The Monday Photo
There are 58 airworthy Spitfires left in the World, and this is one of them. Built in 1944 without guns, it’s a Mark XI, made for the dangerous art of photo reconnaissance.
It served in Europe in the last months of the war against Germany, and it’s more than just a Spitfire with cameras instead of guns.
Speed was its only defence, so it had a more powerful engine. Armour and armament were left out to save weight.
The three piece flat sided armoured glass front screen was replaced by a single aerodynamically shaped perspex one. The tail wheel was retractable, not fixed; this alone added 5 mph to the top speed.
For long range operations the Mark XI had greater fuel capacity, and if needed a drop tank could fitted underneath. The engine oil tank was also more than doubled to 14.5 gallons, and this is why the ‘chin’ of the aircraft is more pronounced.
Without the drop tank, this aircraft, PL983, had a range of 1,360 miles. It could cruise at 395 mph, with a top speed of 417 mph. The all over blue paint job is for high altitude camouflage; the Mark XI could fly at 40,000 feet.
I pictured this Spitfire when it overflew Milton Keynes hospital recently. I happened to find out about the flight just six minutes before it was due at Milton Keynes, so I rushed out into my front garden with a long lens; I live about a mile from the hospital.
I was in luck; a couple of minutes later I heard the Merlin engine, and looked up to see the plane approaching from the South.
I had two chances to get my shot. The Spitfire flew over the hospital twice, and banked around for the second run where I could see it, so I got quite a few good photos. But I like this one best, with the plane standing on its wing tip.
John Romain is the pilot and owner. Here's a YouTube video of him flying PL983 at Old Warden Aerodrome on the same day as I saw it.