at anything over a few hundred yets, especially with the original fixed site. I think Screwball Beurling mastered the art of deflection shooting and was so good some of his kills didn't appear on the gun camera footage. Much easier to just get closer.

          The later gyro gunsite improved the situation a lot as it took the guesswork out to an extent.

        2. hoola Bronze badge

          Re: harmonising the guns

          If I remember correctly in the biography there was at least one occasion when his canon shells passed each side of the enemy aircraft he was that close.

          You have to admire those pilots though, going up again and again with a high attrition rate. I know things have changed but today those losses would just not be sustainable.

          We would have run out of aircraft & pilots in about a week. It makes you realise just how many aircraft the RAF had AND how many the factories could produce.

          On the other hand the bomber crews, even worse.

      2. GrumpyKiwi

        Re: harmonising the guns

        The quote from some of the better pilots during the Battle of Britain was that "400 yards rewards the poor shot with an occasional hit while punishing the good shot with a lot of misses". Eventually policy was changed to let pilots set their own harmonisation range (and many had been unofficially doing so well before then). Most of the high scoring aces of the war didn't open fire until they were less and 200 yards from the target - many from 100 or less which risked a bit of left over airplane in the face but guaranteed enough hits to kill.

      3. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: harmonising the guns

        I have it on reasonable authority the RN had a policy of harmonising at infinity.

        Perhaps the Fleet Air Arm expected to spend more time strafing enemy ships than in air superiority combat.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: harmonising the guns

          I think the reason given was it increased the likelihood of some of the rounds hitting, even if it wasn't all of them. Assuming they weren't dispersing they should only be spread over an area equivalent to the gun spacing anyway I'd have thought?

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: harmonising the guns

      I had the guided tour at the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight a few years ago. Very good stuff. One thing that stayed with me was the fact about just how little ammunition Spitfires and Hurricanes actually had. In the moves you'll see the pilots firing a number of relatively lengthy bursts during dogfights - in reality they had maybe 4 or 5 seconds of total trigger time at best.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: harmonising the guns

        that sounds like quite a lot of ammunition actually , bursts probably wernt like the movies as you say.

      2. Patrician

        Re: harmonising the guns

        Spitfire and Hurricanes were fitted with about 15 seconds worth of ammunition.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: harmonising the guns

          Meanwhile the Fairey Fulmar had a full 60 seconds worth. Didn't do a huge amount for the performance to be honest, what with it still only having a Merlin, plus a second crew member, folding wings etc...

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: harmonising the guns

      "casually destructive"

      Sighting in weaponry is hardly what I would consider casually destructive. In fact, it should be neither.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Neal L

        Re: harmonising the guns

        Incorrect. They had 4 in each wing for a total of 8 .303 machine guns.

        1. EvilDrSmith

          Re: harmonising the guns

          The Mk1 and IIa had 4 guns per wing (so 8 in total...).

          The MkIIb had 6 guns per wing (for 12 in total).

          The MkIIc replaced the MG with 2 *20mm cannon per wing.

          And the MkIId had I think 1 MG per wing plus a rather large 40mm cannon under each wing, for spoiling German tank crews' day.

    5. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: harmonising the guns

      I think most of the work of gun harmonisation didn't involve test rounds, instead they'd carefully align the aircraft, and then sight down the barrel of each gun with a periscope type device, and then carefully align each barrel to point in the correct direction.

      So more analytical and less destructive I'm afraid ;)

      1. The March Hare

        Re: harmonising the guns

        I used to harmonise gun pods on Phantoms in the '70s and we certainly didn't fire the thing - would have blown the front leg off for a start - all that paperwork!

        We use to look through a shufti-scope on the barrels of the gun and tweak the pod until it lined up with the target - can't recall how far away it was now but probably no more than 200 yards or so...

      2. adam 40 Bronze badge

        Re: harmonising the guns

        There is a spitfire-wide raised sandpit at Duxford airfield which I assume was used for this job. Seems to be the same vintage as the older hangars.

        But, if it wasn't for live firing, why bother with the sand?

