For some time, I have trying to decide which is my favourite of the 73 variants or sub-variants of that most iconic of fighter aeroplanes, the Spitfire. Now I have the opportunity to put my thoughts on paper and it has been most rewarding.
Like many pilots, the first thought is to the aeroplane of which one has personal experience. That would be the Mk IX with both Merlin 66 and Packard-Merlin 266 engines. But what about the Mk V with floats? As a seaplane pilot, I love the challenge of operating off water in such a powerful machine. Then, my thoughts went to those young men who were the spear tip of the Battle of Britain defence of the country, so the Spitfire Mk IIa. The high flying and super-fast PR Mk XI perhaps whose pilots showed another type of courage to go unarmed deep over enemy territory. There’s event the Seafire FR Mk 47 from the Korean war, surely the ultimate warbird of the whole family.
But in the end, it was the Spitfire Mk XIV which won out. I am not alone in thinking the Griffon-powered, bubble-canopy fighter is a favourite. Captain Eric (Winkle) Brown thought so too. Whenever the Spitfire was mentioned, he would talk about low level trials in the Mk VIII or flying high over France in a Mk IX with the Canadians. I have not had those privileges but I am now sure the Mk XIV is the one and as Eric would say “it was the best fighter of the Second World War”.
Paul Beaver FRAeS
Author of SPITFIRE PEOPLE
The Men & Women who made the Spitfire the Aviation Icon