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Spitfire Pilot vs. Hawker Hurricane Dog Fight

The Spitfire pilot flies a very similar plane to the Hawker Hurricane, even though the aircraft were built by different companies.  The Spitfire, designed with a focus on the highest technology available at the time, was designed by R.J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works, a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong. The Spitfire’s inaugural flight took place in March 1936, and was introduced into the Royal Air Force in 1938.  The Hawker Hurricane, built by Hawker Aircraft, flew its first flight in November 1935, and was introduced into the Royal Air Force in 1937.  Although the Hurricane became renowned during the Battle of Britain and accounted for 60 percent of the Royal Air Force air victories in that battle, the Spitfire is a more well-known aircraft.

spitfire-pilotBetter Maneuverability

Spitfire pilots agreed that the plane provided superb maneuverability, while the Hurricane’s maneuverability was just “good.”  The Spitfire was armed with four .303 machine guns and two 20mm cannons, while the Hurricane carried four 20mm cannons.  During the Battle of Britain, there were 32 squadrons of Hurricanes compared with only 19 squadrons of Spitfires, yet the Spitfire is the better known of the two planes.  Many Spitfire pilots claimed that the plane was like a thoroughbred, and reported that the plane was more responsive than the Hurricane.

Battle of Britain

During the Battle of Britain, Spitfire pilots were renowned for defending Britain against the Luftwaffe, with the Spitfire intercepting German fighters, while the Hurricane concentrated on the bombers.  The Hurricanes, considered the workhorse of the RAF, executed corkscrew dive maneuvers which the German planes found difficult to counter.  The Spitfire pilot, due to the plane’s thin cross-section elliptical wing, could fly at higher speeds than the Hurricane, allowing it to maneuver deftly against German fighter planes.

Easier Repairs

One benefit the Hurricane had over the Spitfire was that the Hurricane had a wooden rear frame covered in fabric, making it easier to repair than the all-metal Spitfire.  Guns in the Spitfire were further apart, and the guns placed toward the tips of the wings occasionally caused balance problems when fired.  Spitfire pilots also stated that it was harder to see the ground from the cockpit due to the plane’s long, straight nose, while the curved nose of the Hurricane made it easier to see the ground in front of the plane.  The Spitfire was retired in 1961 to the dismay of many Spitfire pilots.

The Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane were excellent fighter planes during their time.  For more information on these aviation marvels, visit Covington Aircraft.

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So You Want to be a Spitfire Pilot?

A spitfire pilot is best known for performing tactical movements during air combat maneuvering, also known as dogfighting.  Many pilots used these maneuvers to gain positional advantage over opponents, either offensively or defensively.  On occasion, the maneuvers are neutral, where both opponents work toward an offensive position, or may help facilitate escape, known as disengagement.

Spitfire-800x198Although a Spitfire is a common type of plane used in dogfights, many refer to all who engaged in such maneuvers as spitfire pilots.  The basic fighter maneuvers began during World War I and, due to the lower power of the aircraft, the most common type of engagement was the Lufbery, which involved two fighters chasing each other in a circle.

Basic Maneuvers

The basic maneuvers used by a spitfire pilot include tactical turns, rolls and other actions designed to get above or behind the enemy fighter.  Pilots are trained using the same type of aircraft, and during the training, pit their skills against each other.  During combat, the maneuvers are adjusted based on the type and number of aircraft involved and weapons systems.

Basic Maneuver Principles 

There are several principles involved in basic maneuvers.  These include:

  • Energy Management – Pilots are faced with many limiting factors. Some are constant, such as gravity and drag, and some vary, such as turn radius and turn rate.  A spitfire pilot learns to manage the energy of the aircraft to minimize these limiting factors and gain the advantage over the enemy.
  • Turn Performance – Pilots must turn the aircraft at its best sustained turn rate in order to maintain adequate energy, but in combat situations may need to make unusual adjustments.
  • Lead, Pure and Lag Pursuit – Lead pursuit by a spitfire pilot is designed to provide closure even if the opponent they are chasing is faster.  Pure pursuit also provides closure, but not as quickly, while lag pursuit stops or reduces closure.
  • Out-of-Plane Maneuver – Spitfire pilots use turns to make the aircraft harder to track, and an out-of-plane maneuver enhances the effect, diverting the fighter into a new plane of travel.

These are just a few of the maneuvers a spitfire pilot uses during dogfights during combat.  Visit us at www.covingtonaircraft.com for more information about radial and turbine engine overhauls, maintenance, and repair.  You can also find us on Facebook and Linkedin.