        Unfortunately it doesn't show up on Google satellite view or I would post a link.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: harmonising the guns

        What was I thinking ... you Brits know nothing about guns. I should have pointed out the obvious ... Look up "boresight" for more information this subject.

    6. Steve Evans

      Re: harmonising the guns

      I think I'd like that job on the Mosquito Tsetse... 6lb auto-cannon anyone?

      You've just gotta love the crazy ideas that appear during war time.

  3. the dunxter

    Call Sign

    Is it just coincidence that the MJ271's call sign (G-IRTY) is a homonym of the call sign of My Jet Now's (MJN's) only plane (G-ERTI)?

    Perhaps Cabin Pressure's creator, John Finnemore, will let us know.

    1. Mr Humbug

      I'm glad I'm not the only one to notice that.

      And then remember Douglas looking at Polar Bears in episode Q (you fill in the full name)

      1. ashdav

        Cabin Pressure

        Episode was Qikiqtarjuaq S03E01.

    2. ashdav
      Pint

      Re: Call Sign

      I was going to refer to Cabin Pressure but you beat me to it.

      Upvote and a pint for you sir.

    3. Hotchkiss918

      Re: Call Sign

      Chances are that it’s homage to the Girty from John Finnemore’s brilliant BBC Radio comedy “Cabin Pressure”.

  4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
  5. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    darn it...

    Flight plan says not coming anywhere near my part of the US. Really would have loved to see that.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: darn it...

      Flight plan says not coming anywhere near my part of the US.

      From the article: A restored and defanged Supermarine Spitfire has just taken off from Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex, England, on a round-the-world trip... <snip> The Silver Spitfire, call sign G-IRTY, will fly west heading first to Greenland ...

      Last time I looked Greenland wasn't west of West Sussex, so goodness knows where it will finish up.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: darn it...

        'Last time I looked Greenland wasn't west of West Sussex'

        Look closer, it's not east of it.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Greenland

        If Greenland is not West of West Sussex then why to some transatlantic flights heading WEST fly over Greenland?

        Greenland is also on the American side of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

        Answers on a postcard and addressed to 'The Naughty Step, The Register'

        Unless West Sussex has suddenly been transported to SoCal that is?

        1. adam 40 Bronze badge

          Re: Greenland

          Looks like they have already turned back and are at Lossiemouth, east of Greenland ;^(

        2. Trygve Henriksen

          Re: Greenland

          They fly over Greenland because it's the route with the shortest hops over open water.

          (There's an airport on greenland capable of taking quite large airplanes if a landing is deemed necessary)

          Pilots don't like wet feet, either.

      3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: darn it...

        Damn that Mercator and his projection. Damn him I say.

        (Also, look up great-circle plotting)

      4. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: darn it...

        Last time I looked Greenland wasn't west of West Sussex,

        Check its latitude.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: darn it...

          >Last time I looked Greenland wasn't west of West Sussex,

          It's also east of West Sussex - but that is a long way around

        2. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: darn it...

          "Check its latitude." I would suggest the longitude as that is about the east/west while latitude is about north/south.

          "Lat är den som ligger" for those who know it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: darn it...

      I'm surprised that it's not going to Germany!

      1. Cessquill

        Re: darn it...

        29 November, Berlin according to the flight tracker

  6. nematoad Silver badge

    Arghh!

    I have a l hatred for those aircraft that have been polished to within an inch of their lives, I detest it. These aircraft were utility and expendable, they were built to do a job and like a lot of military weapons were given the minimal amount of finish needed to protect them.

    They are tools, not bloody pieces of jewellery and polishing up this aircraft is in my eyes a total travesty.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Arghh!

      And when you own your own Spitfire you can paint it in an authentic finish.

      Incidentally at least one Spitfire and one Seafire were stripped to a bare metal finish during the war. Not sure about the Spitfire but the Seafire was with the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron, I think on HMS Hunter, and can be seen in photos of the ship entering Singapore.

      1. Blake St. Claire

        Re: Arghh!

        And when you own your own Spitfire you can paint it in an authentic finish.

        A couple years ago I visited the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum in Manston. When I walked in one of the gentlemen there asked if I'd like to buy a Spitfire. (I trusted that he wasn't talking about a Triumph.)

