The Spitfire. An Icon of the Skies

This book is almost equally divided between text and photographs. The photographs are outstanding and most are in stunning full colour – Most Highly Recommended.


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The Spitfire has become such an international aviation icon that 
there are always new books being published and added to the huge 
mountain of print on this unique aircraft. It is difficult to 
identify just why this is the case. Each new book, and some of them 
are not of the first rank, sell in great numbers. This book deserves 
to be acquired and given space as a valued addition to any library. 
Someone made a study a few years ago and concluded that most readers 
who buy Spitfire books do not admit to any particular interest in 
aviation or in World War Two. Even technical books seem to sell to 
people who would not normally buy a technical book on any other 
subject.

The Spitfire is by any standard a very beautiful aeroplane. It simply 
looks right. There are some much less attractive aircraft that have 
also produced great performance and several that were built in very 
large numbers, but they just can't match the pull of the Spitfire, 
which is the star of stars.

The Hurricane, which shot down more aircraft than the Spitfire during 
the Battle of Britain, has its fans but it has always been in the 
shadow of the Spitfire and some of the achievements of Hurricanes 
have been long attributed wrongly to the Spitfire. During WWII, 
German pilots contributed to the Spitfire myth by hotly denying the 
fact that they had been shot down by a Hurricane pilot. In many 
respects, the Hurricane was a much better gun platform and highly 
manoeuvrable in combat. It was also much easier to build and repair, 
but it was essentially the product of a construction method developed 
for biplanes and had no further development potential, Hawker going 
on to produce excellent but completely new designs in the Tornado, 
Tempest and Sea Fury, whereas the Spitfire flew on well into the age 
of the jet fighter and continued to fight in the surrogate wars that 
marred the Cold War period.

The Spitfire started out with the same Merlin engine that was fitted 
to the Hurricane and many other British warplanes, giving around 
1,000 hp. It was faster than the Hurricane at the start and steadily 
increased its speed advantage, more than keeping pace with the German 
Me 109, and matching the later German FW 190. Its construction was 
key to its performance and scope for further significant development, 
but it made it costly and difficult to build. It could be seriously 
damaged and then be difficult to repair, where the Hurricane shrugged 
off battle damage. 

The Spitfire went on to replace its RR Merlin with the RR Griffin that 
was to produce more than twice the horse power for the final Spitfire 
Marks. In the process, it also had to move to twin contra rotating 
propellers to fully use the extra power without a swept area greater 
than its undercarriage could accommodate.

The author has told the story well in words and pictures, showing the 
range of variants and the success of restorers who have managed to 
return so many Spitfires to the skies. The pictures are particularly 
fine and the production of the book is first class.