        I said "sure, will you take a credit card?"

        Needless to say I'm not painting anything, in authentic colors or otherwise.

      2. Nevermind

        Re: Arghh!

        Ah yes, let's not forget Tom Neill's silver spitfire.

        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silver-Spitfire-Legendary-Fighter-Pilot/dp/1780221215

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Arghh!

          I think it was a comment here on elReg that lead me to that book. It's a great read.

          The tl/dr version is that whilst working as a liaison officer to the USAF, a Spitfire was abandoned at their airbase in France, and when it looked like no one was looking for it, Tom Neil took it as his personal aircraft, and ended up removing all the paint. He'd use it to pop back over to Kent to see his new wife.

          Eventually, realising that sooner or later someone would notice that an RAF officer had 'borrowed' a Spitfire, he eventually sold it back to the Poles for (IIRC) cigarettes and vodka.

        2. Ken Shabby Bronze badge

          Re: Arghh!

          Or Shorty Longbottom's Pink Spitfire

      3. nematoad Silver badge

        Re: Arghh!

        "Not sure about the Spitfire..."

        You are right.

        Some Mk.16s were stripped of paint post-war but they were left unpolished. That would have taken a lot of effort and is not needed.

        What I object to is when the owners go mad with the polishing cloth and give the aircraft a finish that they would never have had. Yes, I am a purist when it comes to historic aircraft and I hate to see them end up looking like toys. It's disrespectful of their history and is more an expression of the owner's ego.

        "Look, I've got shiny!"

        Bah.

        1. JimC Silver badge

          Re: give the aircraft a finish that they would never have had

          I understand its simply practicality. The gloss paint lasts longer and gives better protection.

    2. GrumpyKiwi

      Re: Arghh!

      Polishing (and carefull sanding down of rivets) gave the aircraft an extra 5-10 knots of speed and good ground crews would regularly do so.

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: Arghh!

        You had to be careful not to take it too far.

        When the ground crew at RAF Benson did a particularly shiny job on a photographic Spitfire the pilot bollocked them with "Don't do it again, It shines like a sixpence up a sweeps backside, I've been chased by every Hun over France"

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Arghh!

        My grandad was ground crew for 92sqn, and I remember him telling me about having to hammer all the rivets flush to get a few extra mph.

        1. AIBailey Silver badge

          Re: Arghh!

          I seem to recall reading that when the Spitfire was being developed, the prototypes had flush rivets.

          Aware that the production models wouldn't have this, and instead would have domed rivet heads, they needed to figure out what impact it would have on the maximum speed.

          So in order to test this out, they glued split peas to the aircraft to simulate the dome head rivets, and recorded (iirc) a 22mph reduction.

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Arghh!

            'So in order to test this out, they glued split peas to the aircraft to simulate the dome head rivets'

            I believe they then removed split peas until they found the optimum amount of dome headed rivets to use to minimise production time while maximising speed.

            1. quxinot Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Arghh!

              No one has made a joke about 'giving peas a chance'. I'm gutted.

  7. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Is this wise?

    Leaving England defenceless in such uncertain times ?

    1. BigSLitleP Silver badge

      Re: Is this wise?

      Don't worry, it's been defanged.....

      Just like the rest of England.

  8. Rhuadh

    Sponsors

    Don't know if anyone is interested, but the sponsor with the name in front of the cockpit is IWC Schaffhausen, (it's in Switzerland before anyone goes on about it). But surprisingly there is a WW2 connection. There were two great pre-war watch brands, IWC and Zenith. Zenith supplied the axis powers with watches and time pieces, while IWC supplied the allies. After the war, Zenith tried to get back into the UK watch market, but it took them many years as memories died hard. IWC on the other hand went upmarket - both companies are still in existence. And I still have my fathers, IWC chronograph watch from when he was a navigator in the RAF in WW2.

  9. Hazmoid

    Bugger, not coming to the southern Hemisphere at all :(

    I've been to the Air museum at Darwin https://www.darwinaviationmuseum.com.au/ and the one in Perth (Bullcreek) https://www.raafawa.org.au/museum/ and they both have mockups of the Spit, but it would be lovely to see one in the flesh as it were.

    1. Steve Evans

      Probably a bit of a range issue, most of the Southern hemisphere is a bit wet. Although it might be able to bounce down via Malaysia there's still a hell of a lot of open water to fall into, and sourcing avgas has been one of their big issues for the trip. Plus who knows what the political state is like down in some of those islands.

      Sorry Aussies.

      If it makes you feel any better, I live in the East of England, and it's not coming near me either. The map shows that it would, but the stop list says it's flying home from Paris, not Schiphol as shown on the map, which means it'll fly over Kent, much further south than shown on the map.

  10. Gordon 8
    IT Angle

    Lucky....

    I wondered what the Silver Spitfre thing was all about when I walked past an IWC shop recently. Shame it's not coming to Singapore.

    I've been lucky enough to fly in the backseat of an IXT (rebuilt from single seater) from Headcorn over the Battle of Britain Memorial. What a day, What a Legend!

  11. tapemonkey

    The horrors of war

    As a side story my now deceased father-in-law was a Spitfire mechanic stationed in Egypt during WW2 with I believe 45 Squadron.

    He used to regail me with tales of his time there both the funny and the dark.

    During German straphing runs of the airfield him and his best mate used to hide under the refeuling tanker because believe it or not it was the safest place to be.

    I dont know the wisdom in this but he survived - the bunkhouse didnt.

    On the darker side he was appointed as squadron photographer and it was his job to photograph the remains of enemy pilots who either died on impact or were shot parachuting to safety. The photographs make for grim viewing but are a reminder of the horrors of war.

    I really should donate them to a museum or somewhere.

    1. baud

      Re: The horrors of war

      >[pilots who] were shot parachuting to safety

      Didn't the rules during WW2, at least on the Westen front, forbade to shoot down pilots parachuting? Especially those parachuting above enemy territory, since they'd just end up as POW?

      1. tapemonkey

        Re: The horrors of war

        Yes but with all the anti aircraft fire and bullets/shells filling the sky reaching the ground was somewhat deadly

        1. EvilDrSmith

          Re: The horrors of war

          I think it's Protocol I (1977) to the Geneva Conventions that specifically outlaws shooting of aircrew that have bailed out, so not strictly against the rules in WW2.

          However, I believe it was quite rare for it to be done, if only because it's quite tricky working out if the guy dangling under the 'chute is one of theirs or one of yours.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: The horrors of war

            Air forces in general tended to be honourable to each other which included not shooting escaping air crew.

  12. MrKrotos

    Biggin Hill

    Living close to Biggin Hill we see Spitfires every day, I think they have 4 of them in working order at the moment. You can go for a fly in one if you have a few spare 000s down the back of the sofa :)

    1. Red Ted
      Go

      Re: Biggin Hill

      Also available at the Duxford Aerodrome, again for a price that make a flight in the de Havilland Rapide a cheap day out!

    2. adam 40 Bronze badge

      Re: Biggin Hill

      I have plenty of spare 000's, even some 000000's, just not the '1' to go in front!

      1. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
        Joke

        Re: Biggin Hill

        There is a remote tribe that worships the number zero. Is nothing sacred?

        Les Dawson.

    3. Steve Todd

      To be fair

      A Merlin engine burns up to 10 pints of oil and 150 gallons of high octane AvGas per hour, never mind the maintenance, hangerage, insurance and pilot costs. It is never going to be cheap to fly.

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: To be fair

        I read an article about flying a Mustang recently and the owner got the guy to to count

        One Dollar,

        Two Dollars,

        Three Dollars

        ...

        coz that's the rate it costs.

        I'm sure you can use the normal dollar == pound conversion rate.

  13. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Shiny

    Presumably because "In October 1943 it was delivered to Polish unit 411..."

  14. Neoc
    Unhappy

    Typical

    "around the world" = Northern Hemisphere.

    Never mind the Spitfire was used in Australia, he won't even get within eyesight of our shores.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where has it gone?

    Interesting that the route map on the web site has been replaced with a 404 error and the flight tracker suggests that it has been spending most of its time over the last few days flying around Scotland.